Rimoi residents call for urgent measures to tame human-wildlife conflict

  • Human-Wildlife Conflict becomes rampant in Rimoi Ecosystem, during Dry Seasons  
  • Increasing incidences of Cattle rustling in the migratory corridor fuel Human-Wildlife Conflicts cases.   
  • Livestock Overgrazing in the Game reserves, is a continuous occurrence, leading to desertification in Rimoi Baringo Boundary. 

By Chemtai Kirui

Selina Chepkosgei Chelimo is a member of Rimoi Conservancy Committee and a resident of Rimoi Sub location found in Elgeyo Marakwet county. Her home is several kilometers away from Rimoi National reserve, which is the habitat of among other wildlife, the Jumbos which are fondly referred to as the ‘’Elephants of Rimoi’’ by the locals. 

Selina’s livelihood, just like many residents from the area, is derived from small scale crop and livestock Farming, although she’s a woman of many trades.  Besides farming, Selina is a business woman, who runs a local shop and hotel, near Rimoi Primary school.    

For Selina and other residents of Rimoi, who earn a living from their farms, their main source of income is increasingly coming under threat, this is a result of the destruction brought about by the Human Wildlife Conflict, specifically conflicts between Human and Elephants and Snakes. However, the cases of Human vs snakes, is mostly reported along the border of Elgeyo and Baringo Counties. 

A photo of Selina Chelimo during the interview. PHOTO/Bernard Kemei.

One of the biggest threats facing Rimoi Ecosystem is the Human Elephant conflict, a case that is under reported, making it hard for the relevant authorities to take immediate action to save the increasing population of Elephants. The elephants spend time trans versing The NOREB county parts of Turkana and Baringo.  

Locals in the area, are raising alarm about the Human Wildlife incidents, that has wreaked havoc in their farms, in many cases leading to Crop damage and livestock injury and sometimes death. They are calling for immediate action from the National and County Governments. 

Local Residents with officials, in Rimoi’s Crocodile Campsite. Photo/Chemtai Kirui.

Samuel Kimetto is the Chairman of Rimoi Conservancy Committee. He says that Rimoi National reserve has great potential to benefit its people. This is only if the Government officials from the National and County Government Invest in it.  Kimetto says’’ The National government need to drill water in the park. That is their work. Once there is enough water in this park, the elephants wouldn’t see the need to go out and cause destruction in our farms’! He further reiterated that it is during dry season, when water in the park derived from Kerio River begins to dry up, that you will hear destruction cases being amplified.  

According to Samuel and other members of his committee, having to co-exist with the wildlife in close proximity, wouldn’t be an issue of conflict, if only they could see direct benefit, like increase in tourism, development in infrastructure such as roads and schools and employment for their children.  

Shadrack Yatich, the Tourism County Executive from Elgeyo Marakwet says that this issue of Human Elephant Conflict is exacerbated by Cases of Cattle rustling. This takes place in the migratory Corridors.  He says ‘’ when the Elephants come across barricades or scuffles caused about by the Cattle rustlers, it causes them distress. Elephants are very clever animals, they are able to trace the path they have used before, and they are able to remember their experience along the corridor. Interference in their path might cause them to veer off the path and into people’s farms, in search of food and water and this is where destruction occurs’’. He further said that peace is paramount for any peaceful coexistence to be realized in the ecosystem.     

Another challenge causing dissatisfaction among Rimoi residents is land compensation, according to Serem. He says that residents from 7 sub locations in Elgeyo Marakwet, gave their land to be used for establishment of the game reserve, but they are yet to be compensated. He says ‘’ once the County government took over as the overseer of Community land issue, they haven’t acted on the compensation plan. The county is acting as if we gave our land to them for free’. 

A photo of Isaac Serem during the interview. Photo/Bernard Kemei.

To help improve relationship between Human and wildlife, the government does compensate the victims of Human wildlife conflict, with the price varying on the nature of damage, be it; death, injury, livestock and or crop damage. Since it’s reintroduction in 2017, the government has spent 2.5 billion shillings, in its compensation plan.  In December 2021, the County of Elgeyo Marakwet received 28 million shillings, to be distributed among victims of Human Wildlife Conflict, but the amount wasn’t enough.  

 This figure, although pricey, is not nearly enough to compensate every victim of Human Wildlife Conflict. The Cabinet secretary of Tourism, Najib Balala says that its docket requires at least 3.1 billion shillings to be able to pay all the victims of Human Wildlife Conflict reported at the moment. 

 A Report filed by the taskforce on human-wildlife conflict compensation scheme, which was formed after the National consultative forum and was appointed by the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife on 14th June 2019, to develop an implementation strategy and schemes to be adopted by the government to best tackle the issue of Human Wildlife coexistence, shows there is a need to adopt insurance scheme as a mode of compensating the victim. This cover they say, will go a long way in helping pay the Victims of Human Wildlife Conflict, promptly and efficiently. 

The CEO of Conservation Alliance Kenya, Steve Itela on the other hand says that robust policy framework should be put in place to help in the mitigation plan of Human Wildlife Conflict. He called upon the Policy Makers to have an understanding of how to utilize the natural resources in their jurisdiction to avoid conflicts. He says ‘’ Elgeyo Marakwet county has a lot of natural resources, Nature walks, birdwatching, flying, and as such, the policy makers should see away of turning such resources into a source of revenue to help diversify the source of income for the community as a way expanding their economy venture. This will go a long way into helping build peaceful co-Existence between Human and Wildlife. 

‘’ Human-wildlife conflict is as much a development and humanitarian issue as it is a conservation concern’ This is according to Report published by WWF and UN Environment Program, saying that if the world has a chance of meeting the SDGs by the 2030 deadline, human-wildlife conflict must be explicitly included in SDG implementation plans, as well as at the heart of the Convention on Biodiversity’s new framework. 

 Numerous attempts to get comment from the area policy makers, were met with reluctance. No response from the political leaders we contacted, had reached our news desk, in time for this publication. 

In the meantime, the residents of Rimoi are calling upon the leadership of Elgeyo Marakwet and that of Baringo, to come to a consensus and see how their plight can be addressed in order for them to live peacefully in this shared ecosystem. 

This story was produced with the support of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.

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