Introduction to Kamungi Conservancy
Tsavo Trust has worked with the local WaKamba communities since 2013 to establish the Kamungi Conservancy, and to create a vital buffer to the northern boundary of Tsavo East National Park to which Kamungi Conservancy borders. Establishment of a buffer is important as this region serves as an entry point into the Park for people who illegally poach for bushmeat and elephant ivory, fell trees for charcoal and hard wood extraction as well as illegally graze their livestock within the Protected Area (PA).
Kamungi Conservancy works closely with the KWS through Tsavo Trust to secure and monitor wildlife and assist in law enforcement through trained Kamungi Conservancy scouts. The Conservancy also works to reduce Human Wildlife Conflict, educate the community, and to secure and diversify livelihoods. Tsavo Trust also plans to facilitate an increase ecotourism in this area, reduce poverty through employment, education, healthcare, water projects, and agricultural best practice.
Tsavo Trust hopes to foster and build support in attracting further donor organisations in support of its Community Conservancy Program. There are several partners already engaged with Kamungi Conservancy through Tsavo Trust and the conservancy concept in the Tsavo area is taking shape well. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a support partner to Kamungi Conservancy through Tsavo Trust.
Location of Kamungi Conservancy
The conservancy lies within the southern sector of Makueni County, Mtito Andei Ward in the southern part of Kenya. The permanent Athi River forms the eastern boundary, bordering onto Tsavo East National Park. The southern boundary is the seasonal Mtito River (also TENP northern boundary). Despite being prime wildlife habitat (this area arguably once held the highest density of black rhinos in Africa), the number of wildlife has reduced dramatically since the area was settled in the late 1970’s.
The Community and Conservation
This community has traditionally struggled to make a living through farming their land due to the semi-arid climate that does not favor small-scale agriculture. Annual rainfall can be as low as 250mm. Proximity of the community to Tsavo East National Park has led to Human Wildlife Conflict on a regular basis. Because this community is socially marginalized and struggling economically, illegal extraction of natural resources (wildlife poaching, hard wood extraction and charcoaling) from inside Tsavo East National Park by community members is commonplace. Historically, the WaKamba were expert bow and arrow hunters (often using lethal poison on their arrow tips). Due to the region’s poor economy, this tradition continues today, having a negative impact on Tsavo’s elephant population.
The Conservancy has already started to facilitate the creation of alternative livelihoods (employment) that improve and diversify income streams (water supply and bee keeping) for the community. This region also serves as an entry point for illegal livestock incursions into the Protected Area and for “bushmeat” poachers who snare in an indiscriminate and unsustainable manner. People enter the park to fell hard wood trees for timber, for charcoal production and woodcarvings.
Unsustainable illegal activities that many individuals turn to for income and sustinance in marginalised communities:
Elephant poaching by poison arrow
Hardwood extraction and charcoaling
Region as a Buffer Zone
The development of a community-led conservancy in this area has created a physical buffer, denying people free and easy illegal access to these key entry routes into Tsavo East National Park. The proposed conservation-based enterprises that could be initiated in this area include tourism ventures, which in addition to increasing revenue within the WaKamba community would support KWS through gate entrance to the National Park.
Kamungi Conservancy Objectives:
- Community ownership – the Kamungi Conservancy is owned and managed by the community through an elected Board of Trustees (2015), instilling local commitment. It is a registered Community Based Organisation (CBO) in 2015 and is a member of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancy Association (KWCA) since 2014. The Tsavo Trust provides guidance, fund raising potential, governance and commitment to make Kamungi Conservancy beneficial for wildlife and people;
- Instill a Culture of Conservation – through capacity building and employment of rangers/scouts from this community. Already there are 10 scouts employed (plus driver and CLO), uniformed, equipped and trained through KWS Manyani Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) to carry out anti-poaching/de-snaring patrols, working closely with KWS. In their first year (May16 to May17) since deployment, they have made 155 arrests and recovered 1,532 wire snares. The Tsavo Trust’s CLO is a trusted member of the community, and has carried out several awareness campaigns. One of the CLO’s main roles focuses on HWC alleviation;
- Improving Livelihoods – through employment (especially of women), establishment of village savings and loan associations (VSLAs), agricultural expertise and projects, water management projects, improved local security, reducing HWC through education and monitoring of animals and incidents, improved local communications and healthcare facilities, improved education facilities and with all of this a sense of ownership evolves with revenue generation;
- Expand Wildlife Dispersal Areas – by including more land on the existing boundary of the National Park, with wildlife now re-colonizing areas. The local community benefits by enjoying this buffer, as they now feel invested in a much larger conservation partnership through Tsavo Trust’s guidance. The added security assists with protection of the National Parks;
- Support to KWS – with aerial and ground anti-poaching support already firmly in existence from Tsavo Trust and Kamungi scouts respectively KWS now has a reliable partner on this boundary of the Park who also provide an information network that is vital to securing this area for wildlife;
- Community Ecotourism Opportunity – by creating tourism opportunities either within the conservancy or inside the Park with conservancy revenue benefits, revenue generation is enhanced, further employment takes shape, Kamungi Conservancy gains a stronger profile within local government and a stronger sense of community ownership enters into the program;
- Tsavo Trust provides a Stewardship Role – Tsavo Trust is based in the Kamungi Conservancy, and is therefore well placed and able to ensure long-term success.
Kamungi Conservancy is owned and managed by the community themselves (through an elected Board of Trustees) which instills ownership and with this commitment. Tsavo Trust provides the stewardship role for capacity building, fundraising potential and commitment to ensure that the members of Kamungi Conservancy enjoy and realise better forms of livelihood in what is a challenging and harsh environment.