By Tobby Otum
The International Fund for Animal Wildlife (IFWA) has been able to secure more space at the Amboseli national park in Kajiado county for wildlife in a five years lease agreement from the local community.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between IFWA and the Olgulului Olarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) for the lease of the 29,035 acres of land at Ilangurunyoni at the famous park as habitat for wildlife during a ceremony held at Lemomo Hill at the refurbished Kitenden reception centre.
The brief ceremony was led by the Group Ranch Chairman Daniel Leturesh and IFWA President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Azzedine Downes.
Speaking after the ceremony in Kajiado south the IFWA President and CEO applauded the community for taking a bold step to lease their land as habitat for wildlife at the national park.
Downes pointed out the lease of an additional 29,035 acres at Amboseli is a demonstration of the continued active commitment the local community has in coexisting with wildlife at the park.
He said he is grateful for the signing of the agreement between IFWA and the local community.
“IFWA is committed to the continued partnership to enhance the livelihoods of the people and saving wildlife and is honoured that the community shares of our vision,” he pointed out.
The IFWA boss assured the local community that the land remains in the hands of its original owners adding that they will work with them to attract investors in the tourism sector.
Downes said they are working to attract investors in the tourism sector among other areas that will hopefully unlock financial opportunities for the community so that they are not over reliant on the sector.
He acknowledged the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted their effort to attract investors in the tourism sector to expand nationally from the community within the national park.
“The loss and degradation of wildlife habitat has seen an escalation in human wildlife conflict as the spaces available for wildlife and for local communities to access water and pasture continue to diminish,” he pointed out.
The IFWA president added this is in trying to mitigate the situation while promoting biodiversity and lessening the effects of climate change.
Downes said there is urgent need to actively secure spaces for wildlife and people to coexist which he added is paramount now more than ever before.
He reminded the forum these areas not only provide for the keeping of livestock, which is the economic mainstay of the community, but also ensure connectivity for wildlife is maintained.
“Besides securing space, IFWA will work in partnership with others to address the challenge of degradation of the landscape through restoration of overgrazed areas,” he added.
In his welcome remarks, the ranch Chairman Daniel Leturesh assured the owners of the land that they will benefit from an annual lease fees and eventually eco-tourism revenue once the land is legally registered as a wildlife conservancy.
He said in 2013, IFAW and OOGR signed an agreement with 1,600 landowners that saw 16,000 acres of land of the Kitenden wildlife corridor secured as wildlife habitat for five years.
“The agreement, renewed in 2017 for another five years, saw an additional 10,000, acres leased from an additional 1,000 landowners,” he pointed out.
The OOGR Chairman reiterated the 26,000 acres is officially the Kitenden Community Wildlife Conservancy.
Leturesh pointed out the new agreement brings the area that the local land owners and IFAW have secured for conservation to 55,035 acres or 223 sq. Km.