Courtesy Jonathan T. Reynolds

Southeastern Regional Seminar in African Studies (SERSAS)

Spring 2005 SERSAS Conference
15 - 16 April 2005

Norfolk State University
NSU Main campus
JMH Lecture (Madison Hall) Room 156 (auditorium)
Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Consumptive Wildlife Utilization in Kenya:
Does Tanzania Pose a Crisis?

Draft Paper

Ngeta Kabiri
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

Not for attribution without permission of the author

Copyright 2004 by SERSAS and Ngeta Kabiri
All Rights Reserved


Kenya's conservation record, both at the state and societal levels, can not be gainsaid. In terms of the former, the commitment to conservation is evident in its participation in international movement for wildlife conservation. Kenya has signed treaties and conventions geared towards wildlife conservation and even hosting such international endeavors, as is the case with the Lusaka Agreement whose headquarters is at the Kenya Wildlife Service. Kenya has also spearheaded campaigns to save endangered wildlife species, as her vanguard role in various CITES decisions can testify (the merits and criticisms of such projects notwithstanding). At home, the state's preeminent role in conservation is inscripted in the many Protected Areas that have been set aside for wildlife. This state commitment is reproduced at the societal level. Between 70-90% of Kenya's wildlife is to be found outside of Protected Areas, courtesy of the local communities and private landholders who have over the years continued to tolerate living with the wildlife in spite of the opportunity costs that these communities and individuals incur. These conservation endeavors are, however, now beset with challenges manifesting themselves in various forms.

Conservation Challenges

The conservation terrain in Kenya is now reeling under heavy stress of wildlife protection, given the need to cushion the sector against the ever-looming threat of poaching amidst scarce material resources. There is also the specter, partly a consequence of the foregoing, of declining wildlife numbers. This is a fact that many conservation protagonists are agreed on, even those sitting on the opposite sides of the conservation divide (i.e consumptive and non-consumptive). But perhaps the critical challenge confronting the conservation sector is the apparent rupture between the state and society as partners in conservation. After what they are presenting as an arduous and tolerant hosting of wildlife in their lands, communities and private owners, perhaps reeling under the weight of a rising demography and declining living standards, are finally calling on the state for an audit of the conservation project. At the heart of this current is the feeling that the communities and private landowners bear disproportionate costs of the conservation project, yet, without commensurate benefits. This, they contend, problematizes the rationale for wildlife conservation on their lands.

So far, the state-society interaction at the level of wildlife conservation has been tilted in favor of the state. Communities are now claiming that the state has always determined, as if it is the sole player, the question of compensation from wildlife damage and devolution of property rights to wildlife. This has given the landowners the impression that the state's approach to questions of landowners' property has largely been informed by the logic of a frontier. The sanctity of private property, landowners feel, has been of little interest to state wildlife statutory agencies. Consequently, the landholders are now putting the state on notice to the effect that theirs is private land, and trespass would be confronted. With approximately 70% of wildlife living outside Protected Areas, hence as tenants of society, a backlash between state and society would spell doom to Kenya's conservation project. In light of this, it is worthwhile to inquire into what is at the center of the conflict.

The State-society Impasse

In broad terms, the bone of contention would seem to be the question of whether wildlife conservation should pay for its way. The devil, however, is in the detail. While there is not much disparity of opinion as to whether wildlife should be appropriated for commercial value, the mode of this appropriation has divided the conservation stakeholders right down the middle. The divergence of opinion is played out in terms of consumptive utilization and non-consumptive utilization (also referred to as preservationism). In a nutshell, the non-consumptive agenda can be said to be hegemonic in the circles of officialdom. It has shadowed the forces favoring consumptive wildlife utilization since 1977 when the state imposed a ban on consumptive utilization. In the early 1990s, consumptive utilization gained a reprieve when a pilot cropping scheme was sanctioned by the state. (Though even then, commercializing wildlife trophies still remained banned. Their fate was abandoned to vultures, or lucky ones were smuggled to Tanzania where the industry was flourishing. This may be seen as the first hint of the Tanzania crisis; nevertheless, the "intervention" of Tanzania in Kenya's wildlife utilization question will be posed below in a more nuanced version.)

