By Ben Leshau
Management row has rocked two wildlife conservancies in Narok county threatening conservation of the ecosystem within the world famous Maasai Mara National Game Reserve.
While land owners under the Mara North Conservancy support a joint management plan under the Greater Mara Management Limited Company (GMM), Naboisho conservancy says it can put their 600,000 acre land under better agricultural use than for wildlife activities.
The two conservancies signed a joint management venture under Seyia Limited owned by Brian Heath, that managed them over the past ten years but whose lease elapsed.
Stakeholders from the Mara North Conservancy spoken to supported the status quo arguing that it was a big boot to land owners because of the opportunities created by GMM.
“Seyia Limited was taking over 30 percent of the total tourism earnings from the conservancies, which members agreed was too high and that is why we did not renew the contract,” said James Sakat, a land owner at Mara north conservancy.
The conservancy has now signed a 25-year agreement with GMM that is managed by the Masai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA), a long term commitment to their continued involvement in wildlife conservation.
“We cannot abandon wildlife conservation because it has transformed their lives for the better,” said Sakat.
Mr Sakat said under the previous management, they earned a paltry Sh26,000 monthly for an area covering 150 acres but they will now be taking home Sh42,500, an amount he describes as ‘reasonable’.
Messrs Benard Leperes and Simon Nasarau also land owners from the Mara North Conservancy, added that they opted for the new company because its dividends appreciate by 4.5 percent annually over the 25 years.
But Naboisho Conservancy members claim their Mara North counterparts were being misled by some politicians with vested interests in the conservancies and vowed to abandon wildlife conservation and put their 600,000 acre land under agricultural use.
They argued that the money offered by GMM was a rip-off because it was not commensurate with the land size.
They have since made good their threat of invading the protected area with their livestock and formed a splinter company, Koiyaki Land Holdings to do crop cultivation and livestock farming.
“We do not want conservation anymore and as long as we fail to agree on the tourism earnings we get from our partners, we will not accept wildlife conservation on our land,”said Naboisho Conservany land owner Vincent Liaram.
The Naboisho group said they were not ready to go through the previous experience of oppression again and will instead enter into direct agreement with the investors at the conservancy.
Tourist frequent the two conservancies because of the abundance of the “Big Five” among them giraffes, lions, elephants, buffaloes and leopards that roam freely in the area.
The two groups have called on the national government through the Tourism Ministry to intervene and resolve the differences threatening the popular tourist detination