COMMUNITY BASED GIRAFFE CONSERVATION AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION IN GARISSA DISTRICT, KENYA: Approaches, Challenges and achievements

  Background

The Garissa Community Giraffe sanctuary (GCGS) falls within the immediate sub urban environment of Garissa Town bordering the dry dusty Bour-Algi village. The Village located 3 KM south of Garissa Town, found itself, in the early 1990s, at the centre of a surprising influx of giraffes. These were internally displaced and migrants giraffes from the border areas, that run for safety following the collapse of the republic of Somalia. With exceptional reception, more giraffe continued to arrive from far areas of Garissa district and Somalia where poaching was still rampant. Initially 30 individuals arrived and in less than 4 years, the Giraffe population in the Sanctuary had increased to over 300 individuals.  Currently, the giraffes are the most visible beneficiaries of the tolerance of local people becoming so habituated to a human presence they could be seen browsing from the tops of the abundant Acacia tortilis that dot the area. The giraffes move freely within human settlement, or stoop to drink from close to where the local women are drawing water. Villagers came to view these giraffes –now nearly 400 of them, treating them with respect as fellow members of the community. Many tourists particularly UN and the strong NGO work force in the area flock the area occasionally, dumbfounded by extraordinary acquaintance of trust that seems to have developed between these giraffes and the locals. 

Sanctuary Management

 It was the year 1995 when four community members formed community based organisation at village level to offer protection not just for the giraffes, but for other mammals as well. The group lead by Mr. Hassan Afey became a strong voluntary force and proved to be remarkably dedicated in undertaking regular wildlife patrols and desnaring sweeps. The concluded Trans-boundary Environmental Project (TEP), funded by the European Commission and implemented by Terra Nuova in association with Arid lands, has – since June 2003- supported the first phase of the sanctuary, where the sanctuary was transformed from single CBO affair to a participatory community owned project. A number of activities were done including stakeholder’s analysis, exposure tours, and organization capacity assessment leading to the formation of strong interim management committee, appointment of 14 community scouts and formal recognition of the sanctuary by both KWS and the county council of Garissa and the subsequently receiving of a registration certificate. With these efforts, more members were recruited from neighbouring villagers mainly; Annam, Qabobey, Bula Wanawake, Jarirot, Hanjoley, Bour Algi, and Bula Sheikahmed leading to a broad acceptance and appreciation of conservation and ecotourism among the pastoral Somalis. The livelihood activities for these communities include: charcoal burning, livestock rearing & trade, quarrying / sand harvesting, fuel wood sales , building poles harvesting, poaching among others. Since Terra Nuova left in September 2007, I remained with the community and currently work as a volunteer, working closely with the sanctuary warden and the board of directors. Based on my experience in community issues and being a member of this community, I try very much to link and network  on behave  of the community and the giraffes through my online diary that links front line of conservation to the rest of the world.  I update and maintain the sanctuary blog hosted by the WildlifeDirect organisation to create awareness and fundraise from well wishers: (www.giraffesanctuary.willdlifedirect.org). I also manage all of the Giraffe Sanctuary activities and co-ordinate official visits from government agencies, donors, film crews, journalists, researchers, NGO’s and other approved official guests. Most of all I develop project proposals and manage the 14 Scouts and other support staffs in liaison with sanctuary Warden. I have so far managed to get one laptop from this initiative and raised some little cash which need not mange to meet the needs and the requirement of the sanctuary. 

Wildlife and Ecotourism Potential of the area Wildlife & Habitat diversity

 The area is an Acacia-Commiphora dominated woodland with scattered bushes / thickets. Apart from the Reticulated Giraffe (estimated at 400 individuals), other wildlife species include; Gerenuk, Lesser Kudu, Cheetah, Hippopotamus, Guinea fowls & other passerine species of birds, Common Zebra, Warthog  (declining population due to poaching), Ostriches (Somali race), Hyena ( common and stripped), Lions among others. Two critically endangered species mainly Grevys Zebra and the African wild dogs have been occasionally reported.   

Ecotourism products and potential

Natural resources (forest, wildlife, water among others) are inherent and appropriate targets from which Communities can derive livelihood improvement and income generation activities that can have a positive long-term impact on poverty with a significant contribution to the millennium development goals. The establishment of the Garissa Giraffe Sanctuary will be a deliberate venture to develop a nature based business that will contribute towards uplifting the economic status of the Bor – Algi community in tandem with the MDG goal –1 of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger currently rated at 58% in Garissa with 73% rural and 65% Urban (ref). The income generated from the project will enable parents afford education for the children many of who are not attending school or have dropped out of school. The literacy rate of 15 – 24 years olds in the area stands at 26.1% with the average years of school attendance being 4 years.  The area has a great potential for natural resource exploitation for alternative incomes  by the communities, especially in rural pastoral areas and at the same time involving communities in natural resources management and conservation, hence ensuring sustainable use of natural resources by communities living adjacent to it. Some of the unique ecotourism products that can be developed in this area include: Camp sites, Botanical gardens, Somali cultural museum / centre, nature trails, camel rides, boat riding, cultural bandas as well as the famous religious festivals such as the Eid and Moulidi festivals which are huge attractions in areas like Lamu and Zanzibar. The Bour – Algi community has many active women with a rich cultural heritage that can be used to develop outstanding cultural products e.g. craft village, cultural centre that will bring women on board ensuring incomes to support the household economy and provide education for the girl child, thus realizing the MDG goal – 3  Genders Equity and Empowerment Of Women. Currently in Garissa, Female Net Enrolment ratio stands at 7.4% with Female Primary School Transition rate 45.1 % (MDG Profile data for Garissa 2003 -2005).  

