Friday, September 24, 2010

Mara River Water User's Association in NEW YORK!

Following up on Amanda's post from earlier this week, Kennedy has been making his rounds in New York City as he brings the message from the Mara River Basin to the United Nations.

Who is this posing with Kennedy?  None other than Gisele Bundchen, supermodel and UN Goodwill Ambassador.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Award Ceremony for the Equator Prize

In July, we posted that the Mara River Water User's Association (MRWUA) had been awarded a 2010 Equator Prize from the Equator Initiative. As part of the award, a representative from the MRWUA was invited to New York City to participate in a 10-day long program. Kennedy Onyango, the Manager of the MRWUA, has been in NYC since September 14, participating in discussion forums with representatives from other award-winning community organizations. One of their goals has been crafting a statement community-based biodiversity conservation, which they will present at the United Nations on Thursday.

Today Kennedy will accept officially the Equator Prize on behalf of the MRWUA at a high level event sponsored by the United Nations Development Program.The theme of the evening is Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Climate Change: Scaling Up Local Solutions to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Invited speakers and guests include the Executive Secretary for the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Executive Secretary for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Award Ceremony will be presided over by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, and others. Read more about this invitation-only event here. Congratulations again to the MRWUA for winning this impressive award!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Biodiversity Conference: Day 2

Hot off the press, here are my latest notes from the 2010 International Biodiversity Conference in Kenya. Key speakers today included a representative from USAID/Kenya who gave an excellent presentation on the protection and preservation of habitat critically important both in terms of biodiversity and cultural heritage (SECURE Project). Also notable were presentations by Drs. Walter Jetz (Yale) and Andrew Marshall (University of York). Their work highlighted the important need for improved data sources for predictive planning efforts in light of climate change and land cover transformation. Tomorrow will be the final day of the conference and I am hoping for lively debate to transpire from the information presented thus far.

Mara Triange in the News

Anyone who has ever been to the Mara Triangle know of the great job Mr. Brian Heath and his staff are doing to protect the system.  If you haven't been, you should go.  Below is a link to an article that just appeared in the Daily Nation...

Human-wildlife conflict declines in the Mara

Poaching and human wildlife conflict has declined at the world’s famous Maasai Mara game reserve due to joint surveillance patrols between Kenya and Tanzania, a conservationist has said.

According to the chief executive officer of Mara Conservancy Brian Heath, tourists have increased as a result of the move. The organisation is a private company that manages the Mara Triangle, which is the North Western part of the reserve on behalf of Trans Mara County Council.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Biodiversity Conference: Day 1

The Kenya International Conference on Biodiversity, Land Use and Climate Change got off to a slow start today but showed much promise. Plenary presentations by KWS and the Tourism Board of Kenya quickly challenged attendees with the substantive problems at hand. Highlights of the day included Dr. Julius Kipn'getich and Dr. David Western. Dr. Kipn'getich eloquently described the many challenges facing Kenya and the broader East Africa region. Issues such as unconstrained population growth and a changing climate threaten the welfare of both humans and wildlife alike. Dr. Western made a simple but profound criticism: protected areas in their current form are wholly ineffectual at curbing the systemic loss of biodiversity. One key fact describes this dismal reality: species loss within protected areas (PAs) is roughly equivalent to that outside of protected areas. While the ineffectiveness of PAs may be intuited or presumed, it is another reality altogether to be presented with irrefutable facts describing the inadequacy of this foundational protective measure. An eye opening day indeed.

You can read more in the conference notes for Day 1.

Threat to Tourism

Four days ago, I linked to an article reporting that Gold is being prospected on the Kenya side of the Mara River Basin.  The Standard has now picked up the story and it is being labeled a threat to tourism.

A few choice excerpts:

Conservationists have said gold mining in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem would kill the multi-billion-tourism industry.

Maasai Mara Group Ranches consortium spokesperson Sammy Nkoitoi said on Tuesday mineral prospecting in the Mara would be an alternative for the majority who have not benefited from tourism and asked the government to intervene.

"Any alternative sources of income in the region will spell doom to conservation prospects. It is time short term benefits are weighed against long term ones," he said.

He said for years, illegal gold prospecting and trade had been going on in the reserve and asked the government to halt the development because it would kill the tourism industry, which was a major employer.

Get the full story at The Standard.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kenya Int'l Conference on Biodiversity, Land Use, and Climate Change

On behalf of GLOWS and FIU, I will be attending the upcoming biodiversity conference in Nairobi. For those of you not able to attend, I will be distributing notes from the presentations and panels. The agenda appears to be quite exciting and extremely relevant to the work of the GLOWS partners in the Mara Basin. I expect lively discussions and am hoping for more than wholly academic debate. Check back for daily updates this Wednesday through Friday.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Gold in the Mara River Basin...

Kenya reportedly strikes commercially viable gold

An excerpt...

Lolgorian is part of the extensive Greenstone Belt of the Lake Victoria that
stretches into the Mara in Tanzania, and is believed to have rich gold deposits.
The company, which is operating in Kenya as Goldplat Kilimapesa Project,
is conducting more tests and is yet to finalise regulatory issues with the Government
with a view to obtaining a mining licence. The Standard has established the deposits
are between 40,000 ounces (oz) and 60,000 ounces. An ounce is the unit of measuring
gold with one ounce equalling 28.34 grammes (0.02835kg).
This means the deposits can support mining of 4,000 ounces per year, with
a lifespan of between 10 to 15 years. Going by the current price of gold in the
international market where one ounce is trading at 1,246 US dollars (Sh100, 926
under current exchange rates), the project could earn the country 400m shillings
annually or 32bn shillings in 15 years.
The amount, say industry experts, is a boom considering small time miners
in various parts of Western Kenya according to industry estimates, produce a mere
15m shillings annually, although much of is sold to middlemen at prices well below
those in the international market.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Serengeti Highway

I didn't realize that the plans were still going full-steam ahead until I read this article.

LOOK out wildebeest, here come the cars. Tanzania's government plans to build a commercial road in the north of Serengeti National Park, cutting through the migratory route of 2 million wildebeest and zebra.
The road would cut the animals off from their dry-season watering holes, causing the wildebeest population to dwindle to just a quarter of current levels, says the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Germany. It could also be a collision zone for humans and animals, leading to casualties on both sides, and there is a risk that transported livestock would spread disease, the society adds.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has written to Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete to voice its concerns. While praising Tanzania's commitment to conservation, noting that 38 per cent of its land is already protected, the IUCN recommends carrying out a full assessment of the road's environmental impact.
Meanwhile, the African Wildlife Foundation is campaigning for the road's path to be altered so that it passes south of the park, avoiding the migration route.
Despite the ongoing campaign, the road is set to go ahead, with construction kicking off in 2012. In a recent speech, Kikwete said the best he could do was to leave the part of the road that crossed the migratory route unpaved.

I wonder what the impacts will be on the Mara...