No Water, No Patrols: Songa community rally together to keep rangers on the ground
In a gesture that symbolises the immense value placed on wildlife rangers by the local community, members of Songa Conservancy have voted in favour of sharing precious borehole water with scouts, after burst tanks left taps at the headquarters dry.
Water drives the pace, quality, and purpose of life for the people and animals of northern Kenya. In its abundance, the rangelands team with life and well-covered livestock, at ease sharing the same pasture and watering holes. In its ever-increasing absence, tensions rise and life gets tough.
In Marsabit County, meagre rainfall last year has left people and wildlife competing for decreasing water resources. The resulting conflict causes loss of life and livelihoods and threatens populations of vulnerable species such as elephants.
Anticipating difficulties in the dry seasons, Songa Conservancy management invested in three large water tanks for the headquarters when they were built. These were filled in the November/December rains in 2017, and the water stored to sustain staff and rangers during the dry season.
However, disaster struck when excessively high temperatures one February day burst the tanks, causing the carefully stored water to leak and evaporate before any of it could be saved.
“When they heard the rangers were without water, the Songa community offered to help,” says Kadir Boru, Senior Community Development Officer for NRT North East. “They suggested that a pipeline be built to pump water from their community borehole to the headquarters. Not only that, but they offered financial support for the project from the community livelihood fund.”
The Community Livelihoods Fund in an NRT initiative that provides grants to conservancies, upon successful proposal submissions, specifically for sustainable development projects deemed a priority by the communities. It is open to all NRT member conservancies and is supported principally by USAID, The Nature Conservancy and DANIDA.
Looking to maximize the benefits of this project, the Songa community saw this as an opportunity to protect elephants too. At the same time as delivering water to conservancy staff and rangers, the pipeline will also fill a wildlife trough. It is hoped this will draw elephants away from human settlements and reduce incidents of human/wildlife conflict, which most frequently occur around water access. They also hope that increasing numbers of elephants in Songa Conservancy will provide a valuable tourism hook.
“The pipeline is a real game changer in Songa” says Kadir, “the community see the rangers as a critical resource in improving security in the area, and see the overall benefits their conservancy brings to them.”
It is due to be completed by the end of March 2018.