Current situation and Challenges ahead 

Currently in this unique wildlife habitat yet a potential ecotourism hotspot, has not being exploited to benefit the local’s despites securing the land to conserve the existing wildlife and habitat diversity. There is no development plan in place to direct settlement and safe guard the existing ecological diversity. The proposed sanctuary area is a trust land held in trust for the local community by the Garissa County Council (GCC) as provided by Cap 208 of the laws of Kenya. Several efforts have been made by the TEP in collaboration with local CBOs and other partners like NEMA, KWS, WCK, geared towards environmental education campaigns and active ecological data gathering & monitoring to create awareness among stakeholders and local community on the threats to existing rich wildlife and habitat diversity. However, the fact that the sanctuary does not generate any income to the locals is a major setback in wining their support. Instead, communities members engage in unsustainable land and resources utilisation practises. Most evident are; charcoal burning targeting the Acacia trees, over grazing, blockage of access routes for wildlife and livestock to watering points by farming community, increasing human settlement in the area and  wood and fuel wood harvesting. Also key catchments areas are under threat from uncontrolled grazing and human settlement. Despite the unique location of the sanctuary and accessibility (the main road from Garissa to Ijara), the area lacks a developed tourism support infrastructure and neither does it fall within an established tourism circuit. Albeit, the area is occasionally frequented by the curious tourists and no levies are charged neither.  As a manager and supporter of this initiative, this makes me a worried man.

 Appeal for Assistance – Support and Implementation of the Next Phase of the Sanctuary.

Following the conclusion of the Terra Nuova project, activities in the sanctuary have been stand still, simply due to the fact that we were not able to attract the attention many donor organisation in the area that are concentrating on the humanitarian and the refugee crisis in Garissa district. The key thematic areas that will form basis for the next phase of the sanctuary and are of highest priority include: 

  • Capacity building ( Physical and  Human resource development
  • Development of tourism related infrastructure and livelihood programmes
  • Building Networks and Partnerships for the sanctuary and ecotourism products.
  • Establishment of ecological monitoring and research unit in the sanctuary.  

 On behalf of the community and the sanctuary, I would like to appeal to interested organisations, well wishers and individuals to come to the rescue of this sanctuary and secure the land for the giraffes. You can reach us using the details provided below.

 Ali A Hussein, Sanctuary Manager,Garissa Community Giraffe Sanctuary,

P.O. Box 993 • 70100, Garissa, Kenya.Mobile: +254 722 772113

Email: shindeye2000@yahoo.com           www.giraffesanctuary.willdlifedirect.org   

Hopes for the sanctuary

giraffe.JPGIt has been great pleasure in working and networking for the sanctaury and this year we hope to get support from different agencies opertaing in the area. The giraffes are currently enjoying peaciful environment as our scouts and warden intensified their patrols to minimise livestock disturbance within the sanctuary. I once again, like to thank all our supporters and donors for their continued support.

Minimal research work has been done in the sanctuary and we would like to appeal to researchers in the country to help us documents some flora and fauna of the sanctuary.

Ali sanctuary manager

Happy new year

garissa-scouts-079.JPGon behalf of the boarad of directors and community memebers, we would like to wish our supporters, donors and other stakeholders a prosperous new year. I am must say it has been successful year for the giraffe sanctuary since we were able to share our workwith the rest of the world. I am must take this opportunity to thank wildlife direct for facilaitaing this.We are looking forward to working with more partners and promote conservation and research in the sanctuary.

Donkeys bare the Burden

dsc00793.JPGNorth Eastern province has one of the largest concentration of livestock in East Africa, majority of the people being pastoralist. Most of the people depend on livestock for their daily bread, in additions donkeys and camels are used as the most common means of transport within the pastoral landscape . However, donkeys are regarded low class animals and are not given the necesssary attention and care like the camels. Most times you find ferral donkeys within the settlements areas, with serious body conditions or injuries. The above picture is an example one donkeys that recently moved into the santuary following persecution by a farmer after raiding his farm. It is on this basis that we recommend to agencies to start donkey awareness campaigns and save this beast of burden .

Tomatoes floods Garissa

garissa-scouts-076.JPGgarissa-scouts-052.JPGFarmers in garissa town loose thousands of shillings every yeaar due to over production of tomatoes due to poor marketing strategies. The seasonal ripening of tomatoes allows wastage  as their are no factories to process this perishable  fruit. One of the farmers who I taked to Mrs Hayi Hassan in the photo above  expressed concern and requested the governmnet and other change agentts to assist in marketing and probaly build regional factory to process this  vital fruit. Tomatoes are grown along the fllodplains of Tana river which is the only source of permanent water in the river.

