Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Today we submitted our detailed comments on the “after-thought” ESIA submitted by Habitat Planners on behalf of the project proponents Kenya Railways Corporation and CCCC. Please see below for our covering letter and find attached the detailed comments brief.

Dear Sir,


With reference to the above subject, Kenyans United Against Poaching Trust (KUAPO Trust) is pleased to submit its comments on the proposed routing of the standard gauge railway (SGR) with specific emphasis on the routing through Nairobi National Park and its environs. Please note that as such there is no opposition to the SGR as a project – indeed it will no doubt result in tremendous benefit to the country and the region.  However, the main point of contention is its routing through the Nairobi National Park, which is a protected area and a national asset.

The citizens of Kenya pride themselves on having one of the most unique destinations, a capital city with a National Park, the one and only Nairobi National Park. Every year, millions of visitors flock to Kenya and the majority of them make a pit stop at the Nairobi National Park bringing in much needed tourism dollars into our economy. Schools from around the country send their students to Nairobi National Park. But today, the future of this Park is being called into question as infrastructure development is pressurizing from every corner – whether it be the Southern bypass or the Standard Gauge Railway. Already over 300 acres of the park have been taken due to these infrastructure projects and the only remaining open dispersal corridor is also now being threatened by SGR Phase 2A.

As was specifically pointed out in the “Report of the Task Force on Wildlife Security 2014” (pg 82 – “ Space for wildlife is increasingly diminishing due to land conversion, land subdivisions, loss of wildlife habitats.”

Furthermore, our Constitution, the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act and the National Spatial Plan 2015 –  2045, all explicitly state that any infrastructure construction within protected areas should not be allowed.

In this context, and the ever-increasing pressure on Nairobi National Park, we believe that no mitigation measures are enough for us to allow the SGR to be routed through the middle of Nairobi National Park (NNP) and its environs as per ESIA – 1296. Not only would this greatly impact the wildlife within NNP, the environment around Nairobi National Park, and the communities that live with wildlife in the Tuala/Oloosirkon areas, it will also have serious repercussion on the brand image and reputation of Kenya as a wildlife destination and will have adverse effects on the economy of Kenya. 

We would like to share that an alternative route (see appendix) exists that provides a win-win solution for the SGR and for the environment. As a conservation organization, we are not against the development of the SGR, what we are seeking is a landmark setting precedent not only for Kenya but also for the world on how development and environment can be balanced, how both can win – we firmly believe that the alternative route presented by the Save NNP Campaign coalition is the most viable and desirable option for all parties involved. We ask NEMA to adhere to the precautionary principle The project sets a precedent for other development projects that could encroach into the NNP, and other protected areas in the country, we must stop this now and achieve the landmark precedent of a win-win solution.

Moreover, we find that the ESIA submitted by Habitat Planners & Environmental Consultants on behalf of the Kenya Railway Corporate (KRC) inadequately addresses the negative environmental impact of heavy construction within a pristine area of the NNP, includes glaring omissions, and has a flawed cost comparison analysis with no value given to the protected area land or the broader ecosystem services the park provides. We also know from independent study of the stakeholders, the ESIA consultations excluded some of the key stakeholders during the process, which would render it null and void under the EMCA 1999 act. Furthermore, even the consultations that were held were briefings and not proper consultations. Individuals were not provided information beforehand or given time to digest it. Neither was it a forum to ask questions – they were simply lectured at as if the route was a done deal.

Last but not least, it is disheartening to note that the project proponents have shown little regard for NEMA and the EMCA by commencing Phase 2A without an EIA in place and a license from NEMA. The EIA is a decision-making tool and should guide whether a project should be implemented, abandoned or modified prior to implementation. SGR Phase 2A has already started – there is ongoing construction at the Ngong tunnels as we type this letter to you. We would also like to state that commencement of a project does not start at construction only; making agreements or decisions in relation to the project are also part of the project. We are saddened to say that Kenya Railways Corporation and CCCC have been working towards the chosen route as submitted in the ESIA in the absence of an approved ESIA. This begs the question whether the ESIA was a simple afterthought to justify actions already taken.

