Conservancies in the Maasai Mara Game reserve have received a major boost after the German Government gave a grant of Sh 660 million to mitigate the effect of Covid-19 pandemic in the region.
Germany Ambassador to Kenya Ms Annett Gunther launched the programme dubbed Covid-19 emergency support to wildlife conservancies in Maasai Mara region at a ceremony graced by Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala and his Principal Secretary Professor Fred Segor at Olare Motorogi Conservancy.
Ambassador Gunther said Germany enjoyed close cooperation with Kenya since independence, saying her country was the first nation in the world that acknowledged Kenya as an independent republic when she gained her independence over 60 years ago.
“We have increased our cooperation in battling the Covid-19 pandemic by providing first mobile testing laboratories, supporting the small and medium enterprise to survive the impact of the disease as we focus on extending the same to the communities in the Maasai Mara Conservancies” he said.
The funds, she said will go towards supporting the landowners, rangers and general conservation in the Mara ecosystem.
“Maasai Mara is a prestigious and beautiful place to be. The conservancies play a big role in ensuring the survival of the game reserve. We do not want to see people sell their land because of the effect of Covid-19 but want to help them overcome the challenges that came as a result of the pandemic,” she said.
She however asked the beneficiaries to ensure that they utilize the funds for a sustainable conservation of the tourist jewel.
CS Balala lauded the German government saying the donation will go a long way in supplementing the ongoing economic stimulus program the government was carrying out in the 160 conservancies in the country.
The CS said the support programme will continue for the next two years when the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to have gone down and tourism picked up.
Balala lauded the Maasai community for their efforts in conservation despite the rising human-wildlife conflicts adding that the government has spent Sh 147 Million to compensate victims of human-wildlife in Narok County alone in the last five years.
He observed that climate change, change in land use and now the Covid-19 pandemic was a big challenge to the industry that second the Agriculture sector in foreign exchange.
At the same time, the CS revealed that the Tourism sector is estimated to have lost close to Sh 100 billion in revenue between January and October 2020.
Even after the reopening of the country, Balala said the sector continued to experience reduced international tourists’ bookings and thus low business, low capital to get business back to normal operations and increased borrowing to sustain the businesses and in some cases total business closure.
PS Segor reiterated that out of the 160 conservancies in the country, 16 of them are in the Mara ecosystem and play a major role in curbing the Human- Wild conflict in the region.
“Conservancies enable us to have more space for wildlife because 65 per cent of the animals are outside the protected areas. It is also an important buffer zone because it creates a wall between the human and wild, minimizing the wild- human conflicts,” he said.
The conservancies, he added, help to ensure that any income coming from the conservancies trickles down to the residents hence improving their livelihood of the people.
The Masai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Daniel Sopia admitted that investors had to cut the lease payment by 50 per cent due to decline in tourism since the onset of Covid-19 pandemic.
The CEO reiterated that in the last 10 years conservation in Mara has grown to over 1500 square kilometers.
By Ann Salaton