Thousands of local pastoralists have been forced to vacate the vast Laikipia Nature Conservancy (LNC) due to rampant incursions by heavily armed bandits.
The conservancy noted on Friday that prior to the invasions in March, it was providing grazing fields for over 1,500 livestock for the local community through a structured agreement.
Ms Sveva Gallman – daughter to the conservancy’s owner Kuki Gallman – said the structured grazing scheme has since been quashed due to an invasion by illegal herders.
Sveva said they partnered with the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) to conduct annual fattening of over 4,000 local livestock and improve breeds.
“For several years, we have been providing structured grazing for community members without problems. We have been providing high quality grazing for over 1,500 community livestock and fattening them for market, but we had to stop all these activities due to an insurgency of armed men with over 15,000 head of cattle from neighbouring counties,” she said in a statement to newsrooms.
“We believe that cattle and wildlife can coexist, and that the community and the conservancy must be mutually beneficial to each other. In this pre-election year, the whole of Laikipia West has witnessed a planned insurgency of armed men from other counties. This has debilitated the project. Many areas of the conservancy no longer have grass and this means the local community will suffer.”
The government has so far mapped LNC, ADC Mutara ranch, Kilmon farm, Mugie ranch, Loisaba Conservancy, Kirimon Nature National Reserve and Ol Moran as the hotspots for a major security operation.
Kuki, a renowned author and conservationist, is recuperating after she was shot in the leg when she encountered a group of armed bandits near Ol Moran in May.
The 78-year-old woman was also shot by cattle rustlers in 2017.
“My mother is one of the dozens of community members who have been wounded or killed in recent months in Laikipia West. She was shot by a gang of cattle raiders whilst driving alone near Ol Moran. I am still nursing her back to health,” Sveva said.
The management maintained that it is the genuine land owner.
“In light of the resurgent conflict in Laikipia West and the various claims and narratives circling the media, LNC hopes to clarify and elucidate our history, values and economic model,” Sveva said.
“LNC was purchased from a Kenyan company in 1972, with leases that still run for many decades. From 1983, the land was dedicated to conservation and community projects, and has since created one of Kenya’s most important water towers. Today it is 100 percent owned by Kenyan citizens.”
Laikipia Conservancies Association chairman, Mr Kip ole Polos, recently told Nation that many resources have over the years been injected into offering civic education to Samburu community elders, on the need to have a managed and modern way of grazing.
“We have educated elders from Samburu, whom we think are neutral, on the need to follow the procedure of accessing pastures at the conservancies. I don’t believe in using guns to mitigate these problems. I believe in talking to people amicably,” Mr Polos said.
Mr Polos, who is also chairman of the Il Ngwesi Community Conservancy, said, however, that they have not yet enjoyed the gains of engaging the community elders because of persistent bandit attacks and illegal invasions in conservancies.
“I think there is a disconnect between herders and the youth herding cattle. I have come to learn that their youngsters do not listen to them. As a nomadic community, we will try bringing the Samburu warriors to a roundtable,” he said.
“We want the communities to understand that every piece of land in Laikipia has an owner and a management. We are happy to welcome them but they need to knock on the door and talk to us so that we can allow them in. That is the bottom-line in solving this problem,” he added.