Again, we would like to stress that while we do agree that the need to upgrade our railway infrastructure is increasingly paramount, there are alternatives that do not require the route to pass through protected areas and their environs. There are options available that do not involve destroying Kenya’s heritage and pride. Accordingly, we strongly object to the route proposed for SGR Phase 2A through Nairobi National Park and respectfully request that NEMA reject ESIA-1296.

#SAVENNP Re-Route the SGR away from NNP and its environs.

Detailed Comments from KUAPO on ESIA 1296



Posted: October 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

The cry was loud. The cry was clear.  Save our Park – Re-route the SGR.

Today (October 17th, 2016), close to a 100 people from all walks of life came together to tell China to “Respect Our Laws.” In what is now the fourth such protest march, the Save Nairobi National Park campaign coalition decided it was time to target the financiers and the construction company behind SGR Phase 2. China EXIM Bank and CCCC.

We all gathered at the CCTV Africa offices to start our walk to the Chinese Embassy. The point was to hit as many of the areas where Chinese businesses exist in Nairobi en-route to delivering our petition to the Chinese Embassy. A petition asking them to honor the laws of our country that are currently being flouted by the SGR Phase 2A process.

CCTV Africa very rudely and in the most hostile manner possible accepted the petition we left with them. At the Chinese Embassy, we were treated to closed doors and the immediate arrival of police (some with tear gas) who asked us to disperse immediately. They then walked the remaining marchers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where we were finally able to hand over the petition in a civilized and respected manner.

Accompanying the march was a tweet storm automated and hosted thanks to the Global March for Elephants.

Our voices are growing, our voices are getting louder.


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By Salisha Chandra @salisha_ww (MD, KUAPO TRUST)                                                                             Text First Published in Mazingira Yetu – October 2016 Edition

Today, in Kenya, we stand at a crossroads. One path could lead us to our ultimate destruction as we move away from our natural instincts of living with and conserving wild life and wild spaces; the other could see Kenya continue to lead from the front as we learn and show the world how a win-win situation can be attained between development and the environment. Bang smack in the middle of it all is the first park to be gazetted in East Africa – the world-renowned Nairobi National Park (NNP).


Nairobi National Park became an officially protected area in 1946, when Maasai pastoralists agreed to move off these lands so that they could be used solely for conservation. Today NNP remains the only park in a capital city attracting in excess of 100,000 visitors annually and generating more than Kshs 45,000,000 per year. It’s home to the endangered Black Rhino and another 100 odd mammalian species, over 400 bird species and endemic plants that are only found within the park confines. The park is an education hub for students from all over the country as well. But over and above these are the ecosystem services that the park provides for Nairobi city and its environs – it is a carbon sink that sucks in the noxious fumes from our industrial area and turns it into oxygen. NNP also acts as a water purifier for one of our key rivers and it is also a breeding-site for the white-backed vultures – nature’s own recycling machines.

KUOPA Infographics-English

At only 117 sq. kms, NNP is one of the smallest parks in Kenya but its size belies its importance. It is a core area in a larger ecosystem and one that once supported the second largest annual migration of large herbivores. In the past, wildlife would disperse up to Kilimambogo (Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park) in the north, Amboseli in the south, Narok in the west and Machakos in the East.

But for many years now, Nairobi National Park has been facing an onslaught. An onslaught from development. From growing population pressures to land subdivision, the advent of flower farms and gypsum quarries, development has slowly but surely led to these corridors becoming blocked. The wildlife around NNP has decreased more than 70% since the early 70’s, so the core protected area – the park itself – has become even more important.

However, since 2014, NNP has had to contend with a new and growing threat – large-scale infrastructure development. It started with pieces being hived off for the Southern Bypass and Phase 1 of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). Both of these developments could have been re-routed to leave the park un-touched but through impunity and corruption of due-process, NNP had to give up close to 350 acres of her land. So when the bombshell dropped that KWS had nominally approved a route that would cut through the centre of the park, it sent a tremor through conservationists and pastoralist community members living adjacent to NNP. And our reaction was unprecedented – a cry to save our park echoing from the depths of our hearts.


