An evaluation of grazing systems and implications of the emerging community wildlife conservancies in Samburu District, Kenya
Machan, N. Steve
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Pastoralists have for centuries developed coping mechanisms towards drought by spreading their risks to move onto new areas for better pastures. They took advantage of diverse habitat types in the dry lands through mobility as grazing resources continued to deteriorate. These mechanisms have been both ecologically and socioeconomically viable as adaptive options and survival strategies of nomadic pastoralists. Currently, there are changes in pastoral livelihoods from nomadic pastoralism to sedentary grazing practices through creation of group ranches. These and emerging community-based wildlife conservancy initiatives are leading to disruption of the past traditional pastoral system. Further challenges are due to the changing climatic conditions and increasing human and livestock populations. This study evaluated the traditional grazing system among the Samburu pastoralists and implication of emerging community wildlife conservancies in Wamba and Waso Divisions of Samburu District. The study was carried out in Namunyak, Kalama and West Gate community conservancies and Nkaroni communal grazing area. A combination of research instruments including household questionnaires, interview schedules for key informants and focus group discussions were used in the study. Two hundred households were interviewed during the study through the simple random cluster sampling method. In addition to household survey, four focus group discussions were conducted, one in each study group. The study established that depletion of grazing resources is a major threat to the conservation and sustainable use of dry lands in Samburu District. This is due to heavy livestock grazing pressure coupled with increasing human settlements contributing to poor range conditions for both livestock and wildlife grazing. The findings of the study also show that the emerging land use systems such as communal group ranches and wildlife conservancies have been created due to community's realisation for the need to diversify income and livelihood base following reduction in the present pastoral economy and low socio-economic endowment. The Samburu rangeland productivity is deteriorating as indicated by the disappearance of the grass cover and tremendous increase of the local invasive species dominated by Acacia reficiens. Almost a half of the Samburu rangelands will soon be overtaken by these low value invasive species and this will contribute to greater conflict to the envisaged wildlife-livestock integration due to inadequate grazing resources. The human-wildlife conflict in the newly formed community wildlife conservancies is a great concern if solutions to the current pressing problems are not achieved. The immediate concern is the establishment of conflict resolution mechanisms to resolve human-wildlife conflicts and community education on the growing environmental problems some of which are beyond their control such as the climate change. Understanding of these concepts will assist in educating the community towards adjustment to sustainable grazing management systems geared towards improvements in pastoral livelihoods. Conversely, the establishment of effective community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) programmes aimed at livestock and wildlife integration is imperative. The management programmes should not only address the issue of wildlife conservancy but also build capacities of the people so as to help them generate income and diversify their pastoral economy rather than the syndrome of the "donor fund dependency".