By James Karuga
For 14 years, Lalo Mwakupha played hide and seek with the authorities as he poached animals and burned charcoal in the 200,000-hectare Kasigau wildlife corridor separating Kenya’s Tsavo East and West National Parks. Today, dressed in green ranger fatigues, the 35-year-old patrols the jungles he once plundered, arresting those now doing the same.
Since April 2011, Mwakupha has been employed as an unarmed ranger by Wildlife Works (WW), a company that partners with local people to protect the wildlife corridor from encroachment and poaching.
WW also sells carbon credits on behalf of the communities and 4,800 land owners along the corridor in southern Kenya. The revenues from this trade are funding water projects and education bursaries that benefit some 116,000 people in six locations.
The 30-year Kasigau project, part of the U.N.-backed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) scheme, was started by WW in 2009 to address the poverty afflicting communities living in the area, while also conserving its rare animals and forests.
Local people eke out a living through subsistence farming, which is tough due to irregular rainfall, and many poach to survive. Elephants are also threatened by external poachers looking for ivory.
WW’s answer was to come up with a model that protects wildlife and creates jobs for locals at the same time. Its founder Mike Korchinsky believes that offering communities real financial support for sustainable development programmes incentivises them to safeguard the forest ecosystem. More....