Yesterday we arrived in Shaba National Reserve just past nightfall. I always enjoy arriving at a place at night. You hear sounds around you – maybe a river running, palm fronds in the wind. The next morning you get to step out of your room to find what was behind the darkness the night before. My first sight this morning was the Ewaso Nyiro river only a few steps from my room.
The Ewaso is full from the recent rains, the water is the color of chocolate, and the banks are green with new vegetation. Vervet monkeys are up to their usual antics nearby, chasing each other up and down tree trunks, shrieking.
I’m staying at the Sarova Shaba lodge for a two-day workshop to develop the General Management Plan for Shaba National Reserve. AWF is hosting the workshop, which has brought together about 60 stakeholders from local communities, tour operators, members of both Isiolo and Samburu County Councils, wildlife researchers, and reps from the Kenya Wildlife Service. 13 women are attending and have been active.
Shaba hasn’t had a General Management Plan (GMP) since 1985. The new Plan will help guide the park’s conservation, tourism, management and infrastructure development.
Shaba is located along the Ewaso Nyiro river, a few km from Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves. In 2003, AWF facilitated the creation of Samburu Reserve’s General Management Plan. Under that plan, new ranger houses were built, signs and other basic infrastructure was improved, and visitors have increased. Now, the County Council of Isiolo has solicited AWF’s help in facilitating a GMP for Shaba.
By the end of the first day, an important consensus was reached. Because Shaba lies within the same ecosystem as its close neighbors Samburu and Buffalo Springs reserves – and often shares the same roaming wildlife and management issues - there was agreement among the stakeholders that one General Management Plan should be created to encompass all three reserves.
If the Samburu and Isiolo County Councils approve this move, it could unite both districts under the common goal of sustainable management of their parks. Fiesta and the Heartland team foresees tricky negotiations and planning ahead, but hope to deliver a firm Plan by September.