By Alex Ngari and Mildred Menda, January 2013
The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) is supporting the development of civil society forums and networks in Nakuru, Samburu, Laikipia and Kwale Counties through “Strengthening CSOs County Government Legislative Engagement Process Support Project” initiative. The major purpose of the networks and forums is to provide a platform where stakeholders within the natural resource sector can discuss substantive issues affecting natural resource development. The forums are also expected to be useful instruments for public participation on matters related to natural resource management and contribute to the formulation of legislation and laws at the devolved governance levels
As one of the project undertaking, EAWLS organized a very successful exchange visit in Kwale in December last year that brought representatives from all the four pilot County Natural Resources Networks together to share experiences and learn from each other. The participants exchanged ideas and learnt lessons that could be useful in the growth and work of respective networks/forums and achieving in their mandates.
The participants were privileged to visit Kaya Kinondo sacred forest in south coast, where an ecotourism project is being piloted to test the viability of ecotourism as a means of linking conservation to tangible social and economic benefits by the local community. A conservation and development community based group was formed with an aim of coordinating conservation and development activities in the area. All proceedings of the ecotourism project go towards maintenance of the Kaya, and support of cultural ceremonies, community projects such as schools and water projects.
At Kaya Kinondo, the visitors learnt about some of the Africa’s remaining biological, cultural and historically rich forests. Through a financial services association established by the community as part of the project, loans are given to community groups and individuals within the area to initiate income generating micro projects. The forest is not only ecologically valuable but is also a strong part of cultural heritage with deep ethno-ecological values which have been respected and maintained through generations.
The visit to the cultural heritage of Digo people that Kaya Kinondo is, widened the natural resource knowledge base that the visitors from Samburu, Laikipia and Nakuru had. Community based natural resource management and conservation efforts are not in vain despite a myriad of hurdles that may lie ahead. The conservation successes witnessed at Kaya Kinondo further uplifted the morale of the network/forums members from Samburu who are struggling to bring communities into conservancie-units that guarantee sustainable natural resource management for pastoralists or the Nakuru residents who have to battle with irresponsible solid waste disposal in the towns or Laikipians who are rallying the communities into organized groups to curb human-wildlife-conflicts in the county including Kwale people who have to protect the rest of their natural resources from plunder by multinationals who are thirsty for huge profits.
2013 is an election year for Kenya. The County Natural Resource Forums will constructively engage those aspiring for political positions within the devolved governments as part of the efforts being made by the project to influence political leaders early into committing themselves to support sustainable management of natural resources in their counties. Plans are underway to hold forums with them in February 2013 to advocate for inclusion into the campaign manifestos and prioritization of agenda articulating issues of concern raised by civil society organizations networks.