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Amboseli residents find rest in predator-proof bomas

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By KENNEDY SENELWA
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Before 2014, Nchoroke ole Sitonik, a resident of Injakata village in the Olgulului Group Ranch knew no peace.

He would sit up all night guarding his cattle and other livestock against wildlife attacks. The ranch is in Kenya’s Kajiado County in Amboseli.

“Living near a national park means we must be alert at all times or risk losing our livestock,” said Mr Sitonik.

“And after guarding livestock all night, it is almost impossible to engage in any productive activity during the day.”

In Enkirgirri village in Mbirikani Group Ranch in Makueni County Jeremiah Lemiti suffered the same fate.

In September 2017 for example, he lost 10 goats and 10 cows in one night after lions attacked his boma. The previous year, he lost 15 cows and 50 goats and sheep.

Nchoroke ole Sitonik’s boma in Injakata

Nchoroke ole Sitonik’s boma in Injakata Village, Olgulului Group Ranch in the Amboseli ecosystem. PHOTO | KENNEDY SENELWA | NMG

On one occasion, leopards descended on Mr Lemiti’s boma at 4pm, killing 10 lactating cows leaving nine young calves.

His family was forced to manually feed the calves and by good luck some survived.

A boma is a traditional livestock enclosure made from thorn bushes and sticks.

Olgulului and Mbirikani are part of the greater Amboseli-West Kilimanjaro ecosystem, which straddles the Kenya-Tanzania border. It is home to about 200 lions.

Olchurie Kitipai of Injakata village, in the

Olchurie Kitipai of Injakata village, in the Olgulului Group Ranch in Amboseli fixes his boma. PHOTO | KENNEDY SENELWA | NMG

On the Kenyan side, it covers the Amboseli National Park and the Mbirikani, Eselenkei, Olgulului/Oloolarashi, Rombo, Kuku and Kimana community group ranches.

Tanzania’s West Kilimanjaro (Enduimet Wildlife Management Area) for its part, comprises eight villages.

Communities living adjacent to the protected areas struggle with human-wildlife conflict.

Change of land use from pastoralism to agriculture has resulted in lifestyles incompatible with wildlife conservation.

The senior warden at the Amboseli National Park, Kenneth ole Nashuu, said that climate change, environmental degradation with land use changes pose a challenge to conservation as people encroach on wildlife habitat and dispersal areas.

“Kimana Group Ranch, which once covered 28,000 acres, now has only 6,000 acres, after the land was subdivided for agricultural activities,” he said.

To reduce human-wildlife conflict and animal deaths, in came the Born Free Foundation with predator-proof bomas (PPBs). The organisation has built the structures across five community-managed group ranches.

“The predator-proof bomas reduce night-time livestock killing, mainly by lions and hyenas, and prevent retaliatory killings,” said Born Free head of conservation programmes David Manoa.

They structures comprise strong poles made from recycled plastic, each spaced three metres apart with a two-metre high hexagonal steel wire mesh, and doors made from recycled oil drums.

A thorn barrier is planted outside to reinforce the structures. Old thorns prevent cattle from damaging the fence from inside.

The project, covering the entire Amboseli and part of West Kilimanjaro area, has been running since 2014.

“The number of people benefiting from the project, a joint venture with residents, is 5,775 so far. The heads of livestock protected is 80,575,” said Mr Manoa.

Mr Sitonik and Mr Lemiti are among those who have put up the “special” bomas.

Mr Sitonik said villagers who work for conservation groups send alerts to KWS in case of an impeding attack, which has helped to raise awareness about the need to conserve wildlife.

For Mr Lemiti, the turning point was the night in September 2017, when he lost 10 cows. He built the predator-proof bomas and now offers shelter for his neighbours, livestock at night.

“I normally advise people to build PPBs as the compensation process from the Kenya Wildlife Service is tedious and takes at least two months pending investigations,” said Mr Lemiti.

Olchurie Kitipai of Injakata village is among villagers who are yet to join the bandwagon.