On September 13, 2016 we learnt that the modified-savannah route (as it is being dubbed) will cut right through the middle of the park. To our shock, we also learned that this route had been approved by KWS. The KRC have proposed several supposed mitigation measures to lessen the impact on Nairobi National Park including having the SGR raised on average 18 meters above ground and a phased construction process that would see it take 18 months to complete. But what we are all wondering is why does the SGR have to go through the park, when there are other route options available? Why have KRC and KWS not thought about the adverse and ill effects of the actual construction process. There was a spate of increased human-wildlife conflict at the time when the southern bypass works were going on – we cannot begin to imagine what that would mean for 18 months of construction right through the centre of the park. Wouldn’t the park be well and truly be dead by the end? The cynics amongst us say that actually may be that is the end game here; that behind all of this is a ploy to grab this premium land for development…

It is hard to know or even try to understand ulterior motives. As conservationists, we are not opposed to the SGR in principle – we all want a functioning cargo rail service in our country. But we do not want it at the expense of our heritage, our health and our environment. Kenya has the chance to set the right precedent – that, in fact, there can be a win-win situation for both development and environment. One does not have to lose for the other to win. Our vote goes not only to NNP but also to SGR.


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Story and Photographs by John Mbaria (A version of this story first appeared in The EastAfrican)

Carefully, the elderly woman holds on to a solar-powered light. In her hands are two of her tools of trade; a small hammer and a screw driver. She then picks a solar panel, a hands-on manual and four solar lamps in readiness to fix the items in a manyatta in Pardamat village close to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Narok County. To the amazement of all present, she goes on to confidently fix the panel, wires and lamps inside this Maasai traditional dwelling with the expertise of an accomplished technician.


Her head is clean shaven, her earlobes decisively adorned with multi-coloured beaded bangles. Around her neck dangles a multitude of equally beautiful necklaces that blend perfectly with her side cloth and the long blue Maasai dress. The woman is a living testimony of how marginalised people can improve their own fortunes and change neighbourhoods if given the opportunities so often denied to them.
The traditionally-adorned woman laughs easily as she fields my questions. She is evidently happy as she explains her enviable role in the community. Nemanyatta Kipetu is a solar ‘engineer’, trained at the Barefoot college in India. She now installs solar panels and lights in different manyattas in the area. For her pains, she is paid Ksh1, 000 per installation. She is also involved in training young men who she relies on to climb rooftops as she instructs them.
“She is trained and experienced in solar engineering,” her daughter -who was present during the interview- quipped. By installing solar power, in this unlit part of Kenya, Nemanyatta has contributed positively, in more ways than in, in improving lives and livelihoods in the area.

The village is part of the wildlife dispersal area outside the Maasai Mara. Here, wild animals roam all over the place with the herbivores -mainly gnus, zebras, buffalos and giraffes- attracting carnivores. Lions visit here at night in search of prey. At times, they steal into homesteads, killing livestock in a human-wildlife conflict that remains unmitigated by different approaches adopted by KWS, conservation NGOs and the Narok County Government.
Homes here are set widely apart; the entire place is engulfed in pitch darkness when the night falls. Those able to install solar power are envied by their neighbours as this keeps the lions, hyenas and other carnivores from killing their livestock. “Lions, hyenas and leopards tends to keep off any home that has the lights,” says Moses Ntoroge, an official from World Concern, the organisation that has partnered with UNDP Small Grants Programme in the project.
What is also interesting is that the lights are used as landmarks by people travelling at night as they aid in locating their homesteads across the monotonous plain. Children are also now able to do homework or read at night. It is clear from the interview that the solar panels put in place by Nemanyatta not only serve as security installations but are also extremely important for the local people in many other respects.
A member of the Nkopelia Women Group, Nemanyatta has so far installed over 40 units in the area. She is unable to explain how she fixes the solar panels in Swahili or English. Throughout the interview, she speaks in Maa and relies on Ntoroge who translates my questions and later relays her responses in Swahili.

