Narok University College plans to set up a climate change centre, aid build resilience of pastoralists

Kevin Wafula By Kevin Wafula , 8th Jul 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>News>Environment

Situated within easy reach of the eighth wonder of the world--- the Masai Mara game reserve--- Narok University College--- a constituent of Moi University--- plans to do more than just teach and churn out graduates into the labour market. The university college is not oblivious of the many challenges faced by the game reserve and the Masai community that hosts it.

An interview with the principal

According to Prof David K. Serem, Principal, Narok University College (NUC), “the university college wants to be part of the solution through empirical research and development”.
To help realise the Centre for Climate Change, Prof Serem said senior managers at the university will come together to work out acceptable proposals which they intend to send to donors including the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Climate change working groups etc.
Prof Serem granted us an interview on the sidelines of the Narok climate change hearing held recently at the university….read the excerpt
Question: Why climate change centre at the Narok University College?
Prof Serem: Having such a centre at the Narok university college makes lots of sense, scientifically, socially and economically.
The University is situated within 40 kilometers to the world famous Masai Mara-Serengeti game reserves ecosystem. We are also clear on the many challenges the Masai community face.
Climate change--- normal weather patterns around world over an extended period of time, typically decades or longer--- is major challenge all over the world and in Masai land, this has meant lack of rainfall over three years.
They live in Kenya’s vast marginal lands (about 80% of Kenya is arid or semi arid) and heavily dependent on natural resources for survival.
Their diet is but with the degradation of the rangelands, recurring droughts and increasing incidence of livestock diseases, their herds are diminishing and so is their diet---mainly milk and meat.
The rainfall pattern has so varied that it has left pastoralists confused forcing them into a cash economy.
When their herd numbers decrease and livestock prices poor, pastoralists resort to unsustainable exploitation of the rangeland resources such as land fragmentation for sale to speculators, for subsistence farming, woodland clearing for charcoal and timber, poaching and sand extraction from dry river beds among others.
The result is obvious to all. Maize and wheat in Narok is wilting, livestock is suffering for lack of pasture.
We must think of ways of helping pastoralists, said to be least prepared to counter the impacts of climate change and the Narok University College is best situated to play this part.
The location of this University College in Narok is thus God-send and as a university we want to rise to the occasion and take the challenge head-on.
Question: Who stands to benefit from the climate change centre?
Prof Serem: I believe that the Centre, hosted by the university which has a national mandate since it is a public university will benefit not only the entire nation, but also the global community. I see institutions, people, foundations and researchers coming to partner up with the climate change centre.
Question: What sort of issues do you see the centre help solve?
As was presented at this climate change hearing that we have hosted today, climate change is affecting literally many aspects of the pastoralist lifestyle.
In the last 3 decades, Kenya has lost more than half of its wildlife, the country’s major tourism driver.
It is estimated that climate change impacts and deforestation of the Mau Forest leading to reduced water volumes on the Mara River will lead to a crash on the population of the Serengeti-Mara migrating wildebeest.
In the Mara---Kenya’s most important protected area and accounting for 25% of Kenya’s wildlife and nearly three quarters of the protected area population--larger species particularly buffalo and hippo face starvation during the recurrent severe droughts. What is happening in the Mara clearly displays the reduced drought cycles.
Previously, droughts used to come after 10 years. But over the last few years, it is quite apparent that this has reduced to either two or one year. We may likely have a drought this year from all indications. This comes a year after the drought we experience in 2009. In the recent past we also saw droughts in 2006, 2000, 1997, 1993, 1991 and 1984.
In the long run, this will impact tourism negatively. Figures from tourism industry show that in 2010, Kenya received 1.1m tourist earning Kshs 73.68billion.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve has remained Kenya’s highest-earning protected area, grossing Kshs 1.2 billion to Kshs 2 billion per year.
Other than coastal attractions, Kenya’s tourism largely rely on nature, especially wildlife mainly the Big five and the Great Migration.
Our country’s wildlife is mainly on pastoral land principally on Narok, Kajiado, Samburu, Taita-Taveta, Laikipia, Nakuru and Coastal region.
It is common knowledge that with rise in the frequency and intensity of droughts due to changing weather patterns, destruction of the Mau forests and pastoralism that is not scientifically-driven, we are bound to further depress wildlife population.
We also know that when droughts intensify communities will push into protected areas and when their livestock die they will poach to survive. What will happen then? Who is there to help communities adapt to their new environments or adapt to new changes that are occurring daily?
Questions: So as far as you can see, the climate change centre will basically try to offer solutions to tourism in the Mara?
Prof Serem: Yes and more. We see the centre seeking solutions to climate change using the diverse cultures in pastoralist communities, seek solutions from the indigenous knowledge and also tap from the technology and innovations from larger global community.
The university is also coming up with some form of affirmative action to help develop local professional capacities. Unlike other universities, we are open to students with even D plus. We want to encourage them to join at certificate level so that we may help them grow through the education ladder with possibility of opting out for jobs at any of these academic levels.
The idea behind all this is to build a pool of professionals who will be able to help communities mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Question: Any local partnership?
Prof Serem: Yes. There is this Indigenous Livelihoods Enhancement (ILEPA) headed by Kimaren ole Riamit that we have started working with and are planning to enter into some form of structured Memorandum of understanding between ILEPA and our department of Natural Resources.
With ILEPA, we are beginning to look into the rights-based approaches to the responses to climate change. We have so far done some bits of work together. For example, the Natural resource department has done a case study on Loita forest with the ILEPA.
Since climate change is not exactly a new phenomenon, the centre will also be interested to know the time-tested adaptation responses from the pastoralist communities. We will tap into the discovered native knowledge. This will be our starting point. You know this will be different from existing approaches which tend to discard native knowledge leaving it in disarray.
This could be the main reason why indigenous knowledge holders can no longer depend on it. Pastoralists can no longer predict rainy seasons and therefore many are being caught pants-down with droughts. Such a thing could never have occurred if this native knowledge was appropriately harnessed.
Thanks to the partnership we have with ILEPA, a community manual has been given us. We are also planning on training of trainers on community approach to climate change. There might be some move also towards coming up with a curriculum on this.


Game Researve, Labour Wonder Of The World, Masai Mara, University

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
8th Jul 2015 (#)

Thanks for this share, Kevin. We are supposed to live in harmony with nature in every way - we seem to tussle with it now! siva

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