Saving the plains: ILRI research team wins Sustainability Science Award for its pastoral research in Masailand

Kitengela rangeland in Kenya: Fencing

Research by ILRI is helping pastoralists in the Kitengela ecosystem better manage their land, animal and wildlife resources (photo: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

A paper by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) that shares experiences from a project that worked to help Kenyan pastoralists better manage their lands, livestock and wildlife resources has won the 2012 Sustainability Science Award.

The yearly award is given by the Ecological Society of America to the authors of a peer-reviewed paper published in the preceding five years that makes the greatest contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences.

The winning paper, ‘Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa’, was published in 2009 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a prestigious American science journal. The paper shared experimental work in boundary-spanning research from the Reto-o-Reto (Maasai for ‘I help you, you help me’) project, which was implemented between 2003 and 2008 to help balance action in poverty alleviation and wildlife conservation in four pastoral ecosystems in East Africa, including the Kitengela pastoral ecosystem just south of Nairobi National Park.

Lessons from this project supported the development and adoption of a land-use master plan in Kitengela, which is now helping Maasai pastoralists better manage their land, animal and wildlife resources.

The announcement of this award comes at an appropriate time, just as an inception workshop takes place on ILRI’s Nairobi campus this week (Jun 5-7) for the eastern and southern Africa component of a CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Agriculture.

The following story, written by ILRI consultant Charlie Pye-Smith in 2010, shares experiences of pastoralists in Kitengela, their challenges and their hopes, as a result of this award-winning project.

Saving the plains

Talk to the Maasai who herd their cattle across the Athi-Kaputiei Plains to the south of Nairobi and they’ll tell you that the last (2009–2010) drought was one of the worst in living memory. ‘Many people lost almost all their livestock,’ says pastoralist William Kasio. ‘The vultures were so full they couldn’t eat any more. Even the lions had had enough.’

At the slaughterhouse in Kitengela, over 20,000 emaciated cattle were burned and buried during the drought, and the surrounding plains were littered with sun-bleached carcasses. But for the Maasai, droughts are nothing new, and indeed many believe there is an even graver threat to their survival as cattle herders. ‘Land sales, and the subdivision and fencing off of open land—that’s been the biggest problem we’ve faced in recent years,’ says Kasio, chairman of a marketing organization based at the slaughterhouse.

A generation ago, livestock and wildlife ranged freely across the plains. Today, their movements are hindered by fences, roads, quarries, cement works, flower farms and new buildings. If the development trends of the past decade continue, then the pastoral way of life, and the great wildlife migrations in and out of Nairobi National Park, could become little more than a memory. But now, thanks to a community-inspired planning exercise, there’s a good chance this won’t happen.

The Athi-Kaputiei land-use ‘master plan’, launched in 2011, provides the local council with the legislative teeth it needs to ensure that large expanses of land remain free of fencing, and that new developments are confined to specific areas. ‘We see the master plan as our survival strategy,’ says Stephen Kisemei, a member of Olkejuado County Council. ‘It means we can now plan for the future in a way we never could before.’

The master plan is the culmination of years of research and discussion involving local communities, the council, central government and a range of organizations involved in conservation and animal husbandry. ‘It’s been a very democratic process,’ explains Ogeli Makui of the African Wildlife Foundation. ‘The council and the Department of Physical Planning drafted the master plan, but the Maasai landowners’ associations and other local groups were closely involved in all the discussions.’

Since 2004, teams of young Maasai have helped to draw up maps, which illustrate the scale of land sales and the loss of open rangeland. Managed by ILRI, the mapping program and the associated research showed just how rapidly life has changed on the plains over recent years, and provided much of the data used in the master plan.

At the end of the 19th century, the Athi-Kaputiei Plains were said to boast the most spectacular concentration of wildlife in East Africa. In those days, there were four times as many wild herbivores as there were cattle. Now the reverse is true, with the wildlife beating a steady retreat.

Between 1977 and 2002, the wildlife populations in the plains to the south of Nairobi National Park fell by over 70%. Particularly hard hit were migratory animals such as wildebeest, which traditionally graze in the national park during the dry season and move south in search of new pasture during the wet season. From nearly 40,000 migrating animals in the 1970s, wildebeest numbers have fallen to about 1000 today.

