The northern region is set to open up for more investment after the European Union (EU) gave grants worth Sh402 million to Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) conservancies for infrastructural development.
The high-grade infrastructural equipment donated will facilitate construction of 21 airstrips within 39 community conservancies and open up internal roads to boost tourism, security, economy, livelihoods together with the conservation of nature and wildlife across 10 counties.
During the commissioning of a sophisticated road maintenance unit, comprising of a tractor, grader, backhoe, fully operating state-of-the-art workshop trailer with a 10,000 litre water tank and a functional drilling machine at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, NRT CEO Tom Lalampaa said the infrastructural equipment will improve access to essential services and facilities within community conservancies across the landscape.
Historically, the region has been marginalised with its road networks being largely poor hence hindering infrastructure projects, tourism products and other social development initiatives.
EU Head of Delegation Hubert Perr said the equipment is a boost to tourism, a huge economic opportunity in northern Kenya.
“There is a very high potential for tourism in the region but accessibility has been a huge challenge,” said Mr Perr.
The equipment donated to NRT Conservancies by EU is part of a 3.5 million euro project entitled NRT Community Policing Initiative (CPI) to help combat wildlife crime and enhance livelihood development, which will be implemented between 2018 and 2021.
“NRT’s mission is to develop resilient community conservancies that transform lives, secure peace and conserve natural resources; we are working with rural communities in building sustainable economies lined to conservation and improve their livelihoods across the landscape,” said Mr Lalampaa.
The equipment will be shared across the 39 conservancies in Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit, Samburu and Laikipia among other regions supported by the Northern Rangelands Trust.
Communities in the harsh environments of northern Kenya are said to be continuously struggling with frequent severe drought, poor healthcare and other threats posed by cattle rustling and wildlife poaching.
The communities, largely pastoralists carry the burden of ethnic rivalries over resources which consequently becomes a threat to peace and development efforts in the region.
Last year, the 31 conservancies across the NRT region recorded a 31 percent increase in revenues from tourism.
Since 2012, the community conservancies have witnessed a tremendous decline in the proportion of illegally killed elephants from 77 percent to 38 percent in 2018, showing that human and wildlife security is linked to livelihoods and revenue earnings.
“Northern Kenya is a gem that is waiting to be discovered. In addressing the underlying issues that have hampered our development, and working with partner like the European Union and NRT is critical in helping us achieve our national and county aspirations,” added Mr Lalampaa.
Image: Deputy Head of Unit, Environment, Natural Resources and Water in the European Commission Aurélie Godefry tests a tractor during the commissioning of high-grade infrastructural equipment donated to the Northern Rangelands Trust at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Grants worth Sh402 million were donated to the trust. PHOTO | VIVIAN JEBET | NATION MEDIA GROUP