Pastoral community learning experiences on natural resource conservation and governance: A Case study of Il Ngwesi Conservancy in Laikipia County, Kenya
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Management of livestock-wildlife-environment interface presents a big challenge in the integration of development and environmental conservation in Sub-Sahara Africa. This study focuses Il Ngwesi Group Ranch Conservancy (IGRC) as a learning case on how the community has been able to manage its resources under the existing Community-Based Wildlife Management approach. This study was, therefore, aimed at: a) Establishing the sociodemographic attributes of Il Ngwesi Group Ranch (IGR) members; b) Assessing the evolution of functional governance structures; c) Investigating the perceptions of the community on the trends in natural resources, grazing management strategies and wildlife conservation in the conservancy and; d) Identifying best conservation practices that can enhance natural resource conservation and sustainability of pastoral livelihoods within conservancies. Data was collected by administering a questionnaire to 128 households in four villages of Chumvi, Nandungoru, Sang‟a and Leparua in Il Ngwesi community. In addition, focus group discussions, key informant interviews and secondary data review were conducted to complement the household interviews. The study found that most members of Il Ngwesi are illiterate with the greatest percentage being over 40 years of age. However the young generation is embracing education with an average of about four children going to school per household. The average household size is 5.2 AEs surviving on per capita daily income of Ksh 223.2. Livestock production is the main source of livelihood (83.8%) in this community. Before the establishment of the conservancy, Il Ngwesi Group Ranch (IGR) was solely used for grazing with no deliberate emphasis on wildlife conservation. Council of elders was responsible for maintaining law and order and making decisions on natural resource management. To enhance wildlife conservation in the area, the neighboring Lewa Downs Conservancy management approached IGR to establish a conservancy. Following peer-learning on the formal governance structures of already established conservancies in other areas, IGRC was established, and the mandate of its management bestowed on the Group Ranch Committee, Il Ngwesi Community Trust and Il Ngwesi Company Limited. According to the Il Ngwesi community, wildlife population has increased while pastures, livestock, grazing land and water sources have declined since the establishment of the Conservancy. They attribute the observed declines to droughts and increased wildlife populations. The latter is linked to reduced poaching and increased security patrols following the establishment of the Conservancy. Although the members are allowed to graze under control in the Conservation area, the pastures are not always enough hence they opt to lease pastures from neighbouring ranches. Despite the initial view of wildlife as enemy, most (69.7%, N=109) of the respondents viewed wildlife as a benefit to them. Employment, school bursaries, security and building of social facilities were identified as some of the benefits from the conservancy. The learning outcomes include: the realization by community members that conservancy contributes to the overall security of people and property, decrease in wildlife poaching, better grazing management given the enforceable by-laws, entrenchment of democratic principles in both group ranch and conservancy governance, among other lessons. Any wildlife conservation initiative is likely to succeed as long as the communities are adequately involved and benefits from the conservancy are equitably shared.