Conserve Tsavo and empower neighbouring Kenyan communities

By Isaac Kalua | Sunday, Nov 20th 2016 at 00:00
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The Basra Reed Warbler is an endangered small beautiful bird that lives in the Tsavo West National Park. Not many people go to the park with the goal of sighting the bird since the park, together with Tsavo East, are much more famous for their multitude of gigantic elephants, prides of regal lions, crowds of dik-diks, gazelles, impalas, leopards and many more wildlife.

Indeed, the two Tsavos are so rich in biodiversity that a huge chunk of Kenya's 25,000 animal species and 7,000 plant species can be found there.

At 22,812 square kilometres, these two Tsavos are ten times bigger than Mauritius, making them the largest wilderness protected area in Africa. Despite this sheer size, the overall Tsavo Ecosystem and Dispersal Area is even bigger, covering 12 counties and directly impacting more than 12 million Kenyans. All these millions of people and thousands of wildlife depend on the Tsavo's ecosystem services for their very survival and livelihoods. Critically, they largely depend on the freshwater that flows from Water Towers like Chyulu, Taita Hills and Shimba Hills.

Given this priceless value of Tsavo, it is incumbent on all key stakeholders to considerably step up conservation and empowerment efforts. The county governments of the 12 counties that are found within the Tsavo Ecosystem and Dispersal Area should explore enactment of common legislation that will entrench conservation and empowerment efforts.

The 12 counties can borrow a leaf from Japan's 'One Village One Product Strategy.' Introduced in 1979, the strategy sought to revitalise rural communities through small-scale production and sales of unique, local products. Tsavo's 12 counties can learn from this successful Japanese strategy by bringing together their unique core competencies and resources towards conserving Tsavo's ecosystem and empowering its people.

At an inhabitant level, the Tsavo Heritage Foundation seeks to be a global icon of collaborative ecosystem conservation. This unprecedented set up that deserves maximum public and private sector support is working towards restoring the Tsavo ecosystem in a synergetic and innovative manner to achieve sustainable livelihoods. The common quest and passion of the highly experienced conservationists is timely.

There are 12 million reasons why this quest must succeed. The 12 million people whose livelihoods is depended on the Tsavo ecosystem must be enlisted and integrated as key partners in this quest. This means that they are not just bullet points in project proposals but key crafters of strategies to turn around Tsavo into a conservation area of global repute.

It may be a cliché but we must ensure that these 12 million people play a role in baking Tsavo's green cake. If that is not done unswervingly, a lot of time will be spent arguing about how that cake should be shared.

Let us innovatively bake a green cake that will keep Tsavo's elephants trumpeting, lions roaring, Basra Reed Warbler chirping, Tsavo's rivers flowing and Tsavo's people earning decent livelihoods. Think green, act green!

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