The drought in Kenya is having terrible consequences for everyone especially in arid areas which are sending out appeals for help.
Wildlife is also at risk. Today, yet again, I came across herds of starving cattle in the Nairobi National Park. The problem is provoking a muted response especially from KWS who seem hesitant to chase them out. Some people think that this is the right “for humanitarian response”, and I’m hopping mad.According to the IUCN, a national park is meant to be a protected area where natural ecosystems are not materially altered by human exploitation or occupation and where the competent authority (KWS) takes steps to prevent or eliminate such impacts. National Parks are used for inspirational, educative, cultural and recreative purposes.
The KWS Vision is “To be a world leader in wildlife conservation” and it’s Mission is “To sustainably conserve and manage Kenya’s wildlife and its habitat in collaboration with stakeholders for posterity”.
SO, WHAT ARE LIVESTOCK DOING IN KENYA’S NATIONAL PARKS?
Even though Livestock is critical to our economy and contributes 12% of the GDP, the Kenyan government has failed Kenyan herders. Pastoralist occupy the ASAL areas (arid and semi arid lands) which make up two thirds of the country’s surface area. But very little has been done to help them. Historically the colonial government dispossessed land from pastoral communities, and our current government has been complacent and allows our political elite to benefit from the status quo by serving their private interests.
I believe that corruption in public institutions may be the greatest cause of Kenya’s economic decline, environmental degradation, and deepening poverty for millions of people. It has created a humanitarian situation, for many Kenyans livestock keeping is a matter of survival.
This is why every time there are problems in the northern range lands, like droughts, conflict and disease, cattle are herded into the parks as a refuge.
KWS may in fact be powerless to stop them unless they take on a political war.
But does this effect conservation? Should we allow cattle in the parks?
I say “Hell No!! Chase them out as fast as possible!” You may think me heartless in demanding that KWS drive the starving cattle and poor communities out of the parks. But the long term consequence will cripple us – look at the devastating implications of corruption and impunity as a result of the destruction of the Mau forests. Kenya’s entire economy is suffering and some 2,100 people will soon be homeless because of the greed of a few politicians.
There are also short term consequences of allowing cattle into our parks during droughts. Tourism is the backbone of this faltering economy, can we afford to ask visitors to pay $60 dollars per visit to see this?
Cattle taken into park after closing hours – Photo taken 6.20 pm last night at Nairobi National Park
Photo taken 8.30 am this morning in Nairobi National Park despite several reports to KWS
Instead of this?
To me the answer to the cattle in the park problem is simple. Would the KWS director, or any of our ministers allow these sick starving cattle onto their personal property where their grazing would eat entire crops and destroy flower garden leaving a dust bowl and lots of parasites and diseases? Of course not!
Why is it that conservation areas are seen as opportunities to soften the devastating impacts our other failed policies? Numerous reports have concluded that the livestock ministry and related government departments, as well as our greedy political elite are responsible for the crisis facing our cattle today. They created this problem, they must solve it.
In my opinion, letting cattle into the parks will not solve the problem any more than loosening the belt of an obese man will help him manage his weight.
What do you think? How can we send that message loud and clear that the Parks should not be used as emergency fodder for livestock during extreme droughts?