NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 23 – The Laikipia Nature Conservancy has committed to continued collaboration with the national and county government to find a lasting solution to improved security in the area that has suffered the brunt of frequent attacks from bandits.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the conservancy affirmed its commitment to improved conservation and the welfare of the local communities even as the government continues to carry a security operation to flush out the bandits who have wreaked havoc in parts of Laikipia.
The security operation was launched by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi in mid September 2021 after 8 people were killed and hundreds others displaced.
While lauding the government for its efforts to restore security in the troubled Ol Moran area, the conservancy stated that it looks forward to the end of the incursion by heavily armed herders.
“LNC looks forward to the successful eviction of the remaining militia and a resumption of LNC’s work with government to deliver water, grazing and livelihoods to its local communities, as has been the case and as is laid out as its top priorities and the drivers of its business model in its own memorandum and administrative structure,” said the conservancy.
The conservancy further addressed the ownership of the land saying the conservancy was purchased from a Kenyan company in 1972, on a lease that still runs for decades. They stated that the land was dedicated to conservation and community projects since 1983 and is currently 100 percent owned by Kenyan citizens.
Steve Gallman, the son of Kuki Gallman, a renowned author and conservationist who was shot by bandits in May this year said that the bandits are a big threat to security and stability of the area.
Kuki Gallmann was shot through the leg when she encountered an armed gang of cattle raiders near Ol Moran.
“Armed bandits from Baringo county are a constant threat to life and property in this area and usually engage mainly in livestock theft. They steal animals and drive them into the Rift Valley where they are seldom found. However, in pre-election years such as this, several hundred-armed men from far away invade the area and terrorize residents including ourselves. They are politically incited, and their aim is to drive away local inhabitants.” he said.
Schools were closed for several weeks during the bandit attacks in September until the government deployed security personnel during a security operation to restore peace.
The conservancy further said that the conservancy has developed a number of projects to support the community since its inception.
“LNC has been dedicated to building a world-class tourism asset for Kenya, in parallel with a commercial grazing project for the pastoralists of western Laikipia, and wide-ranging investments in stimulating farming and value addition in an area otherwise classed as arid and semi-arid,” said the conservancy.
It added that prior to the incursion of the area in March 2021, the conservancy was grazed by thousands of local pastoralist under a structured grazing scheme.
It further said that it also has a partnership with the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), designed to commercialize 1,500 to 4,000 local livestock in an annual fattening and breeding stock improvement cycle to generate income for the neighboring pastoralists of over Sh100 million a year.
“For several years we have provided structured grazing for community members without any problems. Up until March 2021, we were providing high quality grazing for 1500 community livestock and fattening them for the market, and were due to scale up to 4000 over several months to the end of the year. We had to stop this fattening scheme due to an insurgency of armed men with over 15, 000 head of cattle coming from other counties,” said Sveva Gallmann.
“We believe that cattle and wildlife can coexist, and we believe that community and conservancy must be mutually beneficial to each other- so we have decided not to have our own cattle in order to dedicate our well-managed grass bank to the neighbouring communities.
However, in this pre- election year, the whole of Laikipia West has witnessed a planned insurgence of men from other counties with hundreds of weapons and this has debilitated the project.
He added that the ongoing conflict in the area has had negative impacts on the project adding that some areas of the conservancy no longer have any grass left stating that the livelihoods of local pastoralists is now at stake.
The conservancy hosts multiple tourism and education facilities.