Through targeted and multi-faceted approaches, organisations such as BIOPAMA and Tsavo Trust hope to foster community independence in conjunction with wildlife conservation. This article captures the strides made in the 10% Fence Plan, the vigilant efforts of the Kamungi Scouts, and the promising developments of the tourism facility. The impact is not just on protected areas and biodiversity but extends to the livelihoods of community members, making Kamungi a model for conservation initiatives.
History of Kamungi: A crucial wildlife corridor
Located along the northern boundary of Tsavo West National Park in Kenya, Kamungi Conservancy is home to a community of over 2,500 people, coexisting closely with the surrounding wildlife. Originally designated as a national park, Kamungi underwent a transformation into a human settlement area to accommodate the expanding population.
This shift, unfortunately, had detrimental effects on the local wildlife. Residents turned to tree cutting for charcoal production, both as a source of income and cooking fuel, leading to a significant reduction in tree density. This had repercussions for large mammal species like elephants and giraffes, who relied on the area for food, as well as for tree-nesting species such as hornbills.
Moreover, the conversion exacerbated the issue of game meat poaching, often carried out through indiscriminate means like the use of snares. While these activities posed threats to local wildlife, the residents of Kamungi found themselves compelled to utilise the available natural resources to create livelihoods and endure challenging conditions. Fortunately, organisations such as BIOPAMA have stepped in to collaborate with the local community, introducing new employment methods. These initiatives not only aim to alleviate the negative impacts on wildlife but also actively contribute to the enhancement of the natural environment.
It is emphasised that for these initiatives to be truly sustainable, they must foster community independence. This involves enabling the community not only to coexist with wildlife but also to thrive and grow alongside it, ensuring a harmonious and enduring relationship between the human population and the natural environment.
The 10% Fence Plan: Fostering Food Security
Within the wildlife friendly zone of Kamungi Conservancy, the transformative impact of the 10% Fence Plan, an initiative funded by BIOPAMA, in collaboration with Tsavo Trust, has had huge success. This innovative plan not only bolsters local food security but also fosters coexistence between the community and wildlife.
The initiative strategically designates 10% of farmer’s land, within wildlife zones, to be fenced ensuring the protection of economically vital crops while allowing wildlife to roam freely over the other 90% of the land.
The efficacy of the plan is evident in the case of Charles Mutuku Muli, a resilient 48-year-old farmer and single parent of two. Before the implementation of the 10% Fence Plan, Charles experienced frequent visits from elephants, leading to devastating crop raids that forced him to cease farming in 2018.
Recognising the severity of the human-wildlife conflict, Kamungi Conservancy Board identified Charles’ homestead as a hotspot and enlisted it for the 10% Fence Plan. Since the construction of the effective “hedgehog” fences, Charles attests to the remarkable transformation, stating, “Since the 10% fence plan was put in place, no wild animal has breached onto my farmland.”
The success story extends beyond Charles, as the broader community witnesses a 100%reduction in crop loss to wildlife, marking a significant stride towards food security. The 10% Fence Plan not only safeguards crops but also incorporates sustainable elements, such as the cultivation of drought-resistant crops like green grams and sorghum within the fenced areas. Moreover, the initiative is done alongside the construction of water pumps and water storage facilities. This enhances water security forthe community and reduces dependence on potentially contaminated water sources, especially during droughts.
Currently, the plan is ongoing, with 16 fences installed in Kamungi Conservancy, none of which have been breached by wildlife to date. The multifaceted approach of the 10% Fence Plan addresses a spectrum of challenges, from mitigating human-wildlife conflict to fostering resilience in times of drought. As populations expand and the line between human habitation and wildlife blurs, initiatives like the 10% Fence Plan stand as exemplars of effective and sustainable wildlife conservation.
Kamungi Scouts: Safeguarding Nature
Another comprehensive initiative involves the establishment of the Kamungi Scouts, aiming to empower the community with the means to safeguard their wildlife and themselves. These Scouts, comprised of locally trained individuals by the Kenya Wildlife Service, serve as Community Rangers in the protected Kamungi Conservancy.
Their responsibilities include conducting daily anti-poaching patrols both inside and outside the wildlife-protected areas, actively seeking out illegal wildlife activities such as bush-meat and ivory poaching, as well as locating snares.
The impact of this initiative has been remarkable, as evidenced by the scouts’ achievements over a 92-day period, including the discovery of 291 snares, confiscation of 104 kg of illegal bush meat, recovery of 2 elephant tusks, and 8 arrests made. Beyond anti-poaching efforts, the scouts play a crucial role in addressing human-wildlife conflicts, responding to incidents such as elephant raids on water supplies during dry months, collaborating with the Kenya Wildlife Service to assist the local community.
The formation of the scouts not only offers valuable training and employment opportunities to local community members but also brings about numerous benefits, including the reduction of illegal poaching, enhanced animal protection, the independence of the Kamungi Conservancy, and the community’s ability to safeguard their natural resources.
Sustainable tourism: The foundations for independence
To establish a sustainable and continually beneficial strategy for both the local community and wildlife, achieving Kamungi’s independence and profitability is crucial. One effective approach is the establishment of eco-tourism bandas, offering self-catered accommodation for tourists to contribute to the local community while experiencing the area’s wildlife.
To ensure the profitable independence of the Kamungi Conservancy through these tourism facilities, BIOPAMA has provided funding to sponsor six young community members for specialised hotel training at the Coast Institute of Technology. This training encompasses essential skills in catering, food production, and hospitality. The completion of the tourism facility is anticipated by March 2024, marking a significant stride toward the conservancy’s financial self-sufficiency.
Building a an independent and sustainable future
With the implementation of initiatives like the 10% fence plan ensuring food security, wildlife protection through the dedicated efforts of Scouts, and the creation of sustainable livelihoods via eco-tourism, BIOPAMA and Tsavo Trust have played pivotal roles in empowering local communities.
Beyond these tangible measures, the establishment of the Kamungi Community Board signifies a crucial step towards fostering independence. This board acts as a structured platform for community decision-making, holding weekly meetings to address grievances and explore opportunities for mutual benefit among community members. By consolidating these elements, the conservancy not only achieves self-sufficiency but also fortifies its resilience, ensuring that decisions align with the needs and aspirations of the community while promoting harmony with wildlife.
For a community conservancy to achieve holistic success, it must strive for independence from international and external aid, fostering self-sufficiency in various critical aspects. This involves establishing robust mechanisms for food security, enabling communities to cultivate and sustain their own resources. Furthermore, a self-reliant conservancy should develop effective strategies for wildlife and human protection, managing its ecosystem internally and mitigating potential conflicts. Additionally, the community needs sustainable revenue streams, such as eco-tourism or ethically managed resource utilisation, ensuring economic stability without reliance on external funding. By granting communities access to these foundational elements, they can cultivate a harmonious coexistence with wildlife, fostering a model of conservation that is both locally empowered and environmentally sustainable.
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