This program was conceptualized out of a need to empower communities to better understand their environment through monitoring of the rangeland conditions using local assessors. This will be accomplished through a hybrid of indigenous and scientific knowledge. Milestones for the program are to document indigenous knowledge and collect scientific information and finally facilitate dissemination to the communities.
The hybrid knowledge would then guide the future of the pastoralist and the rangeland. Members of this team are recruited from their communities as they are knowledgeable of the area and can comfortably interact with the elders to tap the indigenous knowledge. The program will have a centre where the information will be stored and accessed by the community as well as outsiders.South Rift Resource Centre
This is a community based women owned natural resource and research centre, a physical place that provides a centre for information storage and dissemination. The centre provides the community with a forum to engage with partners (scientists, practitioners) on knowledge creation, dissemination and application.
Rebuilding the Pride - Lions and People
For the Rebuilding the Pride project group following lions in their sturdy Land Cruiser, there’s not much danger involved in a hard night’s work away from their Lale’enok Resource Center base. For the inhabitants of the study site of Olkiramatian and Shompole Group Ranches, however, the threat of lions is clear and present. Visiting the center for a few days, I found myself sitting atop the Land Cruiser alongside the group’s regulars on Congo Road. With our floodlights trained on a pride made up of two adult females and their eight cubs, we were able to enjoy the coolness of the night after another hot Magadi day. The lions ate happily away on a waterbuck, occasionally snarling at each other in competition over some part of the meat. The sounds of children playing in a nearby boma drifted to us on the back of a light wind.
We had been watching the pride for over an hour when we all detected the sounds of a motor growing closer, soon followed by the glow of a headlight ahead of us at the bend in the road. If the piki piki continued its approach along the road, it would pass not three feet from these ten carnivores. We flashed the headlights of our car and shook the floodlights in the direction of the motorcycle, hoping it would understand and stop. But the sound continued, grew, until, just before the bend when the vehicle would enter our line of vision, the lions scampered. With them hidden now under the cover of the bush, the driver passed by without knowing his own luck, and continued on his way.
In recent years, the lion population in Olkiramatian and Shompole has seen unique growth to around fifty individuals today. Meanwhile, lion numbers across Kenya have been declining. In an area also inhabited by people, why are the lions thriving here and how do they interact with the human population? These are some of the questions that the Rebuilding the Pride team is studying, headed by Guy Western and research assistant Lily Maynard, and supported by Steven Kelempu, Peter Sariamu, and a cadre of game scouts as well as other knowledgeable locals.
Though this group is studying lion movements, they do so with people in mind—and their commitment to the well-being of the community is not passing. When they received a call that there was an injured cow inside the Shompole Conservancy, they drove deep into the conservancy to locate it, load it on the back of their truck, and return it to its owner. That man cooked and ate the cow, which was otherwise useless with its injury. Though some lions might have missed out on a tasty meal that day, because of the actions of this Lale’enok project group, the cats avoided the possibility of spurring the cow’s owner to retaliation, as well as the likelihood of turning human sentiments about them towards hostility.
SOUTH RIFT RESOURCE CENTRE
Pioneering Community-Based Research
The South Rift Association of Landowners and the African Conservation Centre
Community-based conservation has come of age. Ecotourism, spurred by communities setting up their own Parks Beyond Parks, has revitalized Kenya’s tourism industry and boosted wildlife numbers. Today 40 percent of Kenya’s wildlife is protected by private conservancies, more than all parks combined. One of the richest wildlife areas and biodiversity hotspots in all Africa straddles Kenya’s Great Rift Valley connecting Amboseli and Maasai Mara. Here, the Shompole and Olkiramatian communities have set aside wildlife conservancies with the help of the African Conservation Centre. The conservancies have attracted ecotourism enterprises and researchers. The South Rift Association of Landowners was formed to promote conservancies across the rift and developing a new tourism hub linking Amboseli and Maasai Mara.
Managing wildlife, tourism and livestock calls for good information and sound planning. SORALO and ACC set up the Lale’enok Resource Centre with conservation research and planning in mind. The centre is named after the traditional Maasai scouts who gather information vital to the welfare of their families and herds. Lele’enok brings together community scouts, local resource assessors, scientists, students and conservationists to collate information crucial to wildlife conservation and community development in the South Rift.
Run by the Olkiramatian Women’s Group Community, Lale’enok pioneers new approaches to research, conservation and rangeland development. Rooted in the traditional coexistence between Maasai and wildlife, the conservancies have seen elephants return to the South Rift, wildlife herds double, lion numbers triple and cheetahs and wild dogs become regular visitors. The conservancies also double as traditional grass banks that cut livestock losses in drought, promote rotational grazing and ease competition between wildlife and livestock.
Lale’enok recently launched Rebuilding the Pride, a program that draws on traditional practices to promote coexistence between wildlife and people to mutual advantage. Rebuilding the Pride aims to show that coexistence is not only possible, but is the best hope of sustaining large viable wildlife populations beyond and between parks to the benefit of local commumnities.
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