The Impasse Matures

After a decade of piloting, the cropping program was terminated (2003). It is this latest discontinuation of the mild version of consumptive utilization that has re-ignited and galvanized the landowners not only into a campaign for recreation/sports-hunting, but also into a feeling that the state is giving in to the anti-consumptive utilization camp. The ascendance of the anti-utilization activists is viewed by the landowners as being without any regard to the landowners and the practical imperatives of wildlife conservation outside the Protected Areas. One Wildlife Forum official was quoted as saying, "I am afraid the anti-utilization activists are getting the upper hand" (Nation 1). Landowners find non-consumptive utilization of wildlife a disadvantage since the opportunities it leaves them with are limited as it requires a lot of venture capital which most communities do not have. Consequently, landowners favor consumptive utilization, particularly sports-hunting, since it requires less capitalization yet it has a higher rate of return on investment than non-consumptive utilization as currently advocated. The state has, however, opposed this on the premise that it is open to abuse by landowners. To the landowners, however, while the state's argument may enjoy some merit, it nevertheless poses some problems. It is, first, her own an affidavit that the statutory body charged with the responsibility of over-seeing wildlife management has been unequal to the task. And, since this is its mandate, the question that ensues then is one of whether it should be the landowners who ought to bear the burden of incompetence by the regulatory authority. To pose the question this way, landowners would seem to contend, is not synonymous with buying into the claim that consumptive utilization has been prone to abuse. Landowners contend that their cropping programs are carried out professionally, and with the supervision of state personnel (Pascal).

The Problem of Regional Disparities

Nevertheless, even if it were granted that there is need to stop consumptive utilization as a way of responding to the problem of wildlife decline there would still obtain the question of the viability of such a solution given the phenomenon of shared natural resources. With Tanzania pursuing a policy of consumptive wildlife utilization, how would the state in Kenya expect to achieve its objective of arresting wildlife decline in those areas that it shares wildlife with Tanzania? To pose the question thus is to problematize whether Tanzania's sports- hunting project has any bearing on Kenya. The answer is in the affirmative. This can be seen at two levels, the ecological and economic planes. Ecologically, Kenya should be interested with the question of whether Tanzania appropriates the resource flow in a sustainable way. If it does, then Kenya would have no problem with Tanzania at this level. If it does not appropriate sustainably, then Kenya would be concerned whether it makes sense for her to invest in the conservation project on her side of the border at a time when the future of such a project is clearly in jeopardy. At the economic level, assuming that there is no question premised on sustainability, how would the economic question play itself out. This is where the communities come in as sub-national actors. The question here is whether natural resources are seen as an immediate economic asset in which case they would be interested in the question of who is benefiting from it since they are also investors in the conservation project. While the Wildlife Conservation Act (1976) holds that the ecology is the principal contradiction while the economic factor is marginal, communities believe to the contrary. The latter holds that both the ecology and the economy either move simultaneously, otherwise ecology will be victimized (G.G.; Mwandawiro talk; DN on various claims that if communities do not benefit, then they will not conserve; Imre). The question then is, how does Tanzania feature in this?

If one looks at the distribution of hunting blocks in Tanzania, or in terms of the proposed Wildlife Management Areas that will have sports- hunting as one possible way of wildlife management, then the hunting industry in Tanzania bears on Kenya. There are hunting blocks or proposed Wildlife Management Areas such as Enduimet and Loliondo that are, respectively, adjacent to Amboseli and Maasai Mara communities in Kenya. The question that this raises in terms of consumptive wildlife utilization in Kenya is how the state looks at this phenomenon in terms of its conservation mandates relative to her accountability to local communities.

In one respect, it would appear that Kenya's attitude towards Tanzania's hunting policy and practice is one of the shared natural resource being an open-access phenomenon since by being trans-boundary, the wildlife inevitably becomes an international commons. In practical terms it is clear that an animal that passes-by a Kenyan landowner to enter the hunting block in Tanzania could as well be a candidate for sport-hunting a few steps away. The issue then is how Kenya can resign itself to an open-access attitude with respect to Tanzania, and yet adopt a closed- access policy whereby it pursues a non-consumptive utilization strategy with respect to its citizens who border Tanzania's hunting blocks. It is perhaps at this stage that critics of the state's anti-consumptive utilization policy begin to be infested by images of religio- fundamentalism, as the key drivers, more than a science of conservation, of Kenya's policy towards utilization (Loeffler 1). Otherwise why should it matter to the wildlife regulatory authority in Kenya, if a sports-hunter pays her dues to a Kenyan landowner instead of paying for it in Tanzania? Kenya's closed Avenues?

