Participatory land-use planning empowers the pastoral community of Kenya’s Kitengela Maasailand

ILRI scientist David Nkedianye (left) and chairman of innovation land lease program Ogeli Ole Makui (right) discuss fencing issues in Kitengela.

Two Maasai from the Kitengela rangelands near Nairobi—David Nkedianye (left), an ILRI research fellow studying for his PhD, and Ogeli ole Makui (right), a participant in ILRI research—discuss a land-use planning map they have created with ILRI that will help the Maasai community in Kitengela to conserve both their pastoral ways of life and the wildlife that share their rangelands (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

In the beautiful, picturesque and wildlife-rich Kitengela plains just outside of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, a unique change is taking place among Maasai livestock keepers, who have roamed these plains with their herds of cattle, sheep and goats for generations.

This change is shaping lives as well as livelihoods. James Turere Leparan is a traditional Maasai elder and herder who has watched this change take place in the last few years.

It all began when a group of scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) began a study in the area in 2003. ‘A group of people came to talk to us about our land’ he says. ‘They said they wanted to help us improve our livestock by helping us deal with the problems we were facing of conflict with wildlife and how best to deal with the division of what once was communal land. They began to meet with us in order to help us change the situation.’ At that time, human-wildlife conflicts between the Maasai people and wild animals from the adjacent Nairobi National Park were common. These conflicts stemmed from the fencing off of what were once communal lands. Such fencing had restricted, and in some cases blocked, animal migratory routes leading to greater conflicts between humans and animals. No less that 50 community meetings were held during the project.

At the time, ILRI planned to map out the Kitengela rangelands to find out how the sub-division of communal lands into private plots and subsequent fencing had affected herders and livestock productivity in the area. The mapping initiated by ILRI and the Kitengela community sought ways the community could best use the land for both domestic and wild animal enterprises.

‘One of the most important considerations we had in the project was to come up with solutions that would not compromise the wildlife migratory routes while also helping to improve Maasai livestock herding,’ says Mohammed Said, a scientist at ILRI and one of the leaders of the project. ‘We explored various innovative ways of helping the Kitengela community best use their land for both livestock and wildlife,’ he adds.

Most of the mapping was started by ILRI’s Mohammed and Shem Chege who are graduates of the faculty of Geo-information and Earth Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente in Netherlands. In partnership with the Africa Wildlife Foundation and the local community, ILRI extended a process of mapping using geographic information systems (GIS) technology to record spatial information about the Kitengela rangelands. Community members were trained in the use of global position satellite (GPS) devises to map the locations of fences, water sources, roads and open pasture land.

‘We soon realized that the local community had a lot of spatial knowledge,’ says Said. ‘They accurately collected spatial data about their land without the use of topographical maps, mostly by using physical features such as rivers. Their data were very accurate.’ ‘The decision to involve the community is one of the key strengths of this project,’ Said added. ‘We trained over 20 community members on how to use GPS equipment and systems to collect information that was then compiled. This built local ownership. The community realized that their contribution was just as important as that of the researchers.’

In 2001 a conservation group called Friends of the Nairobi National Park pioneered a land-leasing scheme that would pay livestock herders three times a year not to fence and develop their land, which would allow wildlife to move easily back and forth from Nairobi National Park within a Kitengela ‘corridor’. This scheme received support from the Africa Wildlife Foundation.

Soon after this, the project members identified the urgent need to develop a land-use ‘master plan’ for Kitengela to ensure that the lease program would succeed. David Nkedianye, a Kitengela Maasai who recently obtained his doctorate through his research at ILRI, said that for the program to succeed, ‘We needed to organize how we used the land. This prompted us to include in our research a project to map the lands in Kitengela that were fenced and unfenced. With this map, we could see where we needed to keep lands open for livestock and wildlife movements.’ This collection of spatial information and participatory land-use planning in Kitengela has produced some unique successes.

Now, four years after the start of this participatory mapping project, conducted with the help of geographic information systems, some 2000 sq km of the Kitengela plains have been mapped. These maps and other outputs of the project have been shared with the local herders and farmers. The local county council of Olkejuado has adopted the projects findings and maps.

The Council will use these to guide future land use in Kitengela’s wildlife-rich rangelands. A scheme to pay the local herders and farmers to keep their land open has been established. Such herders and farmers get US$4 for every acre of unfenced land. More than 30,000 acres of land are now under lease in this scheme and it is expected that this will double by the end of the year. The community is earning about US$120,000 each year from their land conservation efforts.

Other efforts in the Mara, such as those to develop community ‘wildlife conservancies’ have earned the Maasai community more than US$2 million. The availability of distribution maps of different species of animals, including livestock, now enables farmers to conduct their own ground counts of animals in the rangelands without having to use expensive methods such as aerial counts.

