It might seem strange to head out on game drive, spend some time viewing a lion pride sleeping int he shade, then drive round the corner and bump into a Maasai herdsman out walking with his cattle.
Yet that is the reality in much of rural Africa – the co-existence of wildlife and people. And if it is to be a peaceful and productive one, conservancies are an excellent way to maintain it.
The last thirty years in Africa have seen the evolution of the conservancy concept, which has spread fast.
Conservancies in Kenya in particular are regarded as a way of involving local communities with wildlife conservation. The purpose of a conservancy is not the same as a nationally protected reserve like a park, and they do not replace these area, instead they complement them.
Conservancies provide a range of local values, including clarifying and firming up local land tenure over pasture and grazing areas, improving security – both for wildlife and land-owners – through networks of community scouts and communications infrastructure and law enforcement bodies, and “providing a legal structure for communities to enter into third-party joint ventures with tourism investors in order to generate revenue from wildlife”.
Conservancies in Kenya are represented by Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association “who work with landowners and communities to sustainably conserve and manage wildlife and their habitat outside formal protected areas to perpetuate Kenya’s heritage.”
Whereas historically wildlife has been seen as a nuisance by both pastoralists and farmers (livestock gets killed by predators and elephants raid crops), and the establishment of restricted wildlife areas as prohibiting access to good grazing grounds, the establishment of conservancies essentially sees local landowners and local communities benefitting from tourism dollars whilst still maintaining many land-use rights, and ultimately coming to see wildlife as a positive.
Kicheche Wildlife Camps, who operate in three conservancies that border the Maasai Mara (Naboisho, Olare Matorogi and Mara North) have this to say about their trust in the conservcancy system:
Keeping with the commitment of The Long Run’s 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – we collaborate with the local community via the Kicheche Community Trust to support traditional and sustainable ways of living that are in harmony with wildlife and the environment.
All guest donations and bednight contributions to the Kicheche Community Trust are channelled into projects impacting its conservancy communities. These then have a significant impact on women’s empowerment in particular. The Trust’s efforts and passion evolve around four pillars: Education, Health and Family Care Community Empowerment, Environment and Conservation.
With an ever expanding number of conservancies across Kenya that provide safe havens for wildlife as well as invaluable corridors for its free movement between established protected areas, the system seems to be the way forward in areas where it can be implemented…