ILRI research suggests that two factors are to blame: poaching, and the loss of habitat and open space. The sub-division of land, frequently followed by the erection of fences, has also made it harder for the pastoralists to move their animals around in search of water and fresh pasture. Paradoxically, the Maasai are partly to blame, as they voted for the privatization of communal ranches in the 1980s. All of a sudden, many families realized they were sitting, within gazing distance of Nairobi, on valuable real estate. Land sales rapidly increased, new developments proliferated and the population of Kitengela almost trebled during the 1990s, from 5,500 to over 17,000.

‘When I was a child in the 1970s,’ recalls Ogeli Makui, as he sips tea outside a shopping mall in Kitengela, ‘there were just a few small stalls here, nothing else. I can remember one year when there were so many wildebeest migrating across this area, followed by packs of wild dogs, that my father told me to drive our sheep home to keep them safe.’ Nowadays, speeding lorries are the main danger.

Even before ILRI produced its first maps, conservationists realized something had to be done to keep the migratory routes open. A Wildlife Conservation Lease Programme, launched in 2000, encouraged pastoralists to keep their land open by paying them 300 shillings (USD4) per acre per year. By 2010, 275 families, owners of some 30,000 acres, had signed up to the latest lease scheme.

The lease scheme is helping to protect one of East Africa’s five great migratory routes, but it isn’t enough on its own to prevent further losses of wildlife, says Jan de Leeuw, head of ILRI’s pastoral livelihoods group. ‘The master plan will certainly help, and it’s a very important step towards improving the management of the plains, but it’s also imperative that we improve the financial situation of the pastoralists to a level where they become the champions of conservation,’ he says.

The better off the Maasai are, the more sympathetic they are likely to be to wildlife conservation, even if they occasionally lose livestock to lions and other predators. The Kitengela Conservation Programme, which is managed by the African Wildlife Foundation, is currently promoting various business enterprises, including community-based tourism, and ILRI is providing support for pastoralists to improve the marketing of their livestock. All this will help, says de Leeuw.

This is one of the few places in the world where you can see major wildlife populations, including 24 species of large mammals, grazing and hunting against the jagged backdrop of a populous city, often in the company of Maasai cattle. Little wonder, then, that there are conflicts between conservation and development, and sometimes between wildlife and the Maasai. Some of these conflicts will persist—the locals are deeply concerned, for example, about the building of a new town for Nairobi slum-dwellers—but the master plan provides the local council, for the first time, with the means to control development.

‘I’m very optimistic,’ says Councillor Kisemei. ‘I think the master plan will help us to secure the future for the Maasai and for the wildlife. And if we succeed, it will provide a model which could be used in other areas where wildlife and humans live close together.’

Pastoralists still vulnerable

Despite the successes of projects such as Reto-o-Reto in helping pastoral groups, governments and policymakers work together to better manage the resources in pastoral lands; pastoralists are still vulnerable to drought and changes in land use. Scientists from Colorado State University and ILRI have looked at how modelled scenarios relating to factors like access to forage, water and fuel tied to decisions made by pastoralists at household level. Stressors like drought remain a major threat to pastoral livelihoods and more so in areas where livestock compete with wildlife.

The research, carried out in Kenya’s Kajiado District, was published in a paper: ‘Using coupled simulation models to link pastoral decision making and ecosystem services.’ It evaluates pastoralist household wellbeing if access to reserve grazing is lost and the impact of compensation for those who lose access to grazing. The study showed that even though pastoralists that lose access to pasture are likely to experience large livestock losses, those in areas where livestock do not compete with wildlife have greater resilience to drought.

‘Maintaining access to reserve grazing lands is essential in helping pastoralists cope during severe drought,’ said Philip Thornton, a scientist with ILRI and one of the authors of the report. ‘We also found that compensating pastoralists for loss of access to reserve grazing lands increased their resilience.’

The above Kitengela story was written by ILRI consultant Charlie Pye-Smith.

For more on ILRI’s recent award, see: ILRI pastoral research team wins Sustainable Science Award, by Jane Gitau.

Download ‘Evolution of models to support community and policy action with science: Balancing pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation in savannas of East Africa’, by R S Reid, D Nkedianye, M Y Said, D Kaelo, M Neselle, O Makui, L Onetu, S Kiruswa, N Ole Kamuaroa, P Kristjanson, J Ogutu, S B BurnSilver, M J Golman, R B Boone, K A Galvin, N M Dickson, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 3 Nov 2009.

