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US announces a USD.6.5million grant in support of Maasai Mara conservation

The United States of America through USAID has announced a grant of USD 6.5 million (approx.Sh1 billion) to support conservation models inside the Maasai Mara National Game Reserve.

While speaking during a colourful 10th Anniversary celebration of the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA) of wildlife conservation at Aitong, Mara Ward, Narok West Constituency, American Ambassador to Kenya Margaret ‘Meg’ Whitman announced the grant of 6.5 million dollars.

In her message, Whitman remained optimistic that the conservancies shall increase to 29 or more where locals shall directly be involved in rights, empowered, and landscape intact as the largest and most comprehensive vision in Mara and echoed the MMWCA efforts on wildlife conservation.

Whitman said 80 percent of the wildlife resides in the conservancies with MMWCA demonstrating that conservancies are of benefit to the local communities.

The Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Dr. Alfred Mutua thanked the US for the grant and saying the national government would also give Sh600 million for water and road infrastructure in the conservancies and pledged the government’s collaboration in quality training of staff in the sector.

On human-wildlife conflict, the CS has also announced a further Sh300 million from the Government in support of countrywide fencing and an awareness campaign.

On matters compensation, the CS announced another Sh908 million and an additional Sh1.5 billion in readiness for payment to the affected communities by being injured or killed by wildlife.

Swedish Ambassador Caroline Vicini who is also the Head of Mission Permanent Rep to UNEP, UN-HABITAT congratulated the communities saying her government would chip in to support the development of animal conservatries.

Norwegian Ambassador to Kenya Gunar Adreas Holm also in attendance emphasized that her Government would continue to champion women and youth empowerment in the Maasai Mara game reserve.

Narok Governor Patrick Ole Ntutu defended a recent move by the county government to increase park fees inside the Mara saying it was meant to improve service delivery as he called on the National Government to increase compensation fees.

Ntutu said plans were underway to ensure herders are sensitized to keep fewer animals for more wildlife space, promising to champion an exchange programme in Botswana where locals would visit for benchmarking.

The Chief Executive Officer of MMWCA Daniel Sophia thanked the partners and local committees for the progress in upgrading services in the last decade predicting better times ahead.

By John Kaleke

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