Kenya’s community conservancies stay afloat amid COVID-19

By Checky Abuje

The emergency of Coronavirus pandemic across the globe has in one way or the other left Wildlife conservancies in East Africa reeling in economic burden.

In Kenya for instance, Community conservancies have offered solutions to perennial wildlife-human conflicts as they have provided socio-economic solutions to local communities who live in semi-arid and arid regions of Northern Kenya. But with the burden of Covid-19 monster that is escalating in Kenya, it is no longer business as usual in those entities.

Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust (NWCT) is one of the Community Conservancies in Northern Kenya that is facing a myriad of challenges paused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tom Letiwa, Manager Namunyak Community Conservancy said the 324,000Ha conservancy has experienced a steady loss of revenue due to lack of visitors, rising threats to wildlife due to poaching accelerated by the impacts of Covid-19.

“Until Coronavirus struck, the Conservancy funded 100% some of its Corporate Social Responsibilities’ activities like education (bursaries), health, water and infrastructure development like roads and airstrips,” said Letiwa.

Speaking at a webinar meeting that brought together Earth Journalists across East Africa, Namunyak Conservancy Manager said despite the impacts of Covid-19, they are innovatively sustaining their activities that include Corporate Social Responsibility, eco-tourism and Reteti elephant sanctuary through fundraising and partnerships.

The same scenario is replicated at the Northern Rangeland Trust Conservancy (NRT). Addressing East Africa Environment Journalists through virtual connection organised by the Internews, the Northern Rangeland Trust Conservancy Sustainability Director Daniel Letoiye said that COVID-19 is leaving them to rethink their elaborate future plans for the community.

He said increased poverty level, interrupted aid services, limited market access for the community folks and re-direction of government services due to Coronavirus problem has affected the operations of the Conservancy in relation to service delivery to the locals.

According to Letoiye, more than 70,000people benefit directly from the conservancy with a total annual revenue collection of up to Kshs. 86 million in 2018. The Conservancy has 15 black Rhinos.

With Coronavirus infection declared pandemic, community Conservancies have to adapt to new ways of doing things.

Tom Lolosoli, Kalama Community Conservancy manager noted that the Conservancy now conducts public participation and training in smaller groups.