Kenya’s national parks are generally too small to function as independent ecological units. The open community areas outside the parks allow the entire ecosystem to sustain viable wildlife populations and rich biodiversity.
In Nairobi National Park, for example, the southern border is unfenced. This allows wildlife to disperse and migrate throughout the Athi Kapiti Plains.
Today, such dispersal regions are threatened by infrastructure development, which hinders wildlife movement and shrinks available land. This threatens biodiversity and leads to human-wildlife conflict such as livestock predation.
Such conflicts lead to community apathy and retaliation, endangering wildlife and the community.
Land prices soar as urban development transforms the Kitengela landscape south of Nairobi National Park. As a result, we see an urgent need for stakeholders to come together to save what is left of the Kitengela wildlife dispersal area.
It is indeed possible to reverse the negative trends occurring in the area. Community participation is key. The Empakasi community living south of NNP is addressing these issues through the Naretunoi Community Conservancy where wildlife and humans share the land.
Through the support of The Wildlife Foundation and Kenya Wildlife Service, conservancy members receive benefits and protections. In exchange, they keep their private land unfenced and share grazing pastures with wildlife. Conservancy benefits include lease payments, school bursary schemes, employment opportunities, and protections against human-wildlife conflict.
This model aims to provide sustainable conservancy benefits that outcompete more lucrative land uses and preserve the area for wildlife use. Furthermore, the the local community can sustain their traditions and pastoralist lifestyle without pressure to sell.
We are excited to monitor the impact of this system in the near future. There is certainly hope for Nairobi National Park to retain its unique status as an open African ecosystem bordering a major city.