Addressing the inflammatory belief that pastoral herd accumulation leads to range degradation and desertification, the “new range ecology” has demonstrated the rationality behind building up herds in good years as an adaptive strategy for surviving the devastating droughts that characterize drylands. The Elephant in conversation with Dr Hussein Wario, PhD in Socio-ecology and Executive Director at Center for Research and Development in Drylands, Kenya.
The problem of landlessness in Kenya started with the stealing of land by the British colonialists and has been perpetuated by powerful individuals in the top echelons of post-independence governments.
Violent evictions of families from their homes are not exceptional events. They go to the heart of Kenya’s political economy and its long history of valorising the rights of those who hold private title.
Land adjudication is the megaphone that is heralding the dismantling of the pastoralist way of life and wildlife conservation is a ploy to sedentarise pastoralists.
The Land Value Act does not make provision for the valuation of communal land in a manner that reflects the social-economic practices of the drylands communities.
“Conservancies” in Kenya are presented as an example of conservation by and for local people, but they can be a device to grab land. Unless this changes, the future for wildlife conservation looks bleak.
The colonial powers that reside within the conservation sector often tout “alternative livelihoods” as key to the economic empowerment of pastoralist communities. But this flimsy window dressing barely hides the fraud within. Conservation interests have built a cauldron into which the extremely wealthy are pouring startling amounts of money to subvert systems, grab lands, and plunder resources.
Conservation is a principle; tourism is a business, so says leading conservation scholar Dr. Mordecai Ogada. The conservation politics are laden with racial hierarchies, lies, violence and misinformation used to subjugate locals in a bid to wrestle precious; and space from them in ways that upset human-wildlife coexistence.
The story of how the defunct Uplands Bacon factory lost its land to Farmers Choice is a sad case of how the Moi government was either unable or unwilling to protect lucrative subsectors of the economy. Now, despite an NLC order, Farmers Choice has refused to hand back the land to pig farmers in Kiambu County.
The members of Wildlife Utilization Task Force have attempted to facilitate the blatant colonization of our lands through wildlife management chicanery. Whether their respective roles were a deliberate conspiracy or unwitting, remains to be seen. However, we will never forget their names. We Kenyans deserve better and should never accept this shame they have visited upon us.
Proponents of wildlife conservancies in Northern Kenya argue that they provide a win-win situation for both conservation and pastoralist communities. However, the current push to establish more conservancies in the region may backfire and lead to more conflict.
The perpetual colonial project has miseducated us that conservation is about wildlife, while it is actually about our land, our heritage, our culture, our languages, our beliefs…it is about US.