Download ‘Using coupled simulation models to link pastoral decision making and ecosystem services’, by R B Boone, K A Galvin, S B BurnSilver, P K Thornton, D S Ojima, and J R Jawson, Ecology and Society 16(2): 6, 1 Jun 2011.

Read more about the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems and more on ILRI’s news blogs (below) about the three-day planning workshop for this program, which ends today:

ILRI Clippings Blog: Foolhardy? Or just hardy? New program tackles climate change and livestock markets in the Horn, 7 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: Supporting dryland pastoralism with eco-conservancies, livestock insurance and livestock-based drought interventions, 5 Jun 2012.

ILRI Clippings Blog: CGIAR Drylands Research Program sets directions for East and Southern Africa, 4 Jun 2012.

People, Livestock and Environment at ILRI Blog: Taming Africa’s drylands to produce food, 5 Jun 2012.

People, Livestock and Environment at ILRI Blog: Collaboration in drylands research will achieve greater impact, 5 Jun 2012.

 

 

Kenya’s pastoral herders are being paid for conserving their wildlife-rich rangelands for livestock and wildlife alike in innovate new schemes

Payments for ecosystem services

Maasai pastoral herders signing up to the Naboisho Conservancy in Mara area in 2010. Ecosystem conservation schemes are giving herders new sources of income (photo credit: ILRI/Bedelian).

Biodiversity conservation among pastoral communities is increasingly researched as an area that could hold the key to helping pastoralists deal with the challenges of climate change and land use policy changes by allowing them to diversify their incomes. In Kenya the use of payments for ecosystem services, mostly around the country’s reserves and parks—where people live close to wildlife—is providing a stable, reliable and predicable source of income to pastoralists with the double advantage of reducing poverty and protecting wildlife.

In many sites where payments for ecosystem services have be piloted successfully, local-level institutions have played a significant role in enabling communities to self-govern and are supported by flexible land-use and governance systems that respect the communal land ownership patterns that have traditionally existed in these areas.

Payments to livestock herders for the ecosystem services generated through their land uses are currently being made in lands adjacent to Kenya’s famous Masai Mara National Reserve, in the southwest of the country, and in the Kitengela wildlife dispersal area to the south of Nairobi National Park. In both areas, Maasai people have formed ‘eco-conservancies’ to protect their grazing areas for livestock and wildlife alike.

‘Findings from on-going research show that in 2009 in the Kitengela area, ecosystems payment schemes were providing a large amount of income that constituted 59 per cent of the total off-farm earnings among participating households, even though livestock keeping is still the largest and most important source of income for these pastoralists,’ said Philip Osano a student at McGill University who is affiliated to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and is evaluating the effects of payments for ecosystems services on poverty reduction among pastoral communities in Kenyan rangelands.

‘Even though income from conservation payments is proving a valuable buffer against shocks such as tourism unpredictability and drought, creation of ‘eco-conservancies’ has displaced people and introduced new restrictions to grazing, natural resource collection and movement, increasing pressure on land in areas that border the eco-conservancies,’ says Claire Bedelian, a University College London researcher at ILRI who is accessing the impact of conservancy land leases on Maasai pastoralists in areas adjacent to the Masai Mara National Reserve

Scientists at ILRI, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, are investigating these hard trade offs to ensure that the benefits of such interventions are more equitable among members of the pastoral communities inhabiting these wildlife-rich areas.

What happens to pastoral children when the last goat dies: Ann’s story

ILRI-duckrabbit photofilm: Ann's Story

ILRI-duckrabbit photofilm on the impacts of a 2009 drought in Kenya on Maasai children in the Kitengela rangelands, outside Nairobi (website image credit: duckrabbit).

What’s it like for a pastoral family in Africa to lose all their animals? What will the livestock peoples of the Horn do in the aftermath of this year’s devastating drought, which is sending so many into poverty?

