In 1990, KWS initiated a pilot wildlife-cropping programme to reduce wildlife-related costs and develop markets that would allow consumptive uses of wildlife to be economically viable. Previously, consumptive exploitation of Wildlife had led to severe declines forcing the government to place a ban on hunting/dealing in wildlife in 1977. The ban was (under Legal Notice No. 120 issued by Late President Jomo Kenyatta). But landowners continued to pressurize KWS in the subsequent years, lobbying for consumptive use of wildlife and claiming that several species had increased beyond the carrying capacity of the lands.
Owing to the strong lobby, KWS yielded by initiating the Pilot Wildlife cropping project that had the following objectives:
- Reduce wildlife-related costs;
- Develop carefully, the markets that (could) allow consumptive use of wildlife to be economically viable;
- Assess the feasibility of expanding the pilot project; and,
- Build KWS’s capacity to oversee and control the consumptive utilization.
The cropping activities were to be overseen by KWS and implemented by partners engaged in cropping and dealing in wildlife products. The partners included landowners (individual and group ranches), croppers, game meat outlets etc. The pilot was to run for 5 years in Samburu, Laikipia, Nakuru, Machakos, Kajiado and Lamu. At that point, it was supposed to be evaluated to determine whether it were to be continued and expanded.
But in actual fact, the “experiment” continued for 13 years with no evaluation or study until the 11th year of operation. Initially, approval was given to 3 landowners and over the course of the pilot project, a total of 71 landowners were granted user-rights throughout the country; 29 licenses were awarded to croppers (most of whom were the same landowners).
Furthermore, KWS was supposed to train croppers and marksmen in the initial phase. But this did not happen. It appeared that landowners (esp. in Machakos and Laikipia) were ahead of KWS in terms of institutional and operational setups. Indeed, they ended up setting up their own operational regulations without adequate involvement of KWS, thereby endangering the survival of wildlife.
In 2001, after the pilot project had already run for over 10 years, it was evaluated by Tasha Bioservices on the behest of KWS. Tasha Bioservices established two overriding themes in their evaluation:
- Conflict in management objectives for wildlife: KWS’s primary objective is to manage wildlife through non-consumptive utilization and there were genuine fears within KWS that consumptive use of wildlife threatens
- Decline in wildlife population trends in areas where cropping was taking place
In particular, several pertinent issues emerged:
- Poaching increased throughout Kenya during the cropping programme. Only a few small-scale landowners or communities were awarded user rights, causing conflicts especially where large-scale landowners had little interaction with the neighbouring communities. This resulted in increased poaching (particularly poaching for bush meat) in such areas with communities accusing the large-scale landowners of legalized poaching while they were arrested for snaring animals like dik-diks.
- Methods used to count animals were not species-specific yielding unreliable results. There was controversy as to who needed to undertake the census, what methods should be employed and whether verification is necessary.
- The criteria used in allocating quotas was not based on scientific findings. Census and quotas were done on an individual ranch basis as opposed to an eco-system approach that would have been more appropriate.
- There was a large disconnect in the communities – while single landowners might have been keen on consumptive use of wildlife, communities such as the Maasai did not support the idea of killing of wildlife for money.
- The project did not have the fundamental information to ensure sustainability – including inadequate knowledge of cropping methods employed on wildlife populations, lack of monitoring of change in wildlife numbers and a quota setting process open to cheating and corruption.
One of the goals of the pilot was to establish KWS capacity to oversee and control consumptive utilization. The evaluation of the programme clearly showed that KWS did not have the capacity or resources to monitor or supervise the pilot-cropping programme. This led to abuse by the landowners, including breaches of the terms and conditions of cropping regulations. Furthermore, the distribution of benefits was not equitable to all parties. KWS was unable to distribute benefits effectively in group ranches or neighbouring communities. Neither was there a consistent method of distribution.
Overall, the pilot cropping programme only served to reveal the deep inadequacies of KWS in effectively managing a consumptive utilization project. It is instructive that at some point, the haphazardly crafted cropping experiment encouraged some unscrupulous land owners to engage in over-cropping, over-estimate of animal numbers and other illegal activities. Furthermore, it underlined the conflict within KWS and several communities on consumptive vs. non-consumptive use of wild animals, with landowners having vested interests more keen on consumptive uses.
One of the most important conclusions of the report is that demand-driven markets work against conservation and may deplete some highly sought and valuable species. And as we ponder on this conclusion, all Kenyans must arm themselves with knowledge on what really we stand to lose by allowing cropping to once again be a tool for managing wildlife as is provided for in the new Wildlife Conservation & Management Bill, 2013.
For further reading of the Evaluation of the Wildlife Pilot Cropping Project please click on the following link: Cropping Report