A reforestation project. Centres in the Mara developed seed banks and tree nurseries accessible to local people. Here seedlings were grown and provided to the community member interested in in promoting the protection and rehabilitation of Kenya’s depleted forest areas.
The programme in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya was funded by The Darwin Institute for the Survival of the Species and organised by The Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent. Some 70% of Kenya's wildlife exists outside protected areas. Its survival depends on tolerance of wildlife and sustainable management of natural resources by the local communities who suffer the costs of living with wildlife. The Maasai communities of the Greater Mara Ecosystem have expressed a desire and willingness to develop their capacity to manage and protect the natural resources among which they live outside the Masai Mara National Reserve (MMNR).
The programme trained Kenyans to research and monitor human-wildlife conflict in the Masai Mara ecosystem, focusing on three main areas: the factors affecting the recovery of the black rhino population, the impact of tourism, and humanelephant conflict. Community based natural resource management for the conservation of Kenya's wildlife, forests, water resources, coral reefs and rangelands are becoming increasingly more critical as these resources are highly threatened.
The purpose of the programme was to empower Maasai communities throughout the greater Mara ecosystem to monitor and protect natural resources and manage humanwildlife conflict, and thereby improve local livelihoods, through the development of a sustainably funded community wildlife scout association. The main aim was local capacity building to monitor and protect biodiversity. The programme helps communities understand the importance of their environment and the resources on which they rely by promoting sustainable conservation based development. The mara is constantly under considerable threat from illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade. The project I was involved in concentrated on anti poaching operations, wildlife monitoring, preventing human wildlife conflict, bush fires and forest destruction. Scouts also served as an outreach function, informing the wider communityon conservation and land management issues.
The Dupoto Forest and Wildlife Association is a community based organisation in the Transmara district of Masai Mara, formed in 1997 with the aim of managing an ecotourism project that was started to both protect the Nyakweri forest as well as benefiting the community around it. It has more than 300 members and work in partnership with ESOK, the Ecotourism Society of Kenya, Transmara Development program and recently the Mara Conservancy who are all providing technical support. Dupoto Forest & Wildlife Association has empowered the community due to the benefits accrued from the ecotourism project, which are managed and shared among members. The world famous Masai Mara National Reserve, depends entirely on this forest as it forms an eco-system with animals like elephants moving in to the forest during dry seasons in September to December, and lions, leopards and other cats migrate to the forest during rainy seasons when there is long grass in the park, making hunting difficult. Dupoto community are promoting eco-tourism activities e.g forest walks and camping in this forest, with the aim of generating some income to its members who are affected by human wildlife conflicts. Researcher and Trainer, Deidre Luzmore, visited the fantastic Nyakweri Forest. She was guided by a Dupoto member through the forest on a trail walk identifying wild boar spoors, numerous bird species and inspecting hyena sleeping quarters deep within one of the last indigenous pockets of tropical Forest in Kenya. Using GIS and
satellite technologies, she was able to estimate the size of forest remaining and the extent of deforestation in the last 30 years. She also assisted with marketing material for Dupoto Forest and Wildlife Association.
Community education officers developed propoor tourism projects through assisting women in bead making and providing a platform where they could sell directly to tourists. These officers worked in partnership with a local tourism operators and supported over a 100 Maasai women by providing assistance in sourcing materials, design, quality control and marketing assistance. In addition, more than 200 bee hives owned by local women, produced honey which was sold to surrounding tourist lodges. After observing and listening to community education officers about the challenges they face, I became involved in a project to assist with GIS data capture which included locations of maasai villages, population, livestock numbers, schools, clinics and trading centres. Tourist lodge and tented camp locations were also captured. This project enable officers to visualise, with the use of maps, and make decisions about where to establish clinics, build schools and identify tourist camps to work with.