We can get a glimpse from this 2-minute photofilm/photo-testimony of Ann Aiyaki, an adolescent Maasai schoolgirl whose family fled to Kitengela in 2009, and whose life changed when the rains failed and the animals died.

http://duckrabbit.info/2010/10/anns-story/

Similar to so many tens of thousands of Somali herding families on the march today in search of food and refuge from the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa, many of Kenya’s pastoralists in a great, previous, drought of 2009 were forced to move. We met Ann Aiyaki and her family in the Kitengela Maasai rangelands just outside of Nairobi. This is her story of how the drought affected her life.

We used to keep livestock. Our lives were very different then.’—Ann Aiyaki

Credits
This photofilm was produced during a week-long photofilm training course led by duckrabbit’s Benjamin Chesterton and David White at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya. The audio and production was led by ILRI staff Muthoni Njiru, Julius Nyangaga and Tezira Lore. The photos are by ILRI’s Muthoni Njiru, Julius Nyangaga and Tezira Lore and duckrabbit photographer David White. With special thanks to David Chesterton for his passion and talent in helping ILRI conceptualize, make and finalize this film, and to David White for his extraordinary photographic generosity. We thank both for their uncommon ability to give others confidence in using their talents to make a bigger difference.

About duckrabbit
Duckrabbit is an award-winning digital production company that in documentary audio, still photography and video to make compelling film and audio narratives for commercial, charity and broadcast clients.  They also train photographers, videographers, journalists and communications professionals in audio-visual storytelling and online strategic communications.

duckrabbit website

duckrabbit blog

Surviving drought

The 2009 drought in Kenya has had a devastating effect on pastoralists. Hundreds of thousands of cattle died and with them a way of life that had provided families a livelihood from the land.

We met Lawrence in a quarry just out of of Nairobi. For many generations his family have reared cattle on the rangelands of Kitengale. Now he shift rocks in order to pay his way through University and the dream of a better life.

This photofilm was made by duckrabbit during a duckrabbit photofilm workshop at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi August 2010.

The audio and photos were collected in less than an hour.

Photos (c) David White

Audio and production Benjamin Chesterton

A duckrabbit training production for ILRI

New film shows how herders and farmers were affected by the recent East African drought

A new film by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) shares the experiences of Kenyan herders and farmers who were affected by the 2008-2009 East African drought. The film documents the stories of Maasai herders in Kitengela who lost nearly half of their livestock to the drought and disease and how this led some to seek alternative livelihood sources to cope. The film also shares the story  of a farmer in Kitui district whose  experience of the drought, which is shared by other farmers and livestock keepers  in the drought-prone district, shows how the poor continually face threats to their livelihoods as a result of changes in climate. 


Participatory land-use planning empowers the pastoral community of Kenya’s Kitengela Maasailand

ILRI scientist David Nkedianye (left) and chairman of innovation land lease program Ogeli Ole Makui (right) discuss fencing issues in Kitengela.

Two Maasai from the Kitengela rangelands near Nairobi—David Nkedianye (left), an ILRI research fellow studying for his PhD, and Ogeli ole Makui (right), a participant in ILRI research—discuss a land-use planning map they have created with ILRI that will help the Maasai community in Kitengela to conserve both their pastoral ways of life and the wildlife that share their rangelands (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

In the beautiful, picturesque and wildlife-rich Kitengela plains just outside of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, a unique change is taking place among Maasai livestock keepers, who have roamed these plains with their herds of cattle, sheep and goats for generations.

This change is shaping lives as well as livelihoods. James Turere Leparan is a traditional Maasai elder and herder who has watched this change take place in the last few years.

It all began when a group of scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) began a study in the area in 2003. ‘A group of people came to talk to us about our land’ he says. ‘They said they wanted to help us improve our livestock by helping us deal with the problems we were facing of conflict with wildlife and how best to deal with the division of what once was communal land. They began to meet with us in order to help us change the situation.’ At that time, human-wildlife conflicts between the Maasai people and wild animals from the adjacent Nairobi National Park were common. These conflicts stemmed from the fencing off of what were once communal lands. Such fencing had restricted, and in some cases blocked, animal migratory routes leading to greater conflicts between humans and animals. No less that 50 community meetings were held during the project.

At the time, ILRI planned to map out the Kitengela rangelands to find out how the sub-division of communal lands into private plots and subsequent fencing had affected herders and livestock productivity in the area. The mapping initiated by ILRI and the Kitengela community sought ways the community could best use the land for both domestic and wild animal enterprises.

