For those who do not have a subscription to the Times – please read this important article and see how the Northern Rangelands Trust continues to find the best ways to help communities living with wildlife.
Published at 12:01AM, February 14 2015
Locked in a struggle for scant resources against a rising tide of hungry humans, at times Kenya’s wildlife seems doomed to lose its fight for survival, especially when hordes of cattle overgraze the country’s precious rangelands.
However, conservationists in northern Kenya have responded by buying cows from pastoralists at prices far above market rates to foster wildlife-friendly farming and encourage the sale of cattle instead of hoarding them.
Last year the Northern Rangelands Trust bought 2,366 cows and it is planning to double that figure this year. It is also planning to build an abattoir to European standards to sell beef to Kenya’s hotels and global markets.
“That Kenya is still a beef importer is because there is a culture of not selling,” said Patrick Ekodere, who runs the Livestock to Markets programme. “People still want to think, ‘I have 200 cows and I am a rich man’.”
Fewer, healthier cattle are more resilient to drought, and they are worth more at market, so farmers are better off. He said that the alternative was over-grazing, which was “the norm in northern Kenya”.
He added: “When there’s overgrazing there’s great competition between the livestock and the wildlife.”
However, cattle can be managed and their dung used to fertilise sparse soil, which benefits the wildlife once they have gone. The trust works with 27 conservancies that help to develop grazing plans so that the land is better managed, and they buy cattle only from the conservancies doing the most to protect the wildlife.
The livestock scheme is run on commercial lines rather than donations. The cows are fattened on Ol Pejeta, a 90,000-acre (364 million sq m) wildlife conservancy that is home to the world’s last northern white rhinos, where they are slaughtered and sold.
In response to critics who say the scheme is a drop in the ocean, Mr Ekodere said: “We are not the solution to the livestock problems in the north.The communities can learn from what we are doing and scale it up and see that livestock as a resource must make economic sense.”
Pauline Longojine, chairwoman of the 85,000-acre Sera Conservancy Trust, said the community was keen to sell to Northern Rangelands Trust to help to pay school and medical bills.
“The benefits of selling a cow [are that] maybe you can have a better future for your family. Even if you only have two cows, and you don’t have any grass, those cows will die.”