Covid-19 crisis – Strengthening population's resilience by supporting conservancies in Northern Kenya

published on 22 May 2020
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Marsabit Kenya
In the context of the Covid-19 crisis the FFEM is trying to deliver a concrete response to the country's most vulnerable populations, and to the economic sectors most affected by the crisis in Kenya, an ecological connectivity project in Northern Kenya being an example. The FFEM and AFD are supporting the activities of the NGO Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) to preserve biodiversity and meet the health, economic, food and security issues that affect over 70,000 people in 7 conservancies covering more than 2.5M ha.



More resilient populations

The rural communities of Isiolo and Marsabit counties live in precarious conditions. The creation and support of conservancies* in these counties will be backed up by significant investments to improve community access to essential services and access to water in particular. In the context of the Covid-19 epidemic, access to clean water will allow a potential source of contagion to be eliminated and will provide the basic barrier/hygiene measures that are the first line of defence against the disease. The creation of health Infrastructure is also in the pipeline. (*Conservancies are non-state protected areas created on private and/or community land.)

 Income maintenance and diversification are also essential for the survival of rural communities whose income is mainly based on livestock farming. Hit hard by the closure of the markets, the livestock farming sector is at the heart the economic support provided by NRT who is setting up alternative and sanitary livestock outlets. Furthermore, in a context where tourism has become impossible, conservancies support income diversification by encouraging other activities such as market gardening, beekeeping, artisanal crafts, mechanical repair and more, by using microcredit tools, savings cooperatives and ad-hoc technical training.  

Safer lands for people and biodiversity

With the Covid-19 crisis, conflicts between rural communities over access to natural resources (water, pastures) could increase. The structures to be put in place by conservancies (shared governance, resource management committees, use planning and conflict resolution mechanisms) will limit the resurgence of intercommunity tensions.

The economic crisis could also bring a resurgence in poaching, whether for trafficking purposes (ivory, skins) or food (bushmeat), as resources allocated by the national authorities for wildlife protection (KWS rangers) will take a long-term hit from a fall in tourism-related revenues. The very existence of conservancies maintains the presence of armed forces dedicated to wildlife protection and the fight against poaching, complementary to the national authorities.  

Finally, the project will reduce the risk of the spread of zoonotic diseases. Community conservancies also play a role in seasonally defining the areas assigned primarily to livestock and those assigned to wildlife (particularly via the rehabilitation of migration corridors).  This zoning keeps interactions between wildlife, livestock and populations to a minimum, with consequently reduced spread of zoonoses between these groups.

The NGO NRT, a responsive partner who understands and meets the population’s needs

Conscious of the risks facing communities in Northern Kenya, NRT is significantly reducing staff travel, and managing activities remotely where possible.

Furthermore, in partnership with county authorities, NRT is also mobilising its network to raise awareness amongst communities about the pandemic. It also finances the broadcast by local radio stations of Maths, English and Swahili lessons to ensure education continues across the conservancies.   

Part of the project financing from AFD and the FFEM project will be targeted at strengthening NRT's capabilities, by giving it greater resources in the health, economic and environmental response to the crisis. The NGO will thus be able to intervene and support the 39 community conservancies and its 400,000 members in the 10 counties of the North and the coast.