Today, three decades on from its inception, we celebrate the Kimana Conservancy as first community wildlife initiative in East Africa. Kimana stands as a testament to those first pioneering steps and how far we have come in recapturing the long-tradition of the Maasai coexisting with wildlife and conserving the richest wildlife populations on Earth.
Kimana with its open plains, woodlands, swamps and wealth of wildlife was formally launched under the banner of the KWS Parks Beyond Parks in 1997. Assisted by KWS, ACC and US AID, Kimana built up tourism enterprises and conservation programs. Kimana also deployed the first cadre of KWS-trained community rangers in Kenya. Kimana’s success was celebrated by the Royal Ballet joining the Maasai in Dances in Harmony on stage beneath Kilimanjaro.
The community-based successes of Amboseli and Kimana led to the Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan (AEMP) 2008-2021, the first of its kind. The Amboseli Ecosystem Trust was created as the coordinating body made up of group ranch reps, KWS and conservation partners.
Let’s be clear, Kimana has had hard times with hoteliers, its own bad management and lack of professional support. Today, the future looks far brighter with the Kenya Wildlife Conservancy Association developing, promoting and protecting the interests of wildlife conservancies.
The growth of conservancies in Amboseli in the last two decades testifies to the collaborative efforts of group ranches, KWS and conservation partners. Looking to the future, AET and partners have drawn up AEMP 2020-2030, aimed at integrating land uses and sustaining the health of the ecosystem.
The ultimate success of community conservation begun in Kimana is told in Amboseli being the only ecosystem in Kenya where wildlife has actually increased over the last fifty years. Today there are more elephants, zebras and wildebeest than when I first began counting them in 1967.
I join you in celebrating the long journey to the Kimana Conservancy. But I also caution of the far larger hurdles ahead, calling for the same community-based conservation approaches behind the successes.
Ololorashi Ogulului has begun subdividing the group ranch into individual private holdings. If this leads to the scattered houses and fences that followed the subdivision of the Kitengela and Kaputei, there will be no future for pastoralism or wildlife.
OOGR, fully aware of the threats posed by land fragmentation and degradation, has drawn up a land sub-division plan to protect its members from losing their lands, to sustain pastoral livelihoods and to conserve wildlife. This bold vision depends on the formation of a land trust and the same community-based management which has sustained the coexistence of pastoralism and wildlife down the generations. We owe our full support to the land trust initiative, another first for Kenya, and to other group ranch conservation efforts in Amboseli.