The Scouts of the Sanctuary

Name ID/No. photo Unit Mobile and Mpesa Account
Mohamud Garat Ali 21463484 Deputy head 0727025119
Mohamud  Abdi Dahir 23506313 Anti Poaching 0713750573
Ibrahim  Abdi Gure 13120661   Surveillance 0713401861
Roble Dirow yussuf 3518132 Anti poaching 0723139488
Hassan Gure Bulale 25008575 Surveillance 07248799211
Siyat Bundid Haji 22954683 Surveillance 0725950212
Abdullahi Adan Elmi 9085960 Anti poaching 0714776488
Affey Ibrahim Gabow 22900793   Anti poaching 0728749550
Dubow Subane ALI   Anti poaching 0710827291
Hassan Ahmed Afey 3518065 Warden 0713750513

Road accidents major threat to wildlife in Garissa

garissa-scouts-017.JPG

Dear readers

It sad to mention that due to low level of awareness among the locals and increased negative attitude towards large carnivores in the area, hyenas, lions and cheetahs are being killed wherever they encounter with motorist or pastoralist. Crude methods such as knocking down, spearing and poisoning are employed to control carnovores in the area. Carnivroes are also causing a lot of economic lossess to already pressed pastoralist. This Hyena was knocked down near Garissa town, for simply crossing the road. I got an opportunity to question the driver, who simply gave no apparent reason but  said he just wanted to kill because it also kills livestock. This is disturbing trend that is slowly looming in the area and the government agencies need to come in.

How many species of giraffes exist?

garissa-scouts-080.JPG The world’s tallest animal species—the giraffe—may actually be several species, and some of them are highly threatened with extinction, according to new genetic studies supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society. The genetic evidence indicates that there may be at least six species of giraffe in Africa, whereas the existing taxonomy recognizes only one. The study appears in the latest edition of BMC Biology. “Some of these giraffe populations number only a few hundred individuals and need immediate protection,” said WCS Associate David Brown, the lead author of the study and a geneticist at UCLA. He is a founding member of the International Giraffe Working Group (IGWG). “Lumping all giraffes into one species obscures the reality that some kinds of giraffe are on the very brink.” “Giraffes are often overlooked in conservation initiatives, but they are as symbolic of African wilderness as any other species,” said Dr. James Deutsch, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Africa Program. “Studies such as this one will help us inform conservation plans to save the most threatened giraffe populations.” Classifying current subspecies as fully fledged species will force a re-examination of conservation initiatives in order to deal with the needs of each separate species of giraffe. The most threatened potential species include: • The reticulated giraffe (currently Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata which is found in the giraffe sanctuary). Found in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, this population was estimated at some 27,000 individuals until the 1990s. Poaching and armed conflicts have decimated this group down to a mere 3,000 individuals. • The Nigerian giraffe (currently Giraffa camelopardalis peralta): Found in West and Central Africa, these giraffes number only 160 individuals. • The Rothschild giraffe (currently Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi): Formerly found in western Kenya and Uganda, the last few hundred Rothschild giraffes can only be found in a few protected areas in Kenya and in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. The study’s authors also emphasize that all giraffes are under threat, with an estimated 30 percent drop in population numbers over the past decade. The total number of giraffes across Africa is estimated to be under 100,000 individuals, and the numbers are currently under review as part of a continent-wide database project, according to WCS Associate Dr. Julian Fennessey of IUCN, and also a founding member of the IGWG. On the bright side, the discovery of large antelope herds in Southern Sudan—historically the very center of giraffe evolution—raises hopes that large numbers of giraffe may also exist there. Southern Sudan was off limits to conservationists for two decades due to warfare and instability in the region, until WCS scientists documented the species still there, including their count of 400 giraffes. The giraffe genetic study was conducted by an interdisciplinary team from the University of California, Los Angeles; Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo; and the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya. please let me know your reaction to this new knowledge.

Urgent appeal for Digital cameras

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Poster of the sanctaury, Courtesy of TEP, Terra Nuova and Steffani Gendera

Dear friends

we members of the giraffe sanctuary would like to appeal for digital cameras that we desparately need to report our efforts in this vast area. We have 14 scouts who are sharing only one  digital camera to report their daily activities. Reporting their work has therfore being a major problem since they can not provide evidence and even generate information for the blog. It is in this context that we are appealing for either a donation towards the purchase of cameras or even  DIRECT DONATIONS of camaeras. This will very much improve our work in this part of the country. Please help us save the giarffes.

Hope of registration soon

Dears friends

Lack of registration of the sanctuary as an indepent organisation was one of the problems we had and that slowed down our progress, but efforts are currently underway and we will be soon an indepent organisation. Their was initial internal conflict among the communities on who should run the affairs of the sanctuary but following my intervention in the recent past, the committe have a greed to work together to set up a running organisations. This is some of our meetings that resulted in nominating directors form the three different adjacent communities.

garissa-scouts-033.JPG

Four directors in the above picture were nominated through a particiaptory process and we have finally handed our sighned papers to the lawyer for registeration. We thanks once again all those who have supported us to this far.