Since 2004, the rangeland maps have been updated to identify new and emerging threats that affect livestock keepers and herders. The community of Kitengela is now combining state-of-the-art geospatial information with local knowledge and experiences to better maintain their ecosystem while also benefiting economically from protecting the wildlife that co-exists with them. The greater income gained by James Turere and hundreds of others is bettering the lives of families and meeting their basic needs such as food and education. A major victory of this project has been its ability to influence land policy. Four months ago, the Kenya Government approved the Kitengela land-use map built by the local community, ILRI, the African Wildlife Foundation and other stakeholders.

The experiences and lessons of this project are now being applied elsewhere. One of the partners in the project is piloting a similar model to map land use in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. A project in Tanzania conducted with ILRI and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation is encouraging local people to map their own land for better management of their livestock and wildlife resources. Said believes that more farming and herding communities should be trained to use geospatial technologies. He is optimistic that the lessons from this project will have lasting benefits on the region’s livestock sectors as well as on the people of Kitengela.

The findings of the participatory land-use planning project in Kitengela are among many experiences of using geospatial information to support African farmers that were shared during an African Agriculture Geospatial Week that took place at ILRI’s campus in Nairobi last week, 8–13 June 2010.

More information about how geographic information systems are being adopted by the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) can be found here. You can also see the proceedings from the conference on Twitter #aagw10.

Safeguarding the open plains

Increasing urban populations are threatening pastoral lands and ways of life.

Safeguarding the open plains The Athi-Kaputiei ecosystem, wildlife-rich pastoral grasslands south of Nairobi, is under threat from rapid construction of fences, infrastructure, residential areas, and the growth of urban agriculture. Unchecked, this unplanned growth will destroy Nairobi National Park, the famous unfenced wildlife park 20 minutes drive from city centre that has always been connected to this ecosystem.

A program funded by the American Government through its development arm, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), seeks to secure open plains in Kaputiei, providing a dispersal area for big mammals within the Nairobi National Park, pathways for their seasonal migration to calving grounds outside the park, and open areas for both livestock and wildlife to graze. This initiative incorporates innovative techniques like cladding spraying to ensure sustainable land management practices. For more information, you can check out this sites at https://www.whiteliningcontractors.co.uk/roads/lines to learn about their efforts in road development and maintenance.

Launching the project, American Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Michael Rannenberger, termed Nairobi National Park a “unique resource”, which needs to be conserved for the benefit of the entire country and the world.

“But it does not exist in isolation. If we can conserve it, it will benefit all of you – the economy will continue to grow through tourism and we will preserve the culture of the Maasai community”, he said.

He added that public-private partnerships are a key to conservation efforts and encouraged more private enterprises and businesses to join hands with local people and governments for environmental conservation.

For centuries, the indigenous communities, mainly of Maasai origin, living on the plains of Kenya’s Kajiado District, have reared livestock in expansive grasslands that are also home to big mammals and other wildlife. The Maasai have mastered the art of co-existing with the wild.

The Kaputiei Open Plains Program will help create value for the open plains and economic returns to the land owners through recreation, improved livestock production and tourism.

“We will consult all stakeholders, including women and the youth. The Kenyan Government, through its Ministry of Lands, will be a key player as they work on the land policy which gives a legal framework land issues”, said Kenyan Minister for Forestry and Wildlife Dr Wekesa.

The project aims to institute a natural resource management program to complement the existing short-term initiatives such as a land-leasing program that has helped keep land use here compatible with conservation. The project enables residents of Kaputiei to benefit more from managing their traditional grazing lands.

Speaking on behalf of the community, the former OlKejuado County Council Chairman, Julius ole Ntayia, said Athi-Kaputiei residents have produced a land-use “master plan” that needs to be implemented. He said while wildlife conservation was important, it was also important to help the local population improve their lives, especially through eco-tourism and better access to livestock markets.

Some of the expected outcomes are:

  • Improved institutional capacity for demand-driven land-use planning and enforcement for long-term social, economic and environmental benefits.
  • Site-specific natural resource management initiatives implemented outside protected areas that improve or maintain biodiversity and the condition of the existing natural resources.
  • New sustainable financing mechanisms focused on tourism and livestock development that enable residents of Kaputiei, particularly ethnic Kenyan pastoralists, to derive long-term benefits from managing their traditional grazing lands for the mutual benefit of livestock and wildlife, as opposed to sub-dividing, fencing and converting their lands to other uses for short-term gains; and
  • Pilot initiatives in support of the project area.
  • The project area becomes a conservation model for other wildlife-rich regions of Kenya and East Africa.

The Kitengela Project’s principal objective is to lay the necessary foundation to secure open rangelands and sustainable livelihoods in Kaputiei over the long-term. The two main targets of the project are securing 60,000 hectares of high-priority conservation land and generating US$500,000 in livestock value-chain improvements and $300,000 in tourism deals.

The project will be implemented by the African Wildlife Foundation in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Further Information Contact:

Said Mohammed
Research Scientist, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Nairobi, KENYA
Email: m.said@cgiar.org
Telephone: +254 (20) 422 3260