Somali pastoralists, their livestock and hirola co-occur within the hirola range in eastern Kenya. These pastoralists constitute the most neglected group in the conservation of hirola. Most individuals herd their livestock everyday for 6-8 hours, meaning they spend more time in wildlife areas than anyone else, yet they are rarely involved in conservation decision-making.
Amongst the major factors that stymied hirola conservation in the past is lack of community (Somali pastoralists) involvement. In response to this and in 2012, we initiated Herders for Hirola project with an initial membership of up to 60 pastoralists who voluntarily reported hirola sightings, mortalities and poaching through a popular hotline number operated from our field office in Masalani, Ijara sub-county of Garissa.
The Herders for Hirola project is a locally driven conservation programme (first of its kind in the region) that comprises of a wide range of age groups including the Dalinyaro (youths), who serve as wildlife ambassadors, informants and first responders to stress calls such as poaching and human-wildlife conflicts. The Duqey (elders), with their leverage to influence the communities to support conservation and the Hawenka (women) who are the main backbone of all these groups. Herders for Hirola is aimed at cultivating tolerance on Somali herders whose livestock co-exist and potentially competes with hirola
Herders receive training on basic wildlife ecology, conservation, communication, security issues, and conservation as a form of a land use. Over time, herders are trained to collect data and use GPS, allowing us to map wildlife sightings throughout the hirola range. Each Fortnight, the herders meet as a group with HCP staff to report on wildlife sightings, incidents of human-wildlife conflict (poaching, predation, etc.), community awareness meetings, and livestock issues.
In turn, these herders would benefit from our trainings, potentially improving the living standards while increasing appreciation for hirola conservation. HCP hopes to use this platform to expand the scope of our effort, granting herders and their families an opportunity to participate in hirola conservation. With the help of the herders, it is indeed likely that we will be able to monitor scattered hirola herds more closely and respond to poaching incidences more rapidly over a wider area than is possible with uniformed rangers stationed in specific zones. Through this programme, we are hopeful that wildlife will have a secure future among the local people in this part of Kenya. Please support the herders for hirola project by making a donation.