By advocating for the conservancy model across Kenya, KWCA tackles three interlinked challenges: biodiversity loss, lack of livelihoods and Climate Change.
Kenya is home to biodiversity hotspots which are under increasing threat from Climate Change and various anthropogenic sources. Between 1963 and 2012, Kenya’s forest cover shrank from 10% to 6% of the country’s landmass. Since 1977, Kenya has experienced a 68% decline in its wildlife, a result of habitat loss, human-wildlife conflicts and poaching. These developments undermine the capacity of Kenya’s unique ecosystems to perform important ecological functions and exacerbate the already harmful effects of Climate Change. Kenya’s biodiverse ecosystems, especially its fascinating wildlife, are the backbone of the flourishing tourism industry. Paradoxically, local communities in areas richest in biodiversity are among the country’s poorest. Poverty is the main driver behind poaching and illegal logging, perpetuating the vicious cycle of biodiversity loss, Climate Change and lack of livelihoods.
Kenya’s wildlife conservancies constitute one of the most successful and fast-growing strategies for long-term wildlife and ecosystem conservation, sustainable land management and protection against deforestation. They effectively protect ecosystems and wildlife, while providing incomes and economic opportunity. Today, there are 167 established conservancies and 44 that are being developed, covering 18% of Kenya’s land, accounting for over 10.6 million hectares, spreading across various regions and encompassing diverse ecosystems. However, because the conservancy movement has grown only locally over the past decades, it suffers from a lack of political recognition on a national level and an inability to coordinate effectively.
Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) was created in 2013 as a membership organization to serve as the national representative body for Kenya’s conservancies, ensuring that their voices are heard and that the right structures are in place to allow them to thrive. By advocating for the conservancy model across Kenya, KWCA plays a key role in tackling the interlinked problems of biodiversity loss, Climate Change and poverty. KWCA has four core mandates:
By representing conservancies at the policy level and by equipping regional associations and conservancies with tools, technical support and capacity building, KWCA helps to bring about favorable laws, empowered and well-managed conservancies and increased community livelihoods from conservation. In this way, KWCA works to realize its vision of fostering thriving conservancies that benefit local communities, wildlife and healthy ecosystems alike, while simultaneously combatting and mitigating Climate Change in Kenya.
Since KWCA’s founding in 2013, its member conservancies have increased from only two to nearly all of the over 160 currently established conservancies in Kenya. Between 2016 and 2021, the organization helped to increase the area protected through conservancies from 11% to 18% of Kenya’s landmass. Ultimately, the conservancy model seeks to increase the area under conservation to an optimal 35%-40% of the country’s landmass, or 20-23m hectares, which is necessary if the country’s wildlife is to be secured for posterity. Kenya’s government supports the goal of increasing the area under conservation to 30% of the country’s landmass by 2030.
KWCA has contributed to the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG target 15.1) and has helped integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction and accounts (SDG target 15.9). It has also promoted mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management (SDG target 13.5).
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