Climate mitigation from a cultural perspective in East Africa

By Checky Abuje

Territories governed by Indigenous people and local communities, especially Wildlife conservancies in Sub-Saharan Africa are crucial for meeting the 30×30 targets as envisaged in Vision 2030 sustainable development Goals, Paris Agreement, and FAO plant treaty.

However, this must be viewed from the cultural lens, cultural self-strengthening using local methodologies and intercultural exchange to increase the scale and effectiveness of these territories governed by local communities in pursuit of conservation and biodiversity.

“The Maasai, for example, have stuck to their culture which has come to be appreciated by modernity. “Modernization however is a threat to our culture, but we will move on to live side by side with it,” said Kip Ole Polos, the chairman of IL-NGWESI Community Conservancy owned by Maasai Community in Kenya.

In Kenya community conservancies have sprung up as a way of Wildlife conservation and economic empowerment for the local communities against the global trend where traditional ecological knowledge, values, and institutions are being rapidly lost to the expense of modernization.

In an exclusive interview with Africa Science News at the Conservancy in Laikipia Kenya, Ole Polos admits the pressure of modernization has chopped of a section of youths.

He notes that the love of their culture has contributed immensely in their quest to preserve the environment through the establishment of community conservancies.

“Our culture is all about livestock herding and living in Manyattas. This has helped us Co-exist with wildlife which forms a great percentage of the community’s socio-economic base,” he said.

Ole Polos who looked modern, but in Maasai traditional regalia of “shuka” disclosed to Africa Science News that their heritage of conserving flora and fauna spans many years and is a tourist attraction tool that brings them foreign exchange for their day-to-day activities as a community.

Among the Wildlife at the IL-NGWESI conservancy include Elephant, gravy Zebra, Hippos, and Antelopes among others

As a result of tourist attraction, the local women have mastered the art of making wares that are sold to visiting tourists.

“Sisi tunatengeza vitu kadha wa kadha na kuuza kwa watalii wanaokuja hapa ili tupate pesa badala ya kukata miti kuchoma maka“(we make a number of art wares and sell to visiting tourist to earn money for our social sustainability instead of cutting to burn charcoal) said one of the local woman from ILI-NGWESI village

Kenya has more than 180 registered Wildlife conservancies spread across the country with Northern Kenya embracing the establishment of community conservancies which has largely contributed to the protection and conservation of the Environment and biodiversity.

Ole Polos says the only economic activity people in northern Kenya know of is livestock keeping and wildlife conservation. He called upon the Kenyan government to support their effort to create sustainable development to empower the locals economically.

The outspoken chairman prides that the collection from livestock and community conservancies has kept the community going with establishments of social amenities like hospitals, schools, and road networks. 40 percent of the collection is plowed back into the community and 60 percent takes care of administrative issues.

However, the Kenya government’s role in supporting local communities to sustain and expand community conservancies towards the 30×30 initiative remains minimal.

Joyce Mbataru, Communications officer at Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association KWCA) challenged governments in Sub-Saharan Africa to take a lead role in enabling policy framework to support and encourage the vibrancy of community conservancies to strengthen the weak socio-economic fabrics of locals towards SDGs.

The challenge of prolonged drought due to the effects of climate change in East Africa still poses a threat to biodiversity.

In Kenya statistics have shown that more than one thousand wildlife within private and community conservancies succumbed to drought in the last four years, dealing a major blow to community conservancies vi’s a vi’s foreign exchange. This is a replica of the Covid-19 pandemic that too threw conservancies into limbo. However, Joyce says the sector is on a recovery trajectory

Livestock being the backbone of the Maasai Community in East Africa,  the drought never spared them as well. According to Ole Polos, the IL-NGWESI Community alone lost close to three thousand animals which he says paralyzed their economy thus affecting the education of their children who depend on proceeds from livestock and conservancy to pay school fees.

“For the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to effectively counter the effects of extreme weather within the jurisdiction of community conservancies, there is a need for governments to put in more effort by investing towards climate change adaptation and mitigation mechanisms to cushion the locals against socio-economic and cultural sabotage since tourism is their main source of finance streams,” says Joyce Mbataru.

Mbataru at the same time made a clarion call to communities in the ASAL areas to delve maximumly into other financial streams including nature-based ventures like beekeeping, basketry as well as carbon credit initiatives.

Speaking to ASNS at Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia county, during a tour of community conservancies in Northern Kenya, East Africa EJN project manager at Internews Kiundu Waweru noted that community conservancies in Africa are getting traction due to the elaborate communication network exhibited by journalists courtesy of Internews facilitation.

He urged journalists both at the local, regional, and continental levels to take a steadfast responsibility to appropriately educate and inform the public on the positive impact of these conservancies in attaining Vision 2030 and beyond.

The same was echoed by Joyce who challenged News outlets across Africa to revamp local dialect broadcast stations both print and electronic for easy and understandable communication to local population on matters of biodiversity.