Human activity threat to Kamnarok ecosystem

Friday, March 26th, 2021 00:00 |
Lake Kamnarok Game Reserve in Kerio Valley of Baringo North Sub-County County which has dried up following rampant human encroachment. The residents have now turned the former world famous lake which was once prided as second largest in Africa after Lake Chad into a grazing field. Photo/PD/WYCLIFF KIPSANG

Wycliffe Kipsang

Lake Kamnarok Game Reserve in Kerio Valley was once famed as the second largest ecosystem in Africa after Lake Chad. 

Then, the game reserve had a population of more than 10,000 crocodiles, 400 elephants, 13 species of other mammals and a variety of rare birds.

Former Baringo County Council Clerk Peter Keitany, rampant human activities like the wanton cutting down of trees for charcoal burning and farming have reduced the lake which was gazzeted as a reserve in 1983 to bare land.

The only sign that the land was once a lake is the presence of some aquatic plants including water lilies locally known as “norok” from which the lake derives its name.

“Following a scramble for limited resources with human beings and receding water levels in the lake, the animals either perished or migrated to the nearby Rimoi Game Reserve in Elgeyo-Marakwet county and South Turkana district. This dealt a big blow to the local tourism sector,” Keitany said. 

Livestock grazing land

When People Daily toured the reserve with an area of 87.7 square kilometres last week, what greeted our arrival were thousands of livestock including cattle, goats and sheep grazing in the open field which used to be the lake, a stark reminder that the once world famous lake has been turned into a grazing field.

A dispute between more than 3,000 residents bordering the reserve and the defunct Baringo County Council and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has worsened the situation with residents vowing not to vacate the land until they are provided with an alternative place to settle.

Residents who spoke to People Daily  said they were willing to move out of the reserve to pave way for conservation but demanded that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) be entered between the community and KWS for the amendment of the reserve boundary.

“Our people have over the years been harassed under the pretext that they are destroying wildlife habitat. KWS should also restrain wild animals which have been straying into our farms, damaging our crops and endangering lives,” said the group chairman, Joseph Kiptala.

They said that the situation has adversely affected education in the area following fears that the reclamation of the lake may lead to the demolition of existing schools.

The families said that there was need for plans to be put in place for relocation of infrastructure inside the reserve including three schools, among them Lake Kamnarok and Chebukar Primary schools with a population of 345 and 250 respectively. 

Also affected is Cheptigit Primary School with a population of 225.

Seven sub-locations in Baringo North Sub-County including Muchukwo, Katibel, Keturwo, Konoo, Barwessa, Kaptilomwo and Kuikui fall inside the reserve.

The residents say they are ready to surrender land bordering the park along Kerio Valley stretching from Kapluk to Kinyach which they have been depending for agriculture on condition that the affected persons get Sh200,000 each per acre as compensation.

Lost glory

“If reviving the lost glory of the reserve should be realised, KWS should also drill boreholes outside the reserve for use by the community as it will end the human-wildlife conflict as a result of scramble for limited resources especially during the dry season,” said Kiptala.

The residents dismissed claims that they were responsible for the degradation of the reserve saying that farming activities on the Tugen Hills was responsible for the calamity as it has led to the silting of the ox-bow lake as all the soils are washed downstream.

A spot check by the People Daily in the reserve revealed that the only remaining river which passes though the reserve is also on the verge of drying up.

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