‘One of the most important considerations we had in the project was to come up with solutions that would not compromise the wildlife migratory routes while also helping to improve Maasai livestock herding,’ says Mohammed Said, a scientist at ILRI and one of the leaders of the project. ‘We explored various innovative ways of helping the Kitengela community best use their land for both livestock and wildlife,’ he adds.

Most of the mapping was started by ILRI’s Mohammed and Shem Chege who are graduates of the faculty of Geo-information and Earth Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente in Netherlands. In partnership with the Africa Wildlife Foundation and the local community, ILRI extended a process of mapping using geographic information systems (GIS) technology to record spatial information about the Kitengela rangelands. Community members were trained in the use of global position satellite (GPS) devises to map the locations of fences, water sources, roads and open pasture land.

‘We soon realized that the local community had a lot of spatial knowledge,’ says Said. ‘They accurately collected spatial data about their land without the use of topographical maps, mostly by using physical features such as rivers. Their data were very accurate.’ ‘The decision to involve the community is one of the key strengths of this project,’ Said added. ‘We trained over 20 community members on how to use GPS equipment and systems to collect information that was then compiled. This built local ownership. The community realized that their contribution was just as important as that of the researchers.’

In 2001 a conservation group called Friends of the Nairobi National Park pioneered a land-leasing scheme that would pay livestock herders three times a year not to fence and develop their land, which would allow wildlife to move easily back and forth from Nairobi National Park within a Kitengela ‘corridor’. This scheme received support from the Africa Wildlife Foundation.

Soon after this, the project members identified the urgent need to develop a land-use ‘master plan’ for Kitengela to ensure that the lease program would succeed. David Nkedianye, a Kitengela Maasai who recently obtained his doctorate through his research at ILRI, said that for the program to succeed, ‘We needed to organize how we used the land. This prompted us to include in our research a project to map the lands in Kitengela that were fenced and unfenced. With this map, we could see where we needed to keep lands open for livestock and wildlife movements.’ This collection of spatial information and participatory land-use planning in Kitengela has produced some unique successes.

Now, four years after the start of this participatory mapping project, conducted with the help of geographic information systems, some 2000 sq km of the Kitengela plains have been mapped. These maps and other outputs of the project have been shared with the local herders and farmers. The local county council of Olkejuado has adopted the projects findings and maps.

The Council will use these to guide future land use in Kitengela’s wildlife-rich rangelands. A scheme to pay the local herders and farmers to keep their land open has been established. Such herders and farmers get US$4 for every acre of unfenced land. More than 30,000 acres of land are now under lease in this scheme and it is expected that this will double by the end of the year. The community is earning about US$120,000 each year from their land conservation efforts.

Other efforts in the Mara, such as those to develop community ‘wildlife conservancies’ have earned the Maasai community more than US$2 million. The availability of distribution maps of different species of animals, including livestock, now enables farmers to conduct their own ground counts of animals in the rangelands without having to use expensive methods such as aerial counts.

Since 2004, the rangeland maps have been updated to identify new and emerging threats that affect livestock keepers and herders. The community of Kitengela is now combining state-of-the-art geospatial information with local knowledge and experiences to better maintain their ecosystem while also benefiting economically from protecting the wildlife that co-exists with them. The greater income gained by James Turere and hundreds of others is bettering the lives of families and meeting their basic needs such as food and education. A major victory of this project has been its ability to influence land policy. Four months ago, the Kenya Government approved the Kitengela land-use map built by the local community, ILRI, the African Wildlife Foundation and other stakeholders.

The experiences and lessons of this project are now being applied elsewhere. One of the partners in the project is piloting a similar model to map land use in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. A project in Tanzania conducted with ILRI and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation is encouraging local people to map their own land for better management of their livestock and wildlife resources. Said believes that more farming and herding communities should be trained to use geospatial technologies. He is optimistic that the lessons from this project will have lasting benefits on the region’s livestock sectors as well as on the people of Kitengela.

The findings of the participatory land-use planning project in Kitengela are among many experiences of using geospatial information to support African farmers that were shared during an African Agriculture Geospatial Week that took place at ILRI’s campus in Nairobi last week, 8–13 June 2010.

More information about how geographic information systems are being adopted by the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) can be found here. You can also see the proceedings from the conference on Twitter #aagw10.

