Kenyan community partners with conservationists to resolve human-elephant conflict

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Nairobi, Kenya
The Taveta Community bordering Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park has embarked on an ambitious 78-kilometer (48-mile) long electric fence project that will reduce human-elephant related conflicts, enhance food security and improve livelihoods through employment and increased agricultural returns in the farming community.
Spearheaded by the community’s parliamentary representative in the National Assembly Hon. Dr Naomi Shaban, the community held a commissioning ceremony on site together with senior officials from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org). 
 
The community, through the newly introduced Constituency Development Fund, has contributed US$58,800 (Kshs 4 million); KWS’ pledge worth US$ 294,000 (Kshs 20 million) will procure tools, set up a camp and take up transportation costs during construction while IFAW’s support worth US$ 54,000 (Kshs 3.7 million) has helped purchase fencing posts and an assortment of fencing equipment.
 
KWS director Julius Kipng’etich said his organization’s input was based on the critical role that local communities play in biodiversity conservation. “By safeguarding human lives and public property and reducing wildlife-related conflicts, this fence will significantly improve community support and enhance wildlife conservation in this area,” he said.
 
Kenyan industrialist and IFAW trustee Dr Manu Chandaria, while lauding the community for the initiative, urged other institutions, private sector and global development agencies to lend support to ensure that the fence is completed. “This is an initiative as a hands-on solution to the prevalent conflict that has plagued the Taveta community for many decades. Once complete, children will be secure to go to school during early hours; farmers will work on their farms without fear of loss of lives or crops, and the elephants will also be secured in their own habitat. This indeed is a win-win project,” said Chandaria.  
 
Taveta District, located at the border of Kenya and Tanzania, is an agricultural rich area. But an escalation in elephant-human conflicts arising from increase in human population and consequent land use changes remains a threat to the community and wildlife. Besides loss of both human lives and wildlife and damage to crops, the conflict has fostered a sense of helplessness.

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