Land subdivision and permanent settlement
The biggest threat to the viability of the Amboseli ecosystem and the free-ranging wildlife herds of East African savanna ecosystems in general is land subdivision. I have raised concerns in published articles based on the Amboseli long-term monitoring program showing the impact of subdivision of group ranches on habitat and wildlife (2009’ Western, D Groom, R and Worden, J. The impact of land subdivision and sedentarization of pastoralist on wildlife in an African savanna ecosystem. Biological Conservation 142: 2538-2546; 2013. Groom, R.J. and Western, D. The impact of land subdivision and sedentarization on wildlife in Kenya’s southern Rangelands. Rangeland Ecology and Management 66(1): 1-9).
The threat grew with the clamor for subdivision on the group ranches across the Amboseli ecosystem. Fortunately, the large fallout from the resale of Maasai lands resulting from the subdivision of Kimana Group Ranch led Maasai leaders to call a halt and take stock of other land use options. The halt led to Mbirikani asking ACP and ACC to draw up land use plans for the group ranch. ACC raised the funds from GEF to conduct the land use plan, and Big Life funds from the same sources to conduct a grazing plan. ACC employed rangeland consultants to conduct the plan working closely with ACP. The plan was completed in September and is awaiting ratification from the group ranch committee. ACP contributed most of the background data. ACP also played a lead role in recommendations for the grazing plan, based on traditional seasonal movements and grass banks governed by grazing committees. The grazing plan is in draft stage ready for group ranch review.
In a serendipitous development, the recent Community Land Act halts all further subdivision of group ranches, pending registration of all members, including women. The registration of women will in itself put a break on subdivision. Further, the Act calls for all group ranches to draw up land use plans. This puts the Mbirikani land use and grazing plan ahead of the curve and an example for others to follow. Selengei Group Ranch has also approached ACC to conduct a land use plan of the ranch and the exercise is underway. ACP is providing the background and framework for the planning exercise. With land use and grazing plans underway on Mbirikani and Selengei and Ololorashi Ogului scheduled to follow, most of the Amboseli ecosystem will be under formal land use plans, which will be incorporated into the Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan 2018-2018 scheduled for review in 2018.
The county governments are, under the new constitution, mandated to do spatial planning. The 2008-2018 Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan was formally adopted by the Kajiado County and gazetted by the Attorney General’s Chambers. AEMP, the first of its kind, is viewed as a model for other ecosystem development plans and has been adopted by KWS as a framework for wildlife planning around and beyond parks. The new governor of Kajiado has given his backing for the land use planning exercises. He has also announced that the county will zone the district into areas for settlement, agriculture and livestock-wildlife use and prohibit the sale of the mixed-use rangelands. This is excellent news and just the step needed to halt the subdivision of the rangelands.
In a further promising development, the range lands division I have been pushing for AET to establish to oversee the planning and integration of all aspects of livestock and wildlife development was approved by the board of AET in November. I was appointed interim chairperson to give direction and weight to the new division. We held our first meeting on December 7th. The division will encourage and oversee land use plans, grazing management, water plans, livestock improvement schemes, the newly established Women’s Milk Cooperative, marketing, range land restoration and outreach programs for the group ranches under AET. The county and central government range lands officers will set as ex-officio members on the board.