Kenya and by extension Africa, should urgently adopt the unconstrained vision which views human capabilities to be limitless and pursue one Vision: to promote business in addressing the needs of Africa. How can we profit from wildlife in Kenya?
Wildlife issues generate great passion in the wealthy West. Consider the relocation of Chagossians from Chagos Island (near Mauritius) by the British with a view of selling it to the United States of America to set up a naval base and save tortoises on the island of Aldabra (north of Madagascar) that had no human habitation! Lesson: Confronted with a choice between human-rights and animal-rights, the British chose animal-rights, and to date, the Chagossians (now living as refugees in Mauritius) are still petitioning for the right to their island in British courts.
Prior to the establishment of parks in Kenya in 1898 by colonialists, tribal communities co-existed with wildlife. The hunter-gatherer activities did not threaten wildlife with extinction. When external hunting parties invaded the wildlife scene, denying returns to original “custodians,” wildlife numbers began to shrink significantly. Matters worsened with the establishment of parks and game reserves which entailed hauling communities out of their traditional lands to accord a pristine sanctuary to wildlife. This was not only the genesis of alienating local communities from the benefits of the wildlife industry, but also the rise of a new form of Human-wildlife conflict where the “owner” - compensate the victim relationship emerged.
Wealthy International NGOs are keen to turn Kenyan local communities into East African Chagossians! Instead of promoting a business approach that will involve communities living near parks, they oppose activities such as sport-hunting, consumptive utilization and generally profit drive for conservation. Think about it; Kenyans consume tonnes of beef and chicken but no NGO has ever pointed out the possibility of chicken or cattle becoming extinct. Lesson: if individuals own and benefit from wildlife, they will preserve and conserve it. The fact that over 70 percent of Kenya’s wildlife roam on private land is a pointer to the urgent need to involve local communities in managing wildlife for profits. 'How can one own a “wild” product?' someone might ask. How are molecules, atoms, “airwaves,” and people, subdued by man? Permit no one to limit your ingenuity!
Kenyan communities can make profit from wildlife by charging rent for animals that graze and move on their land. Landowners that host wildlife should establish a fee to be paid by animal-rights activists for purposes of meeting the economic cost of maintaining wildlife on their land. Individuals should establish wildlife companies that will manage sport hunting and other forms of consumptive utilization for profit. The Kenya Wildlife Services should brand and market its parks for profit. Communities should establish competitive “village hotels” to make profits through services to local and international tourists. The Kenya government on its part ought to soberly evaluate the wildlife enterprise system that seems to be a monopoly of international NGOs to enable locals to participate effectively.
A business approach to sustaining wildlife populations in Kenya is long overdue. Kenyan elites must avoid being manipulated to create a Chagossian situation where animal-rights override the needs of human populations. To promote the love for wildlife in Kenya and by extension Africa, we must learn to make profits from the same. As it is now; NGOs are raking millions of dollars in the name of protecting animal rights while violating human rights by sustaining people in poverty. Kenyans, let us make money on wildlife and increase their numbers!
This article was first published in Business Daily, a publication of Nation Media Group
By James Shikwati
Mr. Shikwati is the Director of Inter Region Economic Network
Comment on this article!