In this Heartland, on the vast expanses of the Laikipia plateau in north central Kenya, a great diversity of wildlife thrive in the semidesert conditions. The pastoral Samburu people herd their goats, sheep, cattle and camels in the shadow of Mt. Kenya, a crucial source of water for humans and animals alike.
AWF is working with numerous partners--such as the Mpala Research Center and the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (an association of ranchers and landowners)--on several fronts. In a major research project, known as Carnivore Conservation and Livestock in Africa, Dr. Laurence Frank of the University of California at Berkeley and his team are examining the role of predators in Laikipia's food chain and exploring ways to minimize livestock losses to predators. Researchers have compiled an impressive amount of data on predator distribution and conducted extensive interviews with commercial landowners and pastoralists in the region. With the enthusiastic support of local landowners, researchers have been able to gauge population sizes fairly accurately and gain more insight into what prompts lions to attack livestock.
Laikipia-Samburu has been the focus of AWF's early efforts to develop wildlife-related businesses aimed at conserving natural resources and improving the economic well-being of local citizens. Crucial to the goals is the Wildlife Economics Series research program, which identifies ways landowners might use their holdings for wildlife preservation, tourism and other activities. Drawing on research results, the AWF Conservation Service Center is able to advise communities and ranch owners on managing wildlife businesses.
As a first step in enterprise development, AWF has devised a method called Participatory Business Options Planning. Advisers work closely with community groups to generate ideas for natural-resource businesses. Entrepreneurs learn to recognize the challenges and pitfalls of such ventures and to devise winning strategies. AWF has developed "tool kits" to guide prospective business owners.
One wildlife enterprise with high potential in Laikipia is beekeeping. An evaluation of the honey market reveals a large untapped demand for honey products overseas. In China, for example, bee venom is used to treat arthritis and sells for $100 a gram. Laikipia beekeepers need more training and technology are needed to meet international guidelines for harvesting and processing honey for export.
AWF this year completed the Laikipia Wildlife Economics Study, a series of papers that report on incentives and opportunities for maintaining wildlife on private lands.
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