Pastoral reciprocity: A lesson in community ethos

Impacts of drought in Kitengela in 2009

We heard today from Mohamed Said, a scientist leading research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on pastoral rangelands in eastern Africa, that Kitengela, a Maasai rangeland neighbouring Nairobi, is turning green again after good recent rains following last year's devastating drought, which the livestock herders in Kitengela say killed most of their livestock along with much of the area's wildlife. Interestingly, although already turned green with heavy rains that arrived early in this year, this rangeland remains virtually empty of cattle. It is, rather, full of sheep and goats. Kitengela's Maasai herders have driven all their cattle southeast to Emali. Said and ILRI Maasai partner Nickson ole Parmisa say that the herders will bring their cattle back home, to Kitengela, in another few weeks, when the grass in Kitengela, which is now new and short, has grown taller. Here is a case study in how Africa's pastoral societies continue to work, against all odds, as communities. Late last year, when the impacts of the drought in the Horn of Africa were peaking, Maasai herders from throughout Kenya's Kajiado District descended on Kitengela with their animal herds because they had heard that the Kitengela rangelands had had 'a few showers'. That was true in a few places, but with all the new livestock driven in to this one part of Kajiado, Kitengela was reduced to a dustbowl within a few days. With no forage to eat, the livestock of Kitengela perished soon after the stock that had been trekked in from far places. Many people began to question the wisdom of traditional pastoral movement on Africa's increasingly fragmented rangelands. Now, just a few months later, the Maasai herders of Emali are returning the hospitality, and mercy, shown them last year by their Kitengela cousins. It is now the Emali Maasai who are sharing their green grass (the rains came earlier to Emali than to Kitengela, so the grass at Emali is taller than that in Kitengela) with the hungry animals of Kitengela. While scientists at ILRI and elsewhere debate the wisdom of pastoral mobility (does it still work in today's crowded world?), what apparently is not in doubt is the wisdom of pastoral reciprocity.

Safeguarding the open plains

Increasing urban populations are threatening pastoral lands and ways of life.

Safeguarding the open plains The Athi-Kaputiei ecosystem, wildlife-rich pastoral grasslands south of Nairobi, is under threat from rapid construction of fences, infrastructure, residential areas, and the growth of urban agriculture. Unchecked, this unplanned growth will destroy Nairobi National Park, the famous unfenced wildlife park 20 minutes drive from city centre that has always been connected to this ecosystem.

A program funded by the American Government through its development arm, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), seeks to secure open plains in Kaputiei, providing a dispersal area for big mammals within the Nairobi National Park, pathways for their seasonal migration to calving grounds outside the park, and open areas for both livestock and wildlife to graze.

Launching the project, American Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Michael Rannenberger, termed Nairobi National Park a “unique resource”, which needs to be conserved for the benefit of the entire country and the world.

“But it does not exist in isolation. If we can conserve it, it will benefit all of you – the economy will continue to grow through tourism and we will preserve the culture of the Maasai community”, he said.

He added that public-private partnerships are a key to conservation efforts and encouraged more private enterprises and businesses to join hands with local people and governments for environmental conservation.

For centuries, the indigenous communities, mainly of Maasai origin, living on the plains of Kenya’s Kajiado District, have reared livestock in expansive grasslands that are also home to big mammals and other wildlife. The Maasai have mastered the art of co-existing with the wild.

The Kaputiei Open Plains Program will help create value for the open plains and economic returns to the land owners through recreation, improved livestock production and tourism.

“We will consult all stakeholders, including women and the youth. The Kenyan Government, through its Ministry of Lands, will be a key player as they work on the land policy which gives a legal framework land issues”, said Kenyan Minister for Forestry and Wildlife Dr Wekesa.

The project aims to institute a natural resource management program to complement the existing short-term initiatives such as a land-leasing program that has helped keep land use here compatible with conservation. The project enables residents of Kaputiei to benefit more from managing their traditional grazing lands.

Speaking on behalf of the community, the former OlKejuado County Council Chairman, Julius ole Ntayia, said Athi-Kaputiei residents have produced a land-use “master plan” that needs to be implemented. He said while wildlife conservation was important, it was also important to help the local population improve their lives, especially through eco-tourism and better access to livestock markets.