The Limits of International Fora

While it may be argued that two wrongs do not make a right (presupposing here that the conservation dispensation in vogue in Tanzania is amiss), then the attendant question would be whether there is anything that Kenya can do to shift Tanzania's stand on wildlife management. The window of opportunity here dims for Kenya given that the obvious recourse would be the international fora yet the instruments extant places Tanzania ahead of the race. Tanzania seems to be operating within the normative standards set by international obligations. The international instruments addressing the question of shared natural resources largely concern themselves with managing shared resources, but the conception of wildlife management in these instruments does not preclude consumptive utilization. If anything, they would be seen to support it. In Principle 21 of the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, for example, states reserve the sovereign rights to exploit their resources in accordance with their own policies. The additional requirement for states to take responsibility for damage to other states especially in instances of transboundary phenomenon may not be an issue in the case under discussion. This is because there is no understanding regarding the rights of states over a shared resource irrespective of the state it is in at any particular moment. States seem to only retain claims over wildlife bestowed on them by virtue of territorial sovereignity. The claims to such a right ceases once wildlife migrates out of the territory. Thus, in consistent with the obligations under international convention, states can only then claim to be bound by their own laws and jurisdictions.

In this context then Tanzania can therefore, claim to be within its right under international obligations to pursue a consumptive utilization policy since this is codified in its policies on wildlife management. Indeed, in its policy towards international cooperation regarding wildlife conservation, Tanzania's wildlife policy commits itself to respect international and regional treaties to which it is a party, and to promote such policies as are consistent with her stand on conservation (MNRT, 1998). As it shall be indicated below, consumptive utilization is an integral part of that stand. Hence, in implementing it, Tanzania can not be understood to be operating outside her international obligations. Tanzania is not alone in this approach to natural resources. Uganda, in her 1995 Constitution, state in the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy that utilization of natural resources "shall be managed in such a way as to meet the development and environmental needs of the present and future generations of Uganda" (clause (ii) of objective xxvii). This is the case with Botswana as well, though unlike Canada which compares to Kenya.

International obligations can also address the question of inconsistencies in rights and responsibilities as in instances where the appropriation of flow in a shared resource results in disparities. This would require joint modalities at the regional level as was envisaged in the Bonn Convention (Bonn, 1979). While there has been attempts towards this direction, these endeavors are confined to cooperation in matters pertaining to illegal off-take of wildlife. Such is the case with the Lusaka Agreement (Lusaka, 1994) and the protocol on protected areas (Protocol, 1985). The latter, however, is a good proxy to what would have been a resolution of the Tanzanian predicament to Kenya. The Protocol endeavors to address the question of the off-take of resource flow in as far as it calls for regulation of the harvest and sale of threatened and depleted fauna species (Protocol, 1985, Article 6). The limitation, however, is that in the event that consumptive utilization is confined to species outside this category, international obligations would cease being an issue. Nevertheless, disparities in rights and responsibilities would continue to the extent that one country pursues a recreational hunting policy in the absence of a protocol on benefit sharing.

Is It a Case of Making It Even?