The elderly woman says that she did not see the inside of a classroom when growing up. “I was married as a young girl and was mainly involved in looking after my husband’s livestock,” she say. But she is quick to point out that she was able to understand the training lessons imparted by trainers at Barefoot College in India.
Nemanyatta was accompanied by other women from Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Chad to India, credit to a programme run by the Small Grants Program of the United Nations Development Programme which is funded by the Global Environmental Facility (UNDP/SGP-GEF). The funding has also been used to subsidize the cost of solar panels making it affordable for the local people.
The funding enabled Nemanyatta to travel to India to learn not just how to install solar power but also how to make the lamps, candles and chalk. She was trained together with four other Kenyan women who are now involved in similar activities in different parts of the country. None of the women were able to understand the Hindi Language spoken by their tutors; but as Nemanyatta demonstrates during the interview, she is quite competent in installing the devices. In fact, it is perfectly clear that she very well understands the nitty-gritty of her new occupation and is as accomplished as any technician who might have gone through formal training.

Flight experience
When I ask her about her flight experience, she laughs openly, looks at me saying that it was unlike travelling in a motor vehicle. “It was smooth and enjoyable…(and)… an experience of sorts” she tells me through the translator. The first “hurdle’ for officials of World Concern, who identified Nemanyatta and the rest of the women, was how to convince her to agree to travel. “ I was not sure the airplane would arrive safely and didn’t want to be away from my family for six months.” She had to be coaxed by her daughter who says that this was not as tough as it would have been if her husband was alive.
Nemanyatta says that she did not like Indian food. “The food was either too sweet or had lots of pepper in it…I didn’t like buffalo milk at all because it made my body itch.” She says that her diet was normally composed of rice, pumpkins, chapatti and mandazi which was altered slightly after she complained. As she explains, Nemanyatta was greatly surprised when she learned that Indians treat the cow as a sacred animal. “I found it surprising that they would wait for a cow to grow old and later go on to bury it when it died.”
Her classes commenced from 7.00 a.m. and ended at 1.00 p.m. She was taken through hands-on training on soldering and how to make candles and chalk. She says that the trainers mostly spoke in Hindi but would occasionally switch to English. “But I didn’t find the language barrier much of a problem.” She was able to grasp the lessons since much of the training was practical, was done through gestures and that all the trainees were given an illustrated manual. “I would shout “probem” if I had a problem and “medika” to get medical attention.”
Nemanyatta says that she was astounded by the sheer number of vehicles and trains in India. She was however unable to operate a computer assigned to her and fellow women. “We did not even touch it the entire time we stayed at the college,” she laughs as she says this.
“By the time we were through with the training, we had soldered 400 solar lamps.” She says that Barefoot College donated all the lamps and the candles to her women group but clearing them with the Kenya Revenue Authority proved difficulty as the latter charged duty on them.

Training the forgotten
Barefoot College is a not-for-profit institution that provides rural and marginalized communities with the wherewithal to attain self reliance by providing them with training and solutions to their predicament.
This includes training in solar electrification, clean water, education livelihood and how to fight for their rights. The institution uses ‘barefoot’ as the symbol that universally identifies many rural folk forgotten by governments and other agents of change, many of who walk barefoot. “The College believes that for any rural development activity to be successful and sustainable, it must be based in the village as well as managed and owned by those whom it serves,” the College says in its website.
Barefoot mainly targets women in marginalised communities whose fortunes are affected by exploitation and sheer poverty. It sharpens the resources that local people have and their traditional knowledge and skills to build homes for the homeless, collect rain water in rural areas where potable water sources are scarce, as well as to spread messages that are beneficial to target groups through puppets.

Barefoot college then goes on to give the beneficiaries training on only those technologies they can easily understand, access and control. This has not only demystified technology but also accords its ownership to those who live difficulty situations.
Among its beneficiaries have been rural men and women who can barely read or write. Today, as many as 6,525 women involved in smallholder farming, petty trades, wage labour, mid-wifely and housewives have been trained as hand-pump mechanics, FM-radio operators, masons, dentists, solar engineers, artisans, weavers and as teachers. The college prefers to train people who will continue to live in the villages and has a bias for women who are either single mothers, middle-aged, divorced, physically challenged or illiterate. As the College says in its website, these are the people who have dire need for employment and income generating opportunities.