Some of the expected outcomes are:

  • Improved institutional capacity for demand-driven land-use planning and enforcement for long-term social, economic and environmental benefits.
  • Site-specific natural resource management initiatives implemented outside protected areas that improve or maintain biodiversity and the condition of the existing natural resources.
  • New sustainable financing mechanisms focused on tourism and livestock development that enable residents of Kaputiei, particularly ethnic Kenyan pastoralists, to derive long-term benefits from managing their traditional grazing lands for the mutual benefit of livestock and wildlife, as opposed to sub-dividing, fencing and converting their lands to other uses for short-term gains; and
  • Pilot initiatives in support of the project area.
  • The project area becomes a conservation model for other wildlife-rich regions of Kenya and East Africa.

The Kitengela Project’s principal objective is to lay the necessary foundation to secure open rangelands and sustainable livelihoods in Kaputiei over the long-term. The two main targets of the project are securing 60,000 hectares of high-priority conservation land and generating US$500,000 in livestock value-chain improvements and $300,000 in tourism deals.

The project will be implemented by the African Wildlife Foundation in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Further Information Contact:

Said Mohammed
Research Scientist, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Nairobi, KENYA
Email: m.said@cgiar.org
Telephone: +254 (20) 422 3260

Photo Essay: Kenya: Saving lands and livelihoods in Kitengela

State-of -the-art 'participatory mapping' helps stop the decline
of unique wildlife-rich pastoral lands.

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Pastoralists can take most of the credit for the survival of savannah wildlife herds in Kenya, since herding livestock is usually compatible with wildlife.

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But development today is threatening pastoral lands and ways of life, particularly near growing urban areas.
In Kitengela, south of Nairobi National Park, an unusual group of community, government, private and other organizations is pioneering an approach to help pastoralists and their lands, livestock and wildlife thrive. A foundation pays pastoral families not to fence, develop or sell their acreage. Strictly voluntary, the program now leases 8,500 acres from 117 families; another 118 community members, with more than 17,000 acres, are waiting to join. The program aims to lease and conserve 60,000 acres—enough to allow the seasonal migration of wildlife to and from Nairobi National Park.

OPEN ACCESS AN IMPERATIVE

If this program fails and more fences and buildings go up, the annual migration of wildebeest and other animals will be halted, provoking the crash of the Athi-Kaputiei ecosystem, which even in wildlife-rich East Africa stands out for its spectacular concentration of big mammals—remarkably right in the backyard of burgeoning Nairobi. The success of this lease program depends on spatial information about where fences have been put up that are blocking wildlife migrations and where the land remains unfenced, allowing herds of wildlife to move through a corridor of open land to their calving grounds beyond.

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STATE-OF-THE-ART MAPS

The maps needed for this project are being developed together by members of the Kitengela Ilparakuo Landowners Association (KILA) and scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The participatory mapping combines expert skills with local people’s spatial knowledge. This joint work is stimulating broad-based decision-making, innovation and social change in Kitengela, where access to, and use of, culturally sensitive spatial data is now in the hands of community which is generating the information. 

A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD

The maps are helping members of KILA focus on specific areas where they can still make a difference by keeping land unfenced. Just as importantly, the maps are creating a level playing field for the local Maasai, who face an array of powerful groups wanting to develop their traditional lands, from government officials to land speculators, shopping mall operators, building contractors, stone quarry companies, politicians and ordinary people hungry for a bit of land. The community, through its county council, is in the process of developing land-use plans using some of the maps generated by the community. The land-use plans will legislate the use of land, protect important landscape such as swamps, riverine, water catchment areas, open wildlife corridors (through land lease schemes) and rehabilitate degraded areas such as quarries.

PROTECTING LANDS AND LIVELIHOODS

TS_060828_001_TN4This project has succeeded in saving lands as well as livelihoods. There is now more grazing land for livestock and wildlife, and once eroded and degraded land is recovering, since the grazing pressure has been reduced. The Maasai are working hard to conserve the Kitengela plains and are benefiting from the presence of their wild neighbours through ecotourism projects. On the socio-economic side, household incomes have risen, school enrollment is up and women have been empowered.