It is, therefore, apparent that among the things Kenya could do, recourse to international fora, as presently constituted would be of little consequence since Tanzania has tried to operate within international normative standards on conservation. Perhaps it would be worth mentioning that it may even be doubly difficult for Kenya given that its desire to have Tanzania do things Kenyan way is weighed down heavily by the burden of history. What is being experienced now is a replay of the events in the 1970s when Tanzania, alarmed by game carnage, imposed a ban on hunting between 1973 and 1978. Kenya on her part continued hunting until it imposed a ban on hunting in 1977. By then Tanzania seems to have given up on proscription of hunting as a tool of wildlife management. Tanzania opted for an approach of sanctioning hunting and then regulating it. This is still the thinking in sway in her conservation terrain. Thus the onus would be on Kenya to demonstrate that the situation is now different and a moratorium on hunting would be productive. As of now, officials in the Wildlife Division in Tanzania do not give the impression that they are about to ban hunting. One official quipped, what has Kenya gained since she imposed a ban on hunting? Behind such sentiments is the perception in Tanzania that Kenya's stand is not informed by the imperatives of conservation as Kenya itself sees it but is rather imposed by outsiders (a thinly-veiled reference to the anti-hunting lobbies active in Kenya).

For Kenya therefore, the forementioned task would be a tall order given that Tanzania's termination of recreational hunting would only amount to shifting the balance of claims about the benefits accruing from conservation (as articulated by landholders in Kenya) from the Kenyan side to Tanzania. Presently, in Arusha region, for example, tourism is a major foreign exchange earner, contributing about 20% of GDP. Between 1997 and 2003, the revenue collected from local hunting was equal to that from other tourism activities (E.African 1 ). In the Monduli district bordering Amboseli, about 40-60% of the district budget is subvention from tourist hunting fees (quoted in Nelson, and it is common knowledge as I learnt the same before from claims by a village officer). Thus if Tanzania implemented even a moratorium on tourist hunting, that would attack the rationale for hosting wildlife in this area. This is because other forms of wildlife utilization, such as safari tourism, are not as prized. There is a perception in certain circles in Tanzania that Kenya enjoys a better dividend from non-consumptive tourism than Tanzania since it has a better infrastructure to support that venture thereby attracting more tourists. The annual wildebeest migration is cited as one instance that service this disparity thus, "As this happens, Kenya seems to be getting all the benefits hat accrue from this migration and Tanzania merely "feed" the park with migratory wild animals" (UNEP, 1999: 96). On the basis of this, it has been proposed that benefit sharing from the conservation of these migratory wild animals could be agreed on between the two states (UNEP, 1999: 96). This would be a difficult alternative for Kenya's case against sports- hunting in Tanzania. Kenya's experiment with benefit-sharing has not worked even with the major protagonist in conservation circles in Kenya, the landowners.

Thus it appears that while the prevalence of consumptive utilization in Tanzania is bound to put the state-society conservation relations in Kenya on a bumpy path, the Kenyan state does not seem to enjoy readily available mechanisms for halting Tanzania's pursuit of a consumptive utilization policy. This as we have seen above is so given the limitations of the international instruments extant, and the burden imposed by history. Perhaps more than this is the fact that even if Tanzania were to appear at the negotiating table on the key question of consumptive utilization, Kenya's participation would be handicapped because there is, as of now, no policy framework with which Kenya's petition would be evaluated against that of Tanzania. The nearest Kenya can go in this is perhaps to present a framework that would be a study in contradiction. While the official document in vogue is the 1975 Sessional Paper no. 3 (Kenya, 1975) that speaks to the conservation terrain in a syntax akin to that found in Tanzania's wildlife policy, that is immediately contradicted by the legislation enabling the implementation of that policy. The 1976 Wildlife Conservation Act, in its preamble, relegates the economic dimension of conservation to the realm of incidentals (Kenya, 1976). This contrasts sharply with what one finds in Tanzania.

With respect to Tanzania, the question has been settled at the level of policy and a regulatory framework activated to give effect to this. Although there are still queries and debate over its implementation on the ground, these should not mask the fact that the state has at least tabled its side of the bargain, particularly on two issues that would constitute an interaction with Kenya. The wildlife policy gives communities and landowners a central role in wildlife conservation. Wildlife officials assert that about two thirds of the policy is devoted to this aspect (WD, 2004). Secondly, economic development is recognized as the bottomline of wildlife conservation, with hunting being identified as the basis of wildlife utilization. To this extent it is instructive to note that Tanzania have had a parastatal, now privatized, for the purposes of regulating wildlife consumptive utilization as a business. The Tanzania Wildlife Corporation (TAWICO), is charged with functions that include hunting and capturing animals for the purpose of buying, selling and exporting live animals or trophies. It is also responsible for processing and manufacturing of trophies; and manufacturing, buying, selling, importing and exporting all equipment necessary for the effective performance of its functions (MNRT, 1980). Thus, the state in Tanzania, unlike in Kenya, looks forward to an active engagement with wildlife resources, and in this project, it has professed to bring on board other interested parties such as landowners.