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Currently, he reinforces his traditional boma by planting the thorny commiphora tree species on the edge of the homestead. He, however, plans to build a PPB soon.

There are more than 200 such structures in the ecosystem. Olgulului Group Ranch has 71, Mbirikani 100, Kimana 46, Kuku 22, Rombo five, Eselenkei 21, and West Kilimanjaro has 10.

According to Mr Manoa, in 2013, Born Free introduced a cost-sharing model in order to instil a sense of ownership of the PPB.

They cost a minimum $2,400 to put up. The cost rises with the size. Communities contribute towards the cost of the materials and provide labour mainly digging holes for the poles.

Demand is high and priority is given to individuals in areas with the highest predator conflict.

For every PPB built in Amboseli, Born Free offers a solar kit — two solar panels and efficient cooking stoves with chimneys to expel smoke from the manyatta (traditional house). Families also receive tanks to collect water during the rainy season.

According to the KWS, retaliatory killing of lions in the Amboseli-West Kilimanjaro ecosystem by Maasai morans has decreased due to development projects in the area, and the adoption of amicable conflict resolution methods.

Lions distribution in Africa. SOURCE | IFAW,

Lions distribution in Africa. SOURCE | IFAW, IUCN, DUKE UNIVERSITY

KWS works in partnership with Born Free Foundation Kenya, Big Life Foundation and Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, to address human-wildlife conflict in the Amboseli ecosystem.

The lion population in the Amboseli-West Kilimanjaro ecosystem rose to between 70 and 90 in 2013, from 50 in 2008, and now stands at about 200.

The lion, a revered predator that once roamed Africa, has become a victim of complex threats as human populations grow.

Southern and East African lions are listed as vulnerable, on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, but the West African sub-species is considered to be critically endangered.

“Human-lion conflict arises when lions attack livestock forcing people to retaliate. Retaliation using poison can kill an entire pride, along with other species,” said Mr Nashuu.

In the event of wildlife attacks in the Amboseli, residents use phones to call Big Life Foundation compensation officers. Consolation money is paid if the predator is not killed in retaliation.

“Big Life pays consolation money as a portion of economic loss. It is a give and take situation.

We use elders to persuade morans not to retaliate as soon as predation occurs,” said Mbirikani Location chief Joseph Ndoipo.

Mr Ndoipo said that the local administration, Big Life, KWS with other organisations verify the existence of the carcass in the boma and take evidence including photographs, while residents are cautioned not kill predators because if they do so, they risk being jailed.

Big Life pays about $250 as consolation for a cow. People demanding full compensation get a credit note and wait for money from Kenya’s National Treasury. Kenya forbids locals killing wildlife as it is government property.

The rules are enforced by KWS, which helps in property protection through patrols, and manages national parks as well as dispersal areas.

Senior warden at the Amboseli National Park

Senior warden at the Amboseli National Park Kenneth ole Nashuu with area residents. PHOTO | KENNEDY SENELWA | NMG

KWS compensates for human injury and livestock predation but does not cover crop raiding.

Community-managed ranches handle livestock, grazing and conflicts. Management designates areas and times for grazing.

To ensure herders and wildlife do not cross paths, scouts patrol grazing zones.

Some problematic lions are fitted with collars and tracked by trained scouts who combine the use of technology with their traditional tracking knowledge to monitor the movements of the lions. They then inform herders where to graze their livestock.

The history of PPBs in the ecosystem dates back to 2010 when Born Free took nine elders from different group ranches in Kajiado County to Liakipia County in northern Kenya where hyena attacks were common.

Born Free redesigned hyena predator-proof bomas by increasing height and incorporating the use of doors made from recycled oil drums to suit Kajiado County, where there are more cattle than sheep.

The project’s success in Kajiado County recently led the Africa Wildlife Foundation to ask Born Free to build predator-proof bomas in West Kilimanjaro.

AWF sourced materials from Tanzanian suppliers and put up 10 structures.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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