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The significant challenge for conservation at present is securing wildlife habitats and ensuring a sustainable balance over conflicting land uses. Humans continue exerting pressure on land for infrastructure expansion, agriculture and urban development necessitated by the population growth. Therefore, increasing cases of human-wildlife conflict and poaching incidences are but indicators of a failing conservation model that requires a reset in how we develop and implement strategic policies and actions.

Conservation of natural resources is at crossroads and urgently requires a collaborative, multisectoral and transdisciplinary approach at all levels – county and national government – to ensure a healthy ecosystem with the interconnection between people, plants, animals and their shared environment. The environment provides us with food, fibre, mineral, medicines, industrial products and innumerable ecosystem services such as cleansing our waste, dampening flood peaks, breaking down rocks into productive soils, maintaining the supply of oxygen in the atmosphere, supporting pollinators for many crops and predators that control many agricultural pests.

Our lives depend on building resilient and healthy ecosystems, facilitating the continuation of environmental services despite disturbances. Degrading the environment degrades our life support system since conservation occurs on land, an essential resource for future generations.

Therefore, the current rate of land transformation and degradation is unsustainable and requires a paradigm shift and focus on balancing wildlife needs and human needs. So, to live sustainably, harmoniously, and successfully side by side with animals, we need to focus on how to share the land and its resources, and importantly, to ensure animals have space and resources they need.

Our Vision 2030 recognizes the need to ensure the connectivity of ecosystems to sustain our lives for the benefit of the present and future generations. Kenya has the best policies and laws on the governance of natural resources, but we continue to fail because of sector conflicts and lack of working together towards a common purpose. In Kenya, wildlife law requires designated conservation area – parks, reserve, sanctuary and conservancies to prepare management plans. Not all conservation areas have management plans in place due to limited resources in preparing these plans. Where management plans are in place, we face a legal challenge when they are not recognized and integrated into the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) and land laws governing the use of land.

An example is where a large-scale agricultural activity occurs in an area earmarked and suitable for livestock and wildlife conservation. The area has a management plan recognized under the wildlife act, land use identified as suitable for livestock and wildlife conservation yet legally the land use on the land title contradicts the defined land use in the management plan. Which law do you apply in this case?

Unless harmonization of land laws and land uses is achieved, we continue losing natural resources at an accelerated rate. What is urgently required is recognition of management plans in the land regimes identify and zone areas based on suitable and acceptable land uses.

Kenya recently launched the wildlife corridors, and dispersal areas report an outcome of Vision 2030, which remains unimplementable due to legal challenges. The pertinent questions that remain unanswered to date are whose land are you setting the corridor? Was the landowner involved in the planning, determining and mapping the areas? What is the compensation mechanism for one arm of government to set aside land as a wildlife corridor and dispersal area?

Protected parks and reserves such as Masai Mara Reserve, Nairobi National Park, Amboseli National Park, Tsavo (East and West) National Parks and Aberdares National Park to mention a few cannot survive on their own and need a connected ecosystem for species to thrive.

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