Thousands of livestock farmers in three conservancies in Maasai Mara now have solar-powered milk cooling plants to bank on following the commissioning of the facilities on Friday.
The milk coolers, donated to three women groups in Olderkesi, Olkinyei and Lemek conservancies in Narok County, each have capacity to preserve 3,000 litres of milk upto four days.
Speaking during the handing over of the dairy plants by World Wide Fund for Nature-Kenya (WWF-Kenya) at Olpusimuru trading centre, Olderkesi Women Group chairperson Nayoi Lukeini said the coolers will transform the lives of the people in the conservancies, especially during the rainy season when cows produce more milk.
“This has given us a positive vision and it will help women grow their businesses. During the rainy season, we produce about 2,000 litres of milk daily which we hawk to restaurants in the trading centre and our families consume whatever is left after,” said Lukeini.
With the increased capacity to store the perishable product for longer and seek bulk buyers, Lukeini says the women in the community are looking ahead to using the proceeds of the venture to diversify their income through construction of rental houses.
The machines were donated to the community as part of a larger climate change adaptation project by WWF-Kenya that was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation through WWF-Germany.
During the launch on October 8, 2021, the conservation organisation also commissioned three water pans sunk in the three conservancies, water reservoirs meant to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
In Olderkesi, the 5,000 cubic metre water pan is already in use by the local pastoralist community to meet household needs as well as watering their livestock while in Olkinyei and Lemek, the water pans have been sunk in areas only accessible to wildlife and livestock in the open grazing areas.
Besides providing the communities in the parched land with water pans and solar milk coolers, the WWF-Kenya project also provided local youth groups in the three conservancies with beehives to venture into beekeeping to improve their livelihoods.
"Some of our interventions, like nature-based solutions, add to the efforts of the Maasai people. Their legitimate voice must be heard. Leaders must amplify the voice of the Maasai and other indigenous communities by organizing forums for them to discuss how best to take this agenda forward," said WWF-Kenya Chief Executive Officer, Mohamed Awer during the launch.
Further, the conservancies’ capacity to effectively monitor wildlife was strengthened after they were equipped with six motorcycles, GPS devices, binoculars, camera traps and computers.
“As a country we have to put in place proactive measures to ensure people have enough spaces and provide the right development initiatives while also ensuring there are spaces left for wildlife, and this is the balance we are working on,” said the WWF-Kenya chief.
Narok West Member of Parliament, Gabriel Tongoyo, who attended the ceremony, urged his constituents to embrace the conservancy model.
"The conservancy model is the way into the future due to climate change. Politics that pit communities against each other is unacceptable,” said MP Tongoyo.
There are 17 conservancies in the Maasai Mara sub-landscape and at almost 30 community-owned conservancies in the southern Kenya area which stretches from Maasai Mara, Amboseli to Tsavo conservation areas.
Since over 65 percent of Kenya’s wildlife lives outside of the protected areas, communities adjacent to conservation areas have become increasingly important in the preservation of habitats for wildlife.
Through community-owned conservancies, landowners agree to lease out their land for use by wildlife, providing wild animals additional space to move freely across corridors.
This project also impacted thousands of lives through provision of renewable energy by solarising three primary schools, one secondary school, one technical and vocational institute and six dispensaries in the Tsavo conservation area.
In schools, solarisation has had an immediate impact through the improvement of learning in primary schools as they implement the new Competence-Based Curriculum which requires access to the internet for uploading and downloading of content.
For the technical and vocational institute, solarisation has led to the diversification of courses the polytechnic plans to offer to include welding, agribusiness and ICT. The immediate impact has been the use of hairdressing and garment-making machines that had been lying idle since 2019 for lack of electric power.
The schools that were solarised are: Khadija Muna Primary School, Mkanyatta Primary School, Patani Primary School, Malukiloriti Secondary School and Kishushe Vocational and Training Institute.
In the six health centres that were solarised, thousands of community members now have access to uninterrupted health services.
Administrators said solarisation also has led to saving of operational costs, increased income through efficient service delivery especially through ability to make medical claims on time, efficient laboratory services that offer results in a timely manner and improvement of staff morale.
The solarised health centres are all in the Tsavo sub-landscape: Ndilidau Dispensary, Rekeke Model Health Centre, Rekeke Model Health Centre (wards), Mandela Dispensary, Ndilidau Dispensary and Bamako Dispensary. These dispensaries serve thousands of people in the vast sub-landscape.