A village celebrity
Nemanyatta was one of the beneficiaries of the training. She was later taken through a refresher course at the Base Camp, a tourism facility located outside the Mara Reserve. Nemanyatta is now contracted by fellow villagers and has to traverse long distances to reach the manyattas.
She says that some clients do not pay her. “But I am not concerned about this…I am grateful to God that I was picked for the training.”
Her training and the work she does for the community has made her a celebrity in the village. Since she started installing solar power, the mother of eight children, was selected by other villagers to sit in a committee of a local primary school.

Assault of the Biopirates

Posted: May 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

By John Mbaria, 2004 (original article link:

THEY COME as tourists and we urge them to feel at home in our land and to travel as far and wide in it as they can. Others come as associates of a clique of “conservationists” who have maintained a traditional hold on Africa’s conservation policy and practice.

Some come openly as researchers or students eager to dig as much information out of the countryside as possible. Yet others live with us, either as “visiting scientists” working in our national research institutions and universities or as “expert” expatriates.

And we are always eager to extend our generosity. Our governments are equally eager to license them. In Kenya, such licensing carries a caveat, in writing, that the researchers must share with the country the proceeds of their research and must not take away any specimen from any corner of the republic. We also impose other rules and guidelines and ask the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST) and the Ministry of Education to enforce them.

Then we sit back. The government forgets to give the NCST teeth and rarely asks its intelligence arm to monitor the visitors’ activities. And so, for the time they are in Kenya, they have our entire wilderness to themselves. Sometimes they come into contact with our “men in green,” the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers on the beat. But in many cases, they are all alone or are accompanied by a few guides who act more like David Livingstone’s porters, Suma and Suzi, often providing intimate services to spice up the research expeditions.

Inevitably, many specimens are spirited away from Kenya and the rest of Africa. For instance, The EastAfrican last year ran a story on how the Mount Kenya Bush Viper a species of snake discovered whose venom is believed to contain chemicals that can prevent breast cancer is shipped out of Kenya. All the smugglers need to do is to place it in a deep freezer shortly before they ship it out. This knocks the reptile out for 7-9 hours, which enables the thieves to carry the snake on their person and fly out to Europe and the US.

IN MANY CASES, RESEARCHERS dig up things that look unimportant to us. But almost always, Africans through ordinary conversations unwittingly give them vital leads. We even encourage them, wondering at the same time why these queer fellows are so interested in chameleons, beetles, slugs or giraffes’ dung.

Years later, we may read a newspaper article about how a biotechnology company has come up with a wonder drug without making the connection.

For instance, a colleague says that, in the 1970s, there were claims that a muddy substance found in Lang’o District in Uganda had the power to heal a number of different ailments. However, he says, these claims were dismissed as unsubstantiated rumours put about by witchdoctors.

But as detailed in a new report published by a US think-tank, Out of Africa: Mysteries of Access and Benefit Sharing, a British company, SR Pharma (formerly Stanford Rook Ltd), took the “rumours” seriously. After intensive research, the company ended up isolating a unique bacterium, Microbacterium vaccae, that is now used effectively against chronic viral infections, including HIV. Needless to say, SR Pharma made millions of dollars in annual sales and, according to the report, never saw any reason for sharing a single shilling with those who came up with the “rumour.”

The British firm is in good company. Dozens of multinationals have been looting biological resources and traditional African knowledge with impunity. “It’s a free-for-all out there,” says the report, “and until the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) solves the problems of access and benefit-sharing, the robbery will continue.”

That seeds, plants, bacteria, algae, viruses, not to speak of larger animals have and continue to be stolen from Africa is no longer a secret. The robbery is open, widespread and ugly. There are those who say such robbery is part of the official policy of governments in the West, pointing to the fact that in almost all cases, the relevant multinationals end up getting patents for what they have stolen. For instance, the report says that 12 different medically valuable natural products have been stolen from different African countries to make antibiotics, antifungal drugs, appetite depressants and drugs that are effective against diabetes and other diseases.

