You are a hardworking Kenyan farmer, living next to a verdant mountain forest on a productive farm. You grow lucrative cash crops such as tea or coffee and food crops such as maize, potatoes and vegetables. You have healthy livestock. You have the means to sustain your family, and the future looks bright. However, every so often, disaster strikes! Herds of elephant emerge from the forest and rampage through your farm, robbing you of your potential harvest. These are dangerous animals, and you are powerless to stop them. Bush pigs invade your farm under cover of darkness and dig up your potato crop. Leopards raid your livestock, sometimes killing dozens of sheep or goats in one night but only taking one.
Conventional fences around your farm do not work. The authorities, when called upon to help, may come to chase away the wildlife, but usually too late to prevent the damage. You live in fear and uncertainty. You regularly lose your crops and livestock to wildlife. These continued losses, season after season, make it difficult to plan and invest.
For decades, this had been the experience for tens of thousands of community members that live adjacent to Kenya’s mountain forests: A perpetual cycle of conflict between humans and wildlife, with mounting casualties on both sides. 1989 marked a new beginning for the human-wildlife relationship around our mountain forests. It heralded the entry of Rhino Ark with a novel solution: investing in safeguarding the livelihoods of forest adjacent communities on one hand, and protecting vulnerable wildlife on the other through building of game-proof fences.
In Eburu forest, farmers with land at the forest edge could not farm their land, some opting instead to lease land further away due to the heavy losses suffered from wildlife. After completion of the 43.3-kilometre Eburu fence, this has changed. Land values for forest adjacent farms have dramatically increased, in some cases by over 600%. These farmers, now assured of their harvests and can plan and invest appropriately. This has directly translated into increasing economic potential, helping farmers to earn more from their farms.The collaborative multi-stakeholder frameworks established by Rhino Ark to maintain fences also double up as forums to network communities with a pool of experts and technical resources that support their livelihood programmes. These forums have enabled local communities to build rapport with resourceful partners. They have facilitated support for community water projects, on-farm training and capacity building in activities as diverse as establishing biogas systems, fruit farming, ecotourism and bio-enterprise among others. This network is helping communities diversify their income bases and utilise their farms more effectively.