Building sustainable ecosystems through community education
Borana Conservancy lies in the Ewaso Nyiro ecosystem in Laikipia County, just north of the Equator in Kenya. Borana, together with its neighbour Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (LWC), is now home to 132 eastern black rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli) and 122 southern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum simum). The population of black rhinos represents at least 13% of Kenya’s black rhino population. Borana’s work revolves around ‘the four Cs’: conservation, community, culture and commerce, showcasing best practices for sustainable living. The long-term goal of the Conservancy is to provide a sustainable ecosystem, in partnership with its neighbours and community, for critically endangered species on the brink of extinction.
However, the survival of Borana’s rhinos and other wildlife, is threatened by the unsustainable utilization of natural resources and rangelands across Laikipia County. Expanding human populations are placing significant pressures on these rangelands, exacerbating years of over-utilization and poor management. According to Dr Dino Martins formerly of Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia, livestock stocking rates on many communally owned ranches and conservancies are estimated to be 50 times higher than the recommended ecological carrying capacity (ECC). Many of the current generation of pastoralists believe that the degraded rangelands in their landscape are normal, not realizing that the rangelands should be covered with grass that would retain moisture, sequester carbon, secure water sources, and support biodiversity, if properly utilized and the livestock carrying capacity were reduced to the ideal balance. Although the local schools teach theoretical environmental science, there is no exposure, at a practical level, to how essential intact, functioning ecosystems serve for both humanity and biodiversity.
There is an increasing acknowledgement of the value of targeted, practical conservation education programmes in helping communities living adjacent to protected areas (PAs) to develop sustainable livelihoods and allow the effective, long-term conservation of wildlife and ecosystems. The future of Borana Conservancy, and of all PAs across Laikipia, Kenya and Africa as a whole, will depend on people placing a high natural-capital value on conservation and wildlife habitats, and on their having the skills to manage the wider environment in ways that support both human livelihoods and wildlife.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Richard Hennery, Ochen Mayaini, Isabelle Voorspuy
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