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Ranches to launch strategic plans to reap conservation benefits

Taita-Taveta ranches are set to start enjoying conservation benefits after they jointly agreed to adopt sound ranch-management policies that include tapping livestock and wildlife potential in Tsavo Conservation Area.
Chairperson for Taita-Taveta Ranchers Association Mr. Mcharo Bongo’sa said the 28 ranches in the region had agreed to partner with stakeholders to reap maximum benefits from 1.2 million acres of land currently occupied by the ranches.
Speaking in Mwatate on Saturday during the launch of 2019-2023 strategic plan for Kabanga Ranching Company, Mr. Mcharo said the ranches would diversify into wildlife management business to tap into the tourism sector.
“We have a lot of land with wild animals that can be used for the benefits of our people. Our livelihoods will not only be based on livestock keeping but also on utilising wildlife within the ranches,” he said.
He pointed out that 34,000 acre Kabanga ranching company had become a pace-setter for other 27 ranches by becoming the first ranch in the region to launch its strategic plan. Other ranches are set to launch their joint strategic plans by May 2019.
The chair of Kabanga Ranch Mr. Anderson Mombo said the strategic plan was guided by the need to exploit the dormant potential in the ranch.
He pointed out the membership has risen from less than a hundred in the 90’s to 340 in 2018 which he termed as an indicator of confidence in the management. At the same time, share capital had shot up from Sh2, 500 in late 1990’s to Sh152, =000 in 2018.
Mr. Mombo noted that the ranch was also benefiting from carbon credit offset project and had earned over Sh20 million between 2013 and 2017.
“We want to make use of our land by engaging in activities that will lead to profit-making. This is the essence of this strategic plan,” he said.
The launch was attended by dozens other directors from other ranches, hundreds of members and officials of Kenya Wildlife Service.
Mr. Mombo however said the ranch was faced by challenges of animal predation, understocking, livestock diseases, land degradation and boundary row with Kwale County government. The ranch currently has 300 sheep and goats.
In the plan, the ranch intends to aggressively start a restocking programme and boost fodder growing to create a value chain for its livestock. The management also plans to establish strategic partnerships to boost the ranch’s capital base.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Senior Warden for Community Service Zainabu Salim said the ranches were best placed to reap maximum benefits from wildlife resource in the region.
She noted that converting the ranches into conservancies would be a win-win situation for members who would benefit from tourists’ revenue.
“Ranches have a tourism aspect that needs to be exploited. This is the time to take advantage of such opportunities,” she said.
She added that KWS was willing to assist the ranchers when called upon and urged local residents to embrace conservation as part of ranch livelihoods.
Mr. Mcharo said there were plans to start rehabilitation of Tsavo National Park and all ranches affected by degradation, poor land use and drought. The plan involves planting of trees and other vegetation to restore bush cover and boost wildlife regeneration.
Ranch management consultant Dr. Eliud Nthiga said Taita ranches had the potential to generate billions of shillings annually if all opportunities were utilised. He said that apart from tourism and livestock keeping, ranches were also endowed with vast mineral deposits.
He urged the managements to seek partners who would help them exploit such opportunities.
“The land within the ranches is the next big revenue earner. There is need to look beyond livestock to see what else can be utilised in the ranch,” he said.
By Wagema Mwangi

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