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Economy

Drought ignites human-wildlife conflict in fight for dwindling resources

Samburu pastoralists are allowed access by
Samburu pastoralists are allowed access by conservancy security personnel to dwindling pasture on the plains of the Loisaba Wildlife Conservancy where controlled livestock grazing from surrounding manyattas is helping mitigate conflict over increasingly scarce water and pasture during a biting drought season. AFP PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA 

The persistent dry spell being experienced in many parts of the country is sparking human-wildlife conflict in the North Rift as a scramble for limited resources intensifies in the region.

Hundreds of herders have invaded animal habitats, conservancies and private ranches in search of water and pasture for their livestock.

Conservancies in the region are now raising concern that encroachment of wildlife habitat by pastoralists, which they fear will lead to diminished wildlife numbers, could also deal a blow to the country's recovering tourism sector.

According to Ruko Conservancy Baringo South County Manager Rebecca Kochilem, the persistent drought is a major threat to wildlife in the area with diverse wildlife including eight giraffes, over 30 impalas and a variety of other mammals.

“Cases of herders encroaching forcefully into the conservancy are on the rise. This has interfered with the animals’ habitat and breeding grounds,” said Ms Kochilem.

Water sources gone

A spot check by the Nation in the region revealed that save for Lake Baringo whose water levels are diminishing at an alarming rate, other water sources in the region have dried up.

It also emerged that due to the dry spell, many springs near the lake have also dried up, forcing residents to take their livestock to drink directly from the lake - putting them on a collision course with crocodiles.

The reptiles have killed more than 1,000 goats in the past month alone.

“Due to the receding water levels, the community livestock are feeding on aquatic grass which was meant for hippos. If the situation persists, we will be forced to buy hay for hippos and giraffes,” said Lake Baringo warden Jackson Komen.

The situation in no different in the neighbouring Tiaty sub-county where hungry baboons have killed hundreds of goats.

Ribkwo/Kositei ward Member of the County Assembly (MCA) Daniel Tuwit cited the areas where the hungry baboons were wreaking havoc as Chebilaat, Riboron, Katikit, Kopoluk, Lorwatum and Alum.

“Our people no longer go for their daily chores for fear of attacks while parents have withdrawn their children from school to look after the remaining goats,” Mr Tuwit said.

Interfered with schooling

The drought has also adversely affected learning in the area as many children have abandoned studies and joined their parents in looking for pasture and water for their livestock.

This comes as residents bordering the Laikipia Ranch Conservancy, Mukutani and Arabal forests are up arms over herders who have invaded the area.

Amos Olempaka,a human rights activist in the area, claimed that the herders from a neighbouring community have started engaging in wanton destruction of trees, threatening many rivers downstream.

“The herders have started setting ablaze vegetation in the area threatening the vital ecosystem which is home to elephants, lions and other variety of wildlife,” said Mr Olempaka.

Residents have accused politicians in the area of being behind the eviction of herders from Ilchamus community in Baringo County to pave way for illegal herders to have a field day in the fragile ecosystem.

Face starvation

The North Rift region is headed for a major food crisis with more than 100,000 people facing starvation following total crop failure.

Agricultural experts have warned that the deteriorating food and pasture situation in North Eastern Kenya and parts of the North Rift region is likely to fuel armed conflicts among pastoralists in over 10 affected counties.

A report released by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) and Early Warning Systems Network in January indicates that families in Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo, Garrisa, Mandera and Wajir were faced with food shortages and inadequate pasture and water for their animals.

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