In addition, six different sources of cosmetics have been illegally acquired from Africa, ending up as vital formulae for the manufacture of whiteners and skin and hair products. Further, agricultural and horticultural products acquired illegally from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa are now generating huge profits for those who hold equity in various multinationals.

But even after such public exposure, the culprits remain unremorseful, often voicing the opinion that there is no such thing as biopiracy. In most cases, the media and the Internet are used to whitewash these corrupt acts while arguments on who, in Africa, is the true owner of such biological resources as bacteria and viruses are advanced to confuse the issue.

Even in cases where African communities have clearly isolated certain plants or organisms and used them to treat different ailments for hundreds of years, someone still disputes their ownership of such knowledge.

But African countries have wittingly or unwittingly abetted the robbery. First, few of these countries have got round to enacting rules to govern access to and sharing of benefits accruing from their natural wealth and the traditional knowledge of their peoples. Meanwhile, African nationals sometimes even government representatives play an active role in the robbery.

For instance, The EastAfrican last year exposed how the stealing of industrial enzymes from two of Kenya’s Rift Valley Lakes, Bogoria and Nakuru, in 1992 was aided by senior wildlife officials, while researchers working at one of Kenya’s public universities collaborated with British nationals in the research.

Moreover, governments in the West routinely disregard the African input in the development of medical, cosmetics and other products during the patenting process. In essence, what patents do is to give the thieving multinationals the exclusive right to earn millions or even billions of dollars from a product identified and sometimes partially developed by Africans. The latter are locked out from sharing any of the profits and if they dared produce similar products for commercial purposes, the World Trade Organisation and other trade watchdogs are at hand to prevent this, while the West is itself ready to defend such patents with its superior economic and military power.

There are reports that thousands of patents on African plants have been filed. These include brazzeine, a protein that is 500 times sweeter than sugar and is obtained from a plant in Gabon; teff, used to make Ethiopia’s flat injera bread; thaumatin, a plant sweetener from West Africa; the African soap berry and the Zulu cowpea; and genetic material from the West African cocoa plant, to name but a few.

The case of Bayer is significant. The German drug-making giant got a patent for a diabetes drug whose ingredients were drawn from the water masses of Ruiru in central Kenya and had, by 2004, raked in a profit of $379 million. On its part, the California-based biotech company, Genencor, which is associated with the stealing of industrial enzymes in Kenya, reportedly has annual sales of $3-4 billion.

Africans, intellectuals have been complaining, Africans are reduced to begging for crumbs from the robbers’ tables. “They are stealing the loaf and sharing the crumbs,” Dr Tewolde Berhan Egziabher, a leading expert on the topic at the Institute for Sustainable Development in Ethiopia, was quoted as saying during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002. Attempts to force the companies to share their wealth with the true owners of the knowledge or biological resource have been made at the South-South Biopiracy Summits.

Such conferences have raised awareness about the ongoing robbery and how biologically rich Africa is. They have also shown how Africans had isolated and developed, centuries before Europeans scramble for the continent, useful products based on the properties of plants, seeds, algae and other biological resources. But passing on this message seems to be the only success achieved so far by the anti-biopiracy activists.

In some cases, experts have called for the enactment of legislation and pleaded with the West to respect the seemingly toothless Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). In principle, CBD which came into force in 1993 asks signatories to respect sovereignty over biological resources. In 1999, efforts were made to give it some teeth, with further negotiations being carried out during the WSSD in 2002. But even after lengthy negotiations and renegotiations (the latest round was held recently in Spain), nothing tangible or binding has so far been achieved.

One campaign for justice has paid off. The most unique case is that of Hoodia, a cactus that the San people of the Kalahari desert have used for centuries to ward off hunger, the Kalahari being a harsh environment. But elsewhere in the world, food and particularly fatty and sugary food is available in such quantities that while the San used Hoodia to suppress hunger, Westerners began to use it to suppress their appetites.

In came the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (SCIR) which, in 1997, realised that the lead compound of hoodia was an active appetite suppressant. SCIR then got patents for extracts from several species of the hoodia and traded these to a British drug company, PhytoPharm.