MAPS PROVIDE STRONG EVIDENCE

Whether the maps are in time to stop the Kitengela sprawl and the crash of a unique wildlife-rich ecosystem at Nairobi’s back door will soon be known. Fifteen years ago Kitengela had under a dozen inhabitants and three kiosks. Today, the town has swelled to 15,000 residents, and more are arriving by the day. As the numbers of people have increased, the numbers of migrating wildebeest have dropped from 30,000 to 8,000 in the last 20 years. Despite its successes, the novel leasing program must expand to reverse losses not only of wildlife, but also of livestock and the lands that support both. In addition, KILA and its partners will need the support of strong and judicious land-use planning. Scientific mapping is giving KILA the evidence they need to persuade land-use planners to help them protect their lands.

 

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ILRI wins two top awards

ILRI vaccine developers won an award for Outstanding Scientific Article. Another ILRI team conducting research on savannah ecosystems shared an award for their innovative collaboration with Maasai landowners in Kenya.

Scientific Recognition

Each year, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) recognizes the scientific contributions of the 15 agricultural research centres it supports through its Science Awards, presented at its Annual General Meeting (AGM), held each year in December.

At the CGIAR’s AGM held in Washington DC at the end of last year, scientists from ILRI and The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) picked up the award for ‘Outstanding Scientific Article’ for their paper, published in the top scientific journal Science, ‘Genome Sequence of Theileria parva: a Bovine Pathogen that Transforms Lymphocytes’. The team, led by Malcolm Gardner of TIGR, received a cash prize of US$10,000, which is being donated to fund travel for staff and students to attend conferences in this area.

The paper’s second author, ILRI scientist Richard Bishop, said: “We are delighted to receive this award. Our multi-partner collaboration and recent discoveries illustrate that African science is forging ahead – we are collaborating with world-class players and producing world-class science right here in Africa, for Africa.”

ILRI wins 2 awards

Pictured above from left to right: ILRI’s Director of Research, John McDermott, and TIGR scientist (and former ILRI staff member) Vish Nene, with the Award for ‘Outstanding Scientific Paper’. Looking on is ILRI’s Director General Carlos Seré and Bruce Scott, ILRI Director, Partnership and Communications.

Download TIGR/ILRI Press Release

Innovative Collaboration with Civil Society

The CGIAR also recognizes the contributions of innovative collaborations between CGIAR-supported centres and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) through its ‘Innovation Marketplace Awards’. This year, 46 CSOs were invited to participate at the CGIAR Innovation Marketplace to showcase their collaborative work and share experiences.

ILRI’s collaboration with the Kitengela Ilparakuo Landowners Association (KILA) was one of four collaborations to win a Judges’ Award with a cash prize of US$30,000, to use for further collaborative work. ILRI has been collaborating with the Maasai of Kitengela Plains, located next to Nairobi National Park, in Kenya, since 2002. They have devised means to ensure that people, livestock and wildlife can live in harmony and have lobbied government to reduce fencing to allow the annual migration of wildlife though the Kitengela Plains, thus helping to prevent conflicts between wildlife and people and their livestock. Other collaborators of the program are Kenya Wildlife Service, Friends of Nairobi National Park, The Wildlife Foundation and Kajiado County Council.

The prize award was collected by ILRI’s CSO representative Ogeli Ole Makui and ILRI’s Mohammed Said. Makui said: “This award means so much to us. Our major challenge is to move forward and continue with the collaboration to help the community move forward. The Landowners Association will be using the prize money to fund further collaborative work.

ILRI wins 2 awards

Pictured above, from left to right: CGIAR Chair and Vice President of the World Bank Kathy Siena, the Program Officer of the Kitengela Land Lease Program, Ogeli Ole Makui and ILRI scientist Mohammed Said.

Download the award-winning poster

ILRI Awards

Dr Carlos Seré , ILRI’s Director General, said: “ILRI’s work is frequently recognized at the CGIAR’s annual awards. Each year the bar is raised and this year was no exception. Competition was tough with a very high standard of entries in all categories. We wish to extend our congratulations to the winners from our sister centres and are delighted that ILRI has won two of the top awards this year. This recognizes our commitment and contributions to both science and society.”

ILRI wins awards

Pictured above from left: ILRI Directors Carlos Seré and Bruce Scott and the President of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz at the CGIAR exhibit booth at the AGM in December 2006 in Washington, DC.