Kiborgoch, Chuine and Irong Conservancies including Baringo County Conservancies Association (BCCA), are among 20 community based organizations in Baringo County to receive grants under the UNDP Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) for environment and biodiversity conservation in the Lake Bogoria, Baringo Landscape.
The three conservancies are among KWCA member conservancies listed as emerging conservancies due to their weak governance structures and management capacity to fully operationalize and receive benefits from the conservancy. While these conservancies have been established since 2002, their biggest challenge has been inadequate financial and technical support to protect the Lake Bogoria ecosystem.
Given that the 3 conservancies are adjacent to Lake Bogoria National Reserve, they currently receive some revenue generated from tourism and other income generation activities to support development projects such as bursaries and water boreholes projects. The new GEF SGP grant to the 3 conservancies will work to conserve and restore the Kiborgoch Swamp, promote Irong eco-tourism, and protect soil erosion in Chuine conservancy.
BCCA on the other hand, a nascent regional association, was established in 2017, to coordinate, collaborate and provide a collective voice for community conservancies within the county to demand for financial support and to integrate conservancy interventions into county environment planning and management. The association has a membership of 15 conservancies, 10 emerging and 5 proposed conservancies. They have been working closely with the Baringo County Government who is represented in their board as ex-officio members. The GEF SGP grant will strengthen BCCA governance structures and enhance its role as a regional association able to represent the conservancy interests in county policies.
KWCA through the GEF SGP grant will work closely with the 3 conservancies to strengthen their governance and management structures to enhance community ownership and enhance ecosystem management and benefits access through partnerships with Lake Bogoria National Reserve. KWCA will work closely with Baringo county government to build the governance capacity of BCCA as the land scape level conservancy coordinating body.
Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association CEO Dickson Kaelo, appreciated the efforts by the Baringo County Government in supporting conservancy growth in the County. “ Baringo County is among few counties in the country who allocate funding directly to conservancies.” He said. The county’s allocation in FY 2015/2016 was KES 6 Million; in FY 2017/18 KES 10,000,000; and KES 3 Million in 2018/19. Dickson urged the Governor H.E. Hon Stanley Kiptis to support the conservancies because they act as an entry point for development projects.
GEF SGP Phase VI Launch in Lake Bogoria Landscape
The GEF SGP phase VI launch held on 10th September 2019 at Kiborgoch Community Wildlife and Wetland Conservancy, the grantees represented by KWCA, Baringo conservancies associations, Bogoria conservancies, self-help groups, water resource users associations, seed growers associations and bee keeping and honey associations exhibited and showcased their work to the county officials and general public.
GEF SGP strategic partners, Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) and Egerton University through the Chemeron Drylands Research Training and Ecotourism Center will work with the 20 grantees to guide the implementation of their projects and ensure the massive environmental challenges manifested by resource use conflicts, poverty, human wildlife conflict and unsustainable land use practices which negatively impact on Lake Bogoria System and its ability to provide ecosystem services are minimised.
In reading the UNDP resident representative speech, Nancy Chege, Kenya’s Programme Manager for the GEF SGP acknowledged Indigenous peoples and local communities as custodians of the world’s natural resources and played a key role in securing biodiversity, addressing climate change and promote suitable land management. The programme seeks to build the capacity of communities to contribute towards the conservation of the Lake Bogoria Landscape in collaboration with other conservation partners.
The 20 grantees who were competitively selected by a national steering committee will receive funds channelled through their accounts to address issues of rehabilitation and protection of riparian zones, strengthening governance and managerial capacity of conservancies, promoting sustainable land management and supporting community driven enterprises.
A multi stakeholder platform bringing together key stakeholders in the landscape has been formed to promote an integrated approach to development and conservation, improve collaboration, reduce duplication efforts and enhance synergies. The platform whose chairmanship will be the Baringo County Government, will provide guidance in leveraging the funds through partnership building and upscaling of the community initiatives.
Nancy urged the grantees to use the funds well, liaise with the county government and key stakeholders for the successful completion “ I want in the next 2 years after the completion of the projects to come back for another celebration of Baringo’s conservation achievement.” She said.
Baringo County Support to Conservancies
Hon. Cheserem Richard, a committee member for Tourism in Baringo County Assembly, representing the MCA for Kipsaraman Ward in Lake Bogoria said after a bench making visit to Amboseli conservancies organized by the department of tourism, he was inspired by the benefits the communities were receiving from conservancies “ as a County, we should be able to implement what I saw in Amboseli here, if there is land to be conserved, lets allocate more resources to it so that the communities benefit. He said. I encourage BCCA to recruit more conservancies in the county and i will be ready to support any conservancy related Bill that comes to assembly my full support.”
The Governor, His Excellency Hon. Stanley Kiptis, thanked UNDP for choosing Baringo as one of the beneficiaries counties to implement the 60 million project that will go towards supporting environmental and biodiversity conservation as well as improving community livelihoods in Baringo County.
The Governor noted that Lake Bogoria System, the lowland side of Baringo, a unique ecosystem classified as a Ramsar site, an important bird area and a World Heritage Site was facing immense pressure due to population increase resulting to encroachment of the lake catchment areas, habitat degradation and overstocking. He acknowledged UNDP support as timely and would go into supporting the county’s environmental goals “ through the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Tourism and Wildlife, I will cooperate with the strategic partners to provide the communities technical support and ensure smooth implementation of the projects within the allocated timelines.” He said.
