I write this final blog from Nairobi at the Mennonite Guest House. On Wednesday, we came to town (4-5 hour drive) to return Beryl, Dedan, Erick, and Hannah to their homes in addition to bringing Leah and Mandy to the Guest House. It is hard to believe the course is over, but we’ve many memories that will allow the experience to live on.
Monday began with a lecture from executive director of the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Mordecai Ogada. LWF is a non-profit organization that seeks to integrate water, wildlife, forestry, and community development across the Laikipia District. The students were impressed with the commitments by LWF to address the human/social needs in the region, as Mordecai expressed, the first goal is to address the economic and social needs of those living on the “community lands” and thereafter these communities are more able to participate in conservation initiatives.
After the presentation we traveled with Joseph Mosiany, the LWF Community Liasion Officer (CLO) for the Ewaso Nyiro Unit, to the group ranch on which he lives and works. The trip was about a 3 hr drive first through a private ranch, Ol Jogi, then through a variety of group ranches where Maasai and Samburu pastoralists have their homes and animals. We visited the Kamanjo Resource Center, a library started by the local community for education and conservation outreach (with support from LWF). The challenges the group ranches experience with living on more erodible steep slopes, less rainfall, and more livestock was evident to the students.
The day ended with our return trip to Mpala, with the setting sun painting the landscape with all manner of contrasting colors. We enjoyed viewing Grevy’s zebra, elephant, and giraffe as we passed through the private wildlife ranch of Ol Jogi, leaving us with the challenging and contrasting images of these various land uses.
Tuesday morning students awoke and finished journaling. At 11:00 they took the final exam for the course. The afternoon was spent resting and enjoying our final day together. We drove for an evening sunset to a lookout that afforded views of the sprawling savanna.
This has been an incredible experience. Having students from both Kenya and the U.S. grapple together with conservation in savanna systems was a highlight for all of us. The wildlife here in Laikipia is astounding, the cultural history of this place is deep and rich, the current ecological research by many scientists continues to unravel the management complexities. It is a vibrant place to study how humans have and can coexist with wildlife on this our planetary home. We are left with further questions to explore and are thankful for the strong relationships we’ve developed with each other and the connections we’ve made with various landowners. These relationships are undoubtedly vital toward achieving a sustainable future for Kenya’s people and land.
– Ryan Sensenig for the entire 2013 Conservation & Research Methods in Savannas team