The Imperatives of the New Orthodoxy in Wildlife Conservation

Thus in comparative terms, Tanzania is setting the pace for Kenya in implementing the New Orthodoxy now in vogue in conservation circles (USAID, 2002; WCPA, 2003). The Tanzania Wildlife Policy, for example, states that "the Government policy for the wildlife sector will aim at involving a broader section of the society on wildlife conservation particularly the rural communities and the private sector". In this context, wildlife is presented as motor for rural development and international exchange. The Policy's objectives in this regard, include, but are not limited to: promoting involvement of local communities in wildlife conservation; increasing foreign exchange earnings; integrating wildlife conservation with rural development; and ensuring that wildlife conservation competes with other forms of land use. The Policy, in terms of defining the notion of devolution implied by the foregoing objectives retains overall ownership of wildlife in the hands of the State, but bestows user rights to local communities and landholders. To this extent, the Policy states, "It is the aim of this policy to allow rural communities and private land holders to manage wildlife on their land for their own benefit." The Policy states how it would achieve this through developing "an enabling legal, regulatory, institutional environment for rural communities and private sector to participate in wildlife conservation." This would be done through establishment of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).

Wildlife Management Areas

These WMA's are defined by the Wildlife Policy as "areas set aside by the village government for the purpose of biological natural resources conservation." The Policy states that these WMA's will be a new category of protected area and will be managed by the local communities for their own benefit. The WMA Guidelines state that the purpose of WMA's is "to enable the local communities living in villages to participate in the protection and utilization of wildlife resources on village land." Such pilot WMAs are Enduimet/West Kilimanjaro and in Loliondo, areas that are adjacent to Kajiado and Narok respectively, hence the impetus informing this inquiry as defined above.

Kenya's Policy Options

It is therefore apparent that given the strides Tanzania has taken in institutionalizing consumptive utilization, and particularly the current invitation of local communities to partake in the exercise as an active party, Kenya's conservation policy/strategy stands disrupted. The question now is where this leaves KWS and local communities in Kenya. Kenya's pursuit of non-consumptive wildlife utilization will prick the antennae of communities hosting wildlife in their lands, especially those handling wildlife resources shared with Tanzania.

To secure the wildlife resources, the state will need to consider several options, the bulk of them quite fragile. One of these is to petition Tanzania for a sharing of benefits accruing from the hunting blocks along the Kenya-Tanzania border. This is a weak bet. Two, Kenya can reverse the policy of polluter pays principle and pay Tanzania for foregoing hunting along the Kenya -Tanzania border. This would depend on willingness of those against hunting in Kenya to take the tab. Three, Kenya could allow consumptive utilization to those communities on the borderlands. While this would mollify those communities, and at least give a sigh of relief to the Greens opposed to consumptive utilization (given that a blanket opening of consumptive utilization is a worse possibility), it would incite the rest of the communities who would be incurring losses without corresponding benefits. This option would just amount to bringing the contradiction (currently presented by Tanzania) closer home. Four, Kenya could throw caution to the winds and institute mass harvest such that Tanzania would be alarmed as to call for a rapprochement with Kenya without expecting Kenya to demonstrate a clear cut policy-practice coherence as Tanzania would claim to be enjoying. A moratorium on hunting would then be worked out that would remove the administrative inconveniences besetting Kenya while dealing with wildlife hosting communities, especially those bordering Tanzania. Fifth, Kenya could emulate Tanzania and admit that if the problem with consumptive utilization is not ideological but technical, then the imperatives of supervising it can be negotiated by devolving property rights to the communities living with animals. If worked out with an open platform, this approach could yield a win-win scenario: the state in Kenya, communities; and Tanzania would cease being a crisis for Kenya's wildlife bureaucracy. (But what to do with the preservationists?)

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First Online Edition: 14 April 2005
Last Revised: 15 April 2005