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Coronavirus threaten livelihoods of Mara residents

It’s with no doubt that tourism is one of the most hit sectors in the country, following the recent ban on international travel due to the raging global Pandemic.
Subsequently, counties that mainly depend on tourism are a crying foul as their levels of income have definitely gone down compromising the rate of development in their respective regions.
Narok County is one of the hardest-hit counties as it draws 80 percent of its local income from the Maasai Mara game reserve that attracts millions of foreigners yearly.
With the astounding wildebeest migration that marks the peak season at the park, which is expected to happen from next month, it is obvious that this year’s event will be quite different because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some of the residents who have given their lands for lease to the conservancies are now feeling the heat of Covid-19 as some conservancies rates have been reduced by half.
The Conservancies chairman Francis Ole Nkoitoi lamented that because of the pandemic, the Naboisho and Koyiaki conservancies’ members have already had their lease rates reduced by 50 percent.
He decried that the situation had seriously affected the members who most had taken loans from financial institutions.
“The pandemic came as a surprise to all of us, no one had planned for such hard times. Most of our members had taken bank loans but it is now clear that they cannot service their loans,” said Ole Nkoitoi.
He reiterated that indeed these were hard economic times for the pastoralist community as they do not practice crop farming due to the presence of many wild animals in the area.
“The members receive between Sh7,000 to Sh92, 000 per month depending on the land acreage given to the conservancies, however, this has now been reduced to half thereby affecting their livelihood,” said Ole Nkoitoi.
The chairman is now calling on on well-wishers to give food donations to the thousands of families living in Mara and Siana ward whose way of life has been adversely affected.
Daniel Ole Muli a conservancy representative, also lamented the lack of market for the women who do beading work and sell their products to the tourists who flock to the Maasai Mara.
“Besides getting income from the conservancies, our mothers earn a lot of money from beadwork which they make and sell to the tourists. The youth also gets a lot of money from entertaining the guests with our traditional songs,” said Ole Muli.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in charge of Good Hope Sacco Elvis Ololkipai confirmed that a number of conservancy members had taken loans from the financial institution and were having challenges in financing them since the lease money had been reduced by half.
“We will however not list the members with the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) but instead will give the willing members half the principal amount so as to sustain them during these hard times,” said Ololkipai.
The CEO spoke Thursday when the financial institution gave food donation to the most affected families in Mara ward, where he asked the residents to diversify their investment to avoid incurring total losses in case the one investment fails.
“I advise the Mara residents to invest in Real estate and improve their livestock breeds so that in case one venture fails, they can benefit from another,” he reiterated.
In the current financial year, the county’s budget estimate was Sh. 12.17 billion where a total of Sh3 billion was estimated to come from local revenue.
The county expected to receive a total of Sh. 7.874 billion which is 67 percent of the entire revenue from National equitable share, Sh. 1.3 billion from conditional grants while Sh. 3 billion would come from local revenue.
The famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve located in the West of the county was expected to give Sh. 2.3 billion of the Sh. 3 billion local revenue.
In April, Narok Governor Samuel Tunai hinted of a possibility of the county losing billions of shillings due to the global pandemic as all the hotels in the world-famous game reserve were forced to close their doors due to lack of visitors.
Tunai expressed fear that the county could be forced to adjust its budget as a big percentage of its revenue would be lost.
Nevertheless, Governor Tunai said despite the closure at the Mara, the game rangers would be vigilant in guarding the wildlife and the investor’s property.
“Poachers or thieves who think they can take advantage to harm wildlife or to steal from the deserted facilities should be warned that we have deployed officers to man the park, and they will meet their match,” he warned.
“There is also some advantage because the wild animals will have time to relax away from the presence of many people, vehicles and cameras they meet with every day,” said Tunai.
By Ann Salaton

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