He urged the communities to support and embrace environment efforts “a healthier environment is dependent on us, we should also not forget culture is also conservation.” He said. The governor appealed to the partners to ensure the youth, women and people living with disabilities were also involved in conservation efforts.
Chelaba Women Group members of Kiborgoch Conservancy are among 21 community based organizations and groups exhibiting at the launch of UNDP’s Global Environment Facility, Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) projects in the Lake Bogoria Landscape. The 23 member group are elated they have opportunity to exhibit their products at the colorful event, a very rare opportunity. They are colorful dressed in their green T-shirts written the group’s name as part of branding. They are showcasing their business, a conservation enterprise that started 19 years ago. Not only are they showcasing the business, but they are ambassadors of conservation. The products are made from natural resources found within Kiborgoch Conservancy. This includes; hand woven baskets, mats, weaved hats and small gourds harvested from the Silagwe tree used to store a popular Kalenjin drink, Mursik- fermented milk smoked with herbs from a special indigenous tree. Occassionaly they make necklaces and bracelets from beads.
These natural resources are found within the conservancy’s wetland area, the Kiborgoch swamp. Kutwe, the Papyrus reeds is used to make floor, bed and table mats and some are used to beautify the ceiling of the house. Mugutie, the roots of the papyrus reeds is used to treat colds. It is boiled and mixed with milk to treat children’s wounds and adults chew it to treat cold and flu. Chebuliny, is a type of a grass found within the wetland used to make weaved hats, baskets and the kayamba instrument. Larawe is long grass found in the swamp used mostly as a roofing material for traditional houses and used as livestock feed for cows during drought season.
The women discovered the benefits of these natural resources not too long ago. In 2000, WWF, while conducting a needs assessment analysis of the natural resources in the area, introduced the women to the uses of the papyrus reeds. Previously, the community did not know its uses. They would burn it because it brought Tse-Tse flies which affected their livestock. WWF organized an exchange visit for the women to Kisumu to learn more about the reeds and the benefits to the communities living in Ahero, Kisumu where the reeds are also found. Surprisingly, the women were shocked that the men were the ones weaving and very good at it. After gaining the weaving skills, the 3 women brought the knowledge and trained the other group members. They convinced the local chief about its use and a barasa- a public gathering was held to convince the community and members of the conservancy to reconsider burning it. The community resolved the women to be allowed to harvest and a water trough was constructed outside the swamp for the cows.
Economic Costs of Conservation
The Papyrus reeds grows for 8 months before it is harvested and takes a minimum of 3 days to dry before it is weaved. They use a special needle to sew the mats. The group is diverse and comprises of both young and elderly women. As a group, they have an arrangement to share the reeds and the income is equally shared so that everybody benefits. The mats for the smalls bed costs KES 250 while the larger mats costs KES 300. The small gourds sell at KES 250 and the big gourds KES 500. The women rely on referrals for sale as they do not have a business marketing plan. Their plan is to make more and be able to sell large scale outside Baringo.
While these natural resources are accessible and usable, the swamp poses great danger and is risky to the women. The swamp is home to reptiles such as crocodiles and Pythons. When it’s wet, Hippos from Lake Baringo and Kamnorok Swamp swim their way to Kiborgoch swamp. However, the women have devised various ways to escape danger. They can only harvest the reeds between 11am -2pm because the crocodiles and python usually come out early in the morning and in the evening. They prefer harvesting bare feet and in some occasions use gumboots as a form of protection. However, gumboots are not protective because they easily sink and one can be swept by the waters very fast. They have learnt to walk carefully wearing lighter shoes. They have also learnt the art of cornering pythons and crocodiles by harvesting in opposite directions. They also pray before going to harvest. When there are sigtings of Hippos, the women are also alerted by the herders and avoid that area until they disappear.
The women interaction with wildlife is impressive. Margaret a member of the group, host zebras and water bucks in her land and has never reported cases of human wildlife conflict to the authorities “I have never seen the need to report, I appreciate that we have these wildlife, it is just beautiful to see them grazing together with the cows. They can sometimes be a burden because they eat my maize but I can’t do much about it I guess it is allowed” says Margaret.
They are optimistic about the future of Kiborgoch conservancy, however, they wish they could be involved more in the discussions. They seem to be aloof on some of the conservancy projects. They overhead that the conservancy had received a UNDP/GEP SGP grant to support fencing of the spring for the restoration of the riparian lands and wetlands. Bernadine, the secretary of the group fears that the women maybe locked out of the swamp because of the new project “hopefully, the project will consider women’s access and use of the natural resources because we are members of the conservancy and we will do anything to conserve and protect it.” She says.
The women may have missed the GEF SGP grant but appealed to conservation partners to support the group through skills development “the last time we received training was in 2002, we want to sharpen our skills in weaving and become more professional and be able to market our products abroad.” Bernadine says. “We also want to learn more about conservancies and how we as women can be involved more so that we are not left behind. She says.