Senate has adopted a motion by Taita-Taveta Senator Jones Mwaruma seeking to compel the National Government to compensate victims of human-wildlife conflict within 90-days from the day a claim is filed.
The motion also wants the government to allocate adequate funds in 2019/2020 fiscal year and all other subsequent financial years to compensate people affected by the conflict.
Speaking in Voi on Monday, the senator said the motion seeks to streamline the provisions of Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (WCMA) 2013.
The senator said though the act was operational, it lacked subsidiary regulations which were needed to suit the situation in the ground.
“The motion seeks to put a definite time-frame on the period required for government to compensate victims of human wildlife conflict,” he said.
Currently, WCMA does not have a stipulated period on how long it takes to pay a claim. This oversight in law raises the possibility that a claim for compensation might go unpaid for years or more. As a result, people whose property and crops were destroyed are plunged further into poverty.
Mwaruma further noted that in cases of crop destruction and animal predation, hundreds of farmers in areas considered hotspots for human-wildlife conflict had lodged multiple claims that needed to be paid.
“There are cases where farmers with pending claims from past years have filed newer claims because their farms have been destroyed again as they waited for the initial compensation,” he said.
That Senate resolution, which was passed in November, is now with the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife whose Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala is expected to write a report over the same which will then be taken back to Senate for debate.
Since 2014, over 1,500 claims have been filed from Taita-Taveta County. Already, Sh35 million has been given as compensation to families of seven people who died as a result of wildlife attacks.
However no money has been given to over 1,000 farmers whose crops and livestock were killed by wildlife.
WCMA 2013 has set five million as compensation for people killed by wildlife and three million for severe injuries that can lead to permanent disability. Other amounts for compensation depend on severity of the injury and can go up to two million.
John Mlamba, a conservation expert, said putting a definite time frame on compensation period was a positive move that give hope to hundreds of farmers who have been waiting for payment for years.
He noted that County Wildlife Compensation Committee (CWCC) had 30 days to evaluate a claim which would later be forwarded to Tourism Ministry headquarter. The ministry has 30 days to process the claim and pay farmers.
“The law is silent on how long it should take to pay a claim. It can take as long as ten years,” he said.
Mr. Mlamba however said it would be futile to push for speedy compensation without putting in place county wildlife compensation committee which were the primary organs dealing with evaluation of claims.
The tenure for all such committees countrywide expired end of 2017. There are no new committees that have been put in place to process any claims.
“All claims that came after the expiry of the committee’s term cannot be processed. They must wait until new committees are in place,” said Mlamba.
By Wagema Mwangi