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Kenya: the curse of the wildlife conservation industry to the Samburu Community

Posted by African Press International on November 15, 2011

First and foremost, this is how I personally translate the word ‘’nature conservation’’. Nature conservation in its basic form encapsulates; protecting, preserving, and a careful management of natural resources and of the environment.

Therefore, wildlife conservation being part of conserving nature ought to act as a catalytic leverage for both wildlife conservation and its habitat/environs. Hence, the wildlife conservation industry has the sole responsibility for protecting and managing the diverse species of wildlife as well as initiating and supporting the indigenous community conservation and development programmes, jobs creation and the education of neighbouring areas in the value of wildlife as well.

Literally speaking, balanced nature conservation principles are presumably an attributing factor to why Kenya is currently touted as a wildlife haven. This is to plainly say-a pair of binoculars and a little patience is all one requires as either a local or international tourist in order to enjoy a wildlife paradise nestled in Africa’s sun-scorched middle that’s perfect for those with passion to work with animals in the animal orphanages, conservancies and having fun by looking at them while on a game drive in national park.

Some of the organizations credited for the good work of wildlife conservation in Kenya include Kenya Wildlife Conservation (KWS) and Africa Wildlife Foundation (AWF) among others. Now, the question is; who really owns the wildlife conservation industry, and how do they acquire the big shanks of land? To add more thorns into injuries, what happens to the indigenous communities when they are displaced and rendered squatters in their own ancestral land and giving way to a rich multinational corporation wildlife conservation industry like AWF? Well, I suppose this leaves a lot to be desired.

AWF partners with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and is one such a multinational corporation that seeks to exploit the Kenya’s vast natural resources. AWF is widely in Africa and tempting many African authorities with promises of development and economic growth. Many are beginning to question these promises that have proven uneven at best across Africa. Dubbed the resource curse, many poor nations especially in Africa, have seen their riches, natural resources plundered for the world market, but instead of reaping the financial rewards, money is lost in poorly-made deals or commodity swings, or ends up in the pockets of foreign corporations or corrupt officials, leaving the nation’s people not with education and opportunity, but environmental degradation and social unrest.

Multinational corporations like AWF are percieved to be engaged in aggressively buying enormous tracts of land in Africa to the detriment of local communities. This leaves many African nations with a cautionary warning that the land grab puts a country like Kenya on the path to the prevalent increased food insecurity, environmental degradation, increased reliance on aid and marginalisation of farming and pastoralist communities like the Samburu tribe in both Samburu County and Laikipia County. Therefore, something ought to be done.

A report on human rights abuses written by cultural survival dated 12/15/2010 says that and I quote:

‘’ In late November, hundreds of heavily armed policemen forcibly evicted 300 Samburu families from ancestral lands that former president Daniel Arap Moi had purchased in a land-grab typical of his administration. Police chose a Friday “market day” for their attack, when the men were away and only women, elders, and children were in their homes.  Fanning out across the 17,000- acre Eland Downs Ranch, police burned the Samburu families’ homes to the ground, along with all their possessions.  

Identified in the Kenyan press as “squatters,” the evicted Samburu families had petitioned a regional court to recognize their ancestral claims to the land where they lived and grazed their cattle.  The case is scheduled to be heard in February 2011, and the court had issued an order against any evictions in the interim period.   

Press reports state that the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) recently purchased the property from the former president and that the evictions were carried out at their request, although AWF disputes this. AWF has been negotiating to purchase the property to create a conservation corridor for wildlife, along with “sustainable livestock grazing and other community development projects.”   

Cultural Survival condemned the violent evictions in a letter to AWF and questioned their prospects for generating “community development” on the heels of such brutal treatment of the local pastoralists. 

A British film crew got a first-hand view of the brutality when they attempted to interview some of the evicted Samburu. They witnessed police clubbing Samburu elders, and the crew was twice detained and threatened by aggressive policemen.  They were filming a documentary about the impacts of conservation projects on Indigenous Peoples which will or were to be aired on the public television in March 2011.” For more, click on this link and watch a documentary about the dirty secrets of curse of the wildlife conservation industry to the Samburu Community in Kenya

The writer is a peace activist

Lesiamito Malino John

Oslo, Norway

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world wildlife fund, world wildlife fund wwf, conservation industry, wildlife paradise, and africa wildlife.

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