In turn, the latter sold the patent to the giant Pfizer company. Of these deals, the US report says, “All this wheeling and dealing took place without anyone bothering to contact the San.”

Interestingly, when the story hit the headlines, PhytoPharm defended its action by claiming that the 100,000-strong population of the San were all dead. But following international pressure, SCIR agreed to give the San an estimated 0.003 per cent of the royalties it receives from PhytoPharm. In addition, media attention forced Pfizer to terminate its hoodia research and to return the rights to PhytoPharm. Apparently, though, PhytoPharm was not deterred. A year later, it licensed the hoodia to Unilever, which curiously claimed that it would not be making any drug from Hoodia but would be selling “functional food” products from the species after three years.

Unilever is reported to have paid PhytoPharm $12.5 million and pledged a further $27.5 million and undisclosed royalties once its products were in the market.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE done to stem such robbery or, at least, to ensure that Africans benefit from their resources and from what they have all along known? There are those who call for speedy legislation for purposes of guaranteeing a reasonable system of benefit sharing. “Legislation is required and it is required yesterday,” Nolwazi Gcaba, a South African patent and copyright attorney, was once quoted as saying.

Others place their hopes on the CBD. Ratified by 183 countries and in force since 1993, CBD recognises the sovereignty of states and communities over their genetic resources. However, the treaty has been opposed by some Western governments, including the US, whose Congress refused to ratify it in 1994. In addition, its provisions are contradicted by the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The WTO has required member countries to recognise Trips since 1995.

It will be difficult for African communities wishing to be paid the true worth of their traditional knowledge to do so, because the entire system of global trade, intellectual property rights and patents does not recognise that they too are thinking beings who possess knowledge and practices that are different from what emanates from the West.

When the ongoing robbery is finally taken seriously by Africans (and peoples in the rest of the developing world) they will find that they may need to fight for an alternative intellectual property rights system that will accord what emanates from Africa due recognition. A starting point, as some have demanded, would be for developing countries to freeze each and every patent on living things. They ought to take the cue from the agitation made by representatives of African countries who, during a WTO meeting in Seattle, US, demanded the cessation of the patenting of life and the protection of community knowledge and heritage.

by @salisha_ww

Today approximately 60-80 people gathered outside KWS to honour Mohawk. It was a morning filled with overwhelmingly raw emotion – there were not many dry eyes as the lady from Kitengela read out her poem, the tears would not stop as the lady guitarist sang that haunting melody…we all laid our flowers, lit candles and paid our respects. This outpouring of emotion was needed – we all needed that moment. At one point, a friend turned to me and said I wonder if he (Mohawk’s) watching us…and I thought I sure hope he is …that way he can see how much he is loved and the dignity we are giving his life.

IMG_4587Please note that todays event was about honouring Mohawk and paying our respects and it was fantastic that everybody who came observed the sanctity of the moment.

Please also note that most of us there are also going to ensure that Mohawk’s death is not in vain – there has to be change and we are going to fight for that. More on this later.

The below is the statement we shared with the press this morning.


Today we are all here to honour and celebrate Mohawk’s life. Mohawk was one of Nairobi National Parks most iconic male lions, named such because of the shape of his mane when he was but a young boy. He was also the only lion who had a black mane.

In his years on this earth, Mohawk spent much of his time with the well-known “Ivory” trio – Sam, Cheru and the late Simbeo. But he also liked his time alone and would often go out of sight for a few weeks. Mohawak was a great hunter who could take down a fully mature eland bull all on his own. He also helped to sustain the Nairobi Park lion population by siring the Kingfisher cubs (both present and previous litters) and Elsie.

With the untimely death of Mohawk, we are now down to two mature males of the nine that had previously been there. Sam, Cheru, Mpakasi and the sub-adult males are now the future of Nairobi National Park.
Many of us would have loved to see Mohawk continue to roam the plains of Nairobi National Park, but this is not to be. We only hope that he may RIP and that his genes live on in the cubs he sired.

We have gathered here today in our green shirts to bring peace to his soul, to show him how much Kenya loves him and to send him off with dignity.

We will miss you greatly, MOHAWK. May your soul R.I.P