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Locals step in to save the Maasai Mara

By James Wanzala | July 20th 2016
Eveline Nampaso who is among 31 families from Narok County, that have donated land to the Enonkishu Conservancy. (PHOTO: JAMES WANZALA/ STANDARD)

When Eveline Nampaso donated her 173 acres to the Enonkishu Conservancy, she became part of 31 families who have come together to save the Maasai Mara.

The community is doing this courtesy of a holistic management model established by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to not only save the priceless ecosystem but also provide a sustainable means of livelihood to the community.

Through this model, land is subdivided into grazing blocks and livestock are bunched together, grazing in a block at a time with a given number of livestock. Because the land is not being utilised all at once, there are now cultivated fields that have well mixed manure and seeds, ready for rapid re-growth of grass with onset of rains.

This means both the wet and dry season grazing plans guarantee livestock producers adequate pasture for their animals and there is therefore, no need to erect fences to exclude wildlife.

“Through the model, we are now able to control diseases such as East Coast Fever. It is an expensive disease to treat and initially many of our livestock, which contracted the disease, would die,” Eveline says.

The model, implemented in the Mara Serengeti Sustainable Water initiative was piloted in Mara Siana and Enonkishu community wildlife conservancies as a suitable grazing model to help improve the health of the rangelands of the Mara ecosystem and ultimately enhance locals livelihood and wildlife conservation.

“It enables landowners to develop the future they want and they practice it to improve quality of their lives as well as regenerate the resource base that sustains them,” says Joseph Kathiw’a, project officer at WWF.

According to Daniel Nampaso, Enonkishu committee secretary, a few years ago the vast Mara region was a perennial inter-communities conflict zone pitching warring pastoralist communities on one hand and human wildlife on the other.

The Mara landscape was widely a rangeland and as such most of the conflicts experienced in these lands were sparked by competition over pasture.

“The Maa communities love their livestock and having large numbers of livestock in the pastoralist community is a sign of wealth. We therefore used to graze livestock just about everywhere.

What we never anticipated were its effects which were in form of loss of human lives, livestock deaths and rapid decline in the numbers of wildlife as the community kept grazing in protected areas,” he says.

He says they have embraced a ‘modernised pastoralist’ model and at the same time enable the community to co-exist peacefully with the wildlife.

“It is through training and field trips that many of us were convinced to take up the initiative.”

“We started off with 29 families each donating land towards formation of the conservancy. Today we have 31 families with 6,000 acres of land set aside for the conservancy,” he says.

The conservancy is living up to its name Enonkishu, a Maasai word which loosely translates to mean ‘home of healthy cattle’.

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