The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) on Monday announced a partnership with BIDCO Africa Limited, a manufacturer of fast-moving consumer goods, to promote co-existence between communities and wild animals at the Amboseli ecosystem.
John Waweru, KWS director-general said the new collaborative venture with industry will focus on empowering communities adjacent to Amboseli wildlife refuge in order to boost their involvement in the protection of iconic species.
Under the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between KWS and BIDCO Africa Limited, communities adjacent to Amboseli wildlife sanctuary will be supported to grow sunflowers and engage in beekeeping as alternative sources of livelihoods.
Waweru said cultivation of sunflowers that are not a favorite staple for giant land mammals like elephants will minimize their hostile encounter with farmers.
He said KWS will be purchasing sunflower seeds from BIDCO at a subsidized cost and distribute them to farmers for planting at areas that are deemed human-wildlife conflict hotspots.
Chris Diaz, BIDCO Group director said the new partnership with KWS will ensure that farmers are provided with inputs such as seeds, fertilizers alongside agronomic know-how to enable them to earn a decent income from sunflowers and protect the Amboseli ecosystem.
He said that women and youth groups will be incorporated in the agri-business project near the Amboseli wildlife sanctuary to enhance their involvement in the protection of threatened species.
Dickson Lesimirdana, KWS deputy director in charge of devolution and community service said that nearly 300 farmers have been mobilized to plant sunflowers at the onset of the rainy season in March at locations that are epicenters of human-wildlife conflict.
“The target is to scale up sunflower cultivation in all locations where elephants and other large herbivores raid farms and destroy crops,” said Lesimirdana.
Research has shown that sunflowers are not considered a source of food by these animals and could help lower human-wildlife conflicts within the Amboseli ecosystem,” he added.
He said that 90 percent of human-wildlife conflicts experienced in the Amboseli ecosystem involve crop-raiding while 80 percent of perpetrators are elephants.