CorriDOOR Project (2020)
In East Africa, as elsewhere, it is not possible to turn back the clocks. Although people and animals lived here side by side 50 years ago, conflicts between them now occur more frequently. Wildlife and local herders use the same land and elephants destroy fields, trample small domestic animals, damage infrastructure and present a risk to the local population.
“The people in the villages are frightened to send their children to school when elephants are in the area,” says Joan Bastide, Wyss Academy Senior Advisor to the East Africa Hub in Kenya.
Mount Kenya, Kenya’s highest mountain, is also the source of the Ewaso Ng’iro river. The landscapes in this area range from an afro-alpine zone at the top of the mountain to a tropical forest belt in the middle and a sub- humid zone on the lower slopes, which transitions into the semi-arid plateau and arid plains of the lowlands. The plateau and the plains consist of bush and grassland.
The diversity of the flora in these ecosystems provides a unique habitat for many different animal species. The huge variety of wildlife in the region includes many types of birds, alongside zebras, impalas, warthogs and the enigmatic big five: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo. But these habitats have also been shaped by people and their land use.
The expansion of agricultural land, large-scale development projects, urbanization and other changes in land use are all increasing the pressure on the area around Mount Kenya. Fences, roads and the loss of vegetation cover have led to the fragmentation of landscapes and a reduction in the connections between ecosystems and habitats and in the freedom of movement of wildlife and herders. The situation is complex. The more people expand their land use, the more pressure increases on wildlife as a result of protection measures that cut across migration routes between grassland and watering holes.
Wildlife corridors as the starting point
The livestock and wildlife corridor initiative (CorriDOOR project) is one of several incubators - that is to say, testbed projects for new approaches - in the region. Essentially the project aims to ensure that migrating wildlife and local people can co-exist sustainably. It attempts to reconcile livelihoods of herders and conservation activities by taking into consideration shared interests and the competing demands of unilateral economic development. Establishing dual corridors in the Ewaso Ng’iro Basin where both wildlife and people with their livestock can migrate can be a way of mitigating conflicts and achieving mutual benefits for people and nature.
According to Joan Bastide, these alternatives to the current situation are very important: “Sometimes you travel through the area around Mount Kenya and feel as if you are in a war zone. There are fences on both sides of the road for 20 kilometres. This is a big problem.”
But who decides where and how the wildlife corridors should be set up? Who is affected by them? It emerged during the course of the project that the answers to these questions were much more complex than had been anticipated. Because everything is connected with everything else.