Big challenges, huge potential in Lekurruki
Elephants using the combined sand dam and road crossing finished in November 2016.
Charlie Taylor (Sand Dam Foreman at Excellent Development), reports on the complex challenges in our Lekurruki region of work, and how sand dams have been and will provoke further positive change...
To be honest I didn’t really know that much about Kenya before I started working here. I had the usual half memories from films and books and I did a bit of general reading but not a great deal of research. Moving from south eastern Kenya to the northern rangelands is like moving country. The landscape and the culture are so completely different.
This is a landscape one of huge plains and huge skies, mountain ranges, rocky promontories and lots of big wild animals. I was lucky enough to go to Tsavo when I was in Makueni and although it is immense (bigger than Wales) it is still a park. Here I am working in open countryside where wild animals still live in alongside humans. There are few restrictions to their movement and although they are scattered across the landscape this is still very much the land of elephants, giraffe, leopard, impala and many other species.
This is also the land of nomadic pastoralists. People who still live by walking their livestock following the rains and the grass alongside the wild animals with whom they are competing. There are many tribes here and they don’t always get along but the names Maasai, Samburu, Pokot and Turkana conjure up another time and another world when land ownership was unheard of and all the cattle in the world were given to them by Ngai - God.
Today the big challenge is balancing three competing priorities: grazing for domestic livestock, grazing for wildlife that brings in tourist income and water for people and animals, both wild and domestic. Sand dams can be part of that solution but the issue is really complex and putting in a new water source can make things better rather than worse. It is an irony that water points can create droughts. The high levels of grazing around sparse water points leads to stripping of the vegetation so that when the rains do come, the water runs off the soil rather than soaking in making drought conditions more likely. You can also create a hot spot where people trying to graze livestock are brought into conflict with wild animals attempting to reach water; this can result in deaths of both animals and people.
Excellent Development plan to roll this work out into other conservancies as they develop their water strategies and help reduce the need for people and animals to travel huge distances to access water and grazing.
Charlie Taylor, Sand Dam Foreman at Excellent Development.