Kenya: Minister Wants KWS Split Into Six Institutions

by Feb 11, 2011Wildlife News

Nairobi — The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) could be split into six independent institutions if current reforms seeking to enhance conservation are passed.

The changes are envisaged in the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Bill 2009, which KWS director Julius Kipng’etich hopes will make it to the august House this year, having been approved by the Cabinet.

Forestry and Wildlife Minister Noah Wekesa has already written to the Attorney General requesting that the proposed law be included among the 49 Bills being prioritised due to their critical role in the implementation of the new Constitution.

“Once the 49 constitution-related Bills are enacted, we expect ours to follow if it is not among them,” said Mr Kipng’etich.

Independent institutions envisioned in the Bill are the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Wildlife Regulatory Authority, Kenya Wildlife Service College, Kenya Wildlife Service Paramilitary Academy, Kenya Wildlife Service Air Wing and Kenya Wildlife Research Institute.

This would leave policy formulation with the ministry while the new look KWS would manage national parks, carry out research and enforce the law.

Today, said Mr Kipng’etich, the KWS is where the then Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (KP&TC) was in 1998 before it was split into four entities — Telkom, Posta, Safaricom and the Communications Commission of Kenya.

Before then, KP&TC would institute policy, regulate and licence. It ran the fixed and mobile telephone sector besides the postal and courier services, which it also regulated.

Mr Kipng’etich says that once unbundled, the wildlife segment would have greater private sector and community involvement and eliminate contradictions.

Currently, KWS regulates competitors, including local authorities like the County Council of Narok, which runs the Maasai Mara. It also controls private ranches through the regulatory framework, which Mr Kipng’etich considers a contradiction.

Although the proposals to form a policy wing in the ministry are contained in the Bill, its implementation has begun with the appointment of a conservation secretary, a director of wildlife conservation and a director of forest conservation. The reasoning is that there is no harm in implementing what the Bill could later regularise when passed.

Mr Kipng’etich says the Bill would unleash the wildlife sector’s potential, considering that Vision 2030 sees it as giving Kenya a competitive edge.

“What we expect is the kind of energy unleashed in the telecommunication industry, which has become world class in just 10 years,” says Mr Kipng’etich.

Once implementation begins, people can benefit from wildlife as an economic enterprise, guaranteeing wildlife’s existence for generations.

“People must learn to keep wildlife alongside cattle to attract tourists. This is happening in Samburu and is beginning to happen in Isiolo and parts of Marsabit. Communities are alienating land for conservation as an economic enterprise,” he says.

An example of how arid land can become a source of income is told through a community in Samburu which has isolated 5,000 acres for conservation. They have partnered with an investor who runs a high-end tourism destination.

The West Gate Community Conservancy has 50 employees, including scouts, entertainers, guides and people serving in the hotel.

The conservancy was set up by the owners of Ngutuk Ongiron Group Ranch in 2004 and is managed by representatives elected among its registered members.

It acts as the development arm of the ranch and ensures equitable sharing of benefits. The tourism facilities are operated by Tamimi Company Limited in their luxury tented camp on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River.

An estimated 60 per cent of the conservancy’s income from tourism funds community projects while 40 per cent is ploughed back.

Mr Kipng’etich says KWS supports such ventures. The organisation has created an internal function, Community Enterprise Department, which helps communities learn from each other and increase opportunities.

According to Mr Kipng’etich, there are about 20 such facilities in northern Kenya.

“That is what happened in Laikipia where in almost all the 45 ranches, only a few have livestock. Much of northern Kenya will witness a gradual shift in how people live with wildlife,” he says.

Although the KWS boss knows that the communities are ahead of the Bill, he is not worried, as the situation would be made formal once Parliament passes the law.

In arid lands, rearing livestock is the main activity. But being more resilient, wildlife would be a better option following the perennial drought.

And with Kenya’s population growing at an estimated one million a year, there are enormous pressures on land. This means animals could easily be displaced if these people are not kept in meaningful employment. Already there is pressure on the world-famous Mara, which is fast being surrounded by wheat farms.

The KWS director projects that by 2015, Kenya will triple the number of tourists from the current one million, increasing earnings from the sector from Sh100 billion to Sh300 billion.

“The multiplier effect is incredible as the tourism sector is labour intensive. Industry statistics show that for every 10 tourists received, an extra direct job is created,” says Mr Kipng’etich.