Lewa: “What can Tech do for Wildlife & Community Conservancy” | Talks at Google


GINGER THOMPSON: Hi, everybody. Thank you for your patience
with us as we get started. My name is Ginger Thompson. I’m with Lewa Wildlife
Conservancy here in the US, and I’m the executive director. I’m here with my
colleagues Geoffrey Chege, who’s our chief conservation
officer, who flew in from Kenya a couple of days ago,
and John Battelle, who’s on our US board
and actually about to become vice president
of our US board. We’re here to talk to you today
about Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and really a much bigger
movement that we’re the engine room for in Northern
Kenya in an effort to take a very
large area of land and put it into
conservation management, conservation that’s
actually community centric. So we are a community
conservation organization. We’re going to play a video
for you so you get a sense and a feel of the place itself. But following our
conversation today, there are a few
things that we think it’s important to step away
with from our tech talk here. The first is that Lewa is
a small but very prominent organization in the
conservation field, in community conservation, and
particularly in East Africa. We’ve become a model for a lot
of other public and private organizations attempting
to preserve wildlife by working with
communities to do so. It’s got a big vision. It’s got a great team. And we’ve had financial
efficacy for many, many years. So there’s lots to
be said about Lewa, and you’ll hear more about us. We have an enormous
opportunity today to do something that really
hasn’t been done anywhere, which is to create a massive
wildlife area in Africa that can sustain all the iconic
species that we’ve talked about over years in Africa,
but also sustain livelihoods of people who are pastoralists
who have worked and lived with animals, this wildlife,
for generations and millennia, really. And that opportunity is unique
to this area of Northern Kenya. Finally, we have a very
critical issue going on, which I’m sure you’ve all read
much about, which is poaching. Poaching has reduced the
numbers of elephants, and rhino, and big cats, and wild
dogs extraordinarily in the past 10 to 15 years. The demand for ivory, the
demand for rhino horn, the demand for pelts, the
demand for all sorts of organs has grown so dramatically. And it’s really been taken
up by criminal gangs that are using international
ports to move goods to raise lots of money for
terrorist activities, et cetera, et cetera. That single issue
of poaching has reduced populations
of elephant and rhino from the millions
down to the thousands. So we need help in
keeping this all growing and restoring wildlife to this
wonderful area of Northern Kenya. And that’s what we’re
here to talk to you about. Community and conservation
are symbiotic. You can’t conserve
wildlife areas without the people
involved in doing so. It’s a human issue. It’s not a wildlife issue. It’s not a habitat issue. It’s a human issue,
conservation. So the great lessons
and the billions of dollars that were spent in
conservation over the last 50 to 75 years here and
elsewhere in the world is that those dollars
were ill spent because they didn’t
incorporate people in the mix. And Lewa has really
led the charge on community conservation. We started a surrogate group
called The Northern Rangelands Trust in 2004. We now have 11,000 square
miles of land in conservation management, and we’re
hoping to go much further. We are a 62,000-acre
conservancy, so we’re a place. But we’re also a much
larger organization. We’re the anchor for
this massive movement in Northern Kenya. Wildlife and community
go hand in hand. These are stats on poaching. And Community
Conservation is the name of the game, Community
Center Conservation. I’m going to show a short video
of Lewa to give you the feel right now. NARRATOR: In June of 2013,
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy was inscribed as an extension of
the Mount Kenya World Heritage Site, a testament to
the years of dedication in creating this unique
catalyst and model for community-based
conservation. IAN CRAIG: Lewa has a spirit. People work here 24 hours. They go the extra mile. And it has a heart and a soul. ANNA MERZ: I think this place
has got its [INAUDIBLE]. Certainly I feel it and love it. NARRATOR: The success of the
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is unquestionable. You only have to look at
the thriving populations of wildlife, particularly of
two notable highly endangered species, and the harmony with
the surrounding communities to know that this
is a model that works– a catalyst
for conservation across this region of northern
Kenya and potentially way, way beyond. JOHN KINOTI: People who didn’t
have water, they have water. Women who didn’t
have businesses have businesses because we’ve
been able to involve them. It becomes like my
gasoline to move on. I can actually carry on. NARRATOR: In East Africa,
where wildlife numbers have been declining
for many years, now here is an established
and proven model which is reversing this trend. MIKE WATSON: Lewa really is the
story about one amazing woman, Anna Merz, and an
endangered species, and the vision of
one man, Ian Craig. NARRATOR: In 1970, there were
20,000 black rhinos in Kenya. Through poaching, this
figure had plummeted by 98% to only 280 individuals
in just 12 years. Kenya is an exception
within East Africa in its acceptance of
private-sector partnerships and conservation. With this freedom,
Lewa has spawned a new concept in
conservation– that of a private, public, and
community-based partnership. Of the over 600
black rhino in Kenya, a figure currently
rising at around 8% annually, 45% have found them
private sanctuaries very much modeled on Lewa. A large part of the
success is thanks to the extensive security
setup on the conservancy. MIKE WATSON: In the Lewa
Security Department, we have well over 150 people, 30
armed Kenya police reservists. They are armed by
government, and they are employed and managed by us. NARRATOR: Lewa has also
been leading the way in developing methods of
moving large numbers, sometimes hundreds of animals from
one location to another, working regularly with the
government-run Kenya Wildlife Service in joint operations. With this expertise
and the reservoir of wildlife within
Lewa, the Conservancy has huge potential to act as
a supply and source of animals for new community conservancies. The Kenya Wildlife
Service provide Lewa with a highly-skilled vet. His salary is
covered by Lewa, who also provide logistical
support and assistance. This enables him to
spread his expertise, providing timely and
effective wildlife veterinary intervention
right across the region. It is this kind of
cooperation that builds on the close alliance
and symbiotic relationship between Lewa and the
people who reside just beyond the borders
of the conservancy. Lewa’s vision extends
well beyond the horizon, recognizing that the
welfare of local communities is integral to the welfare
of the ecosystems on which so much depends. EDWARD NDERITU:
Through health care, through education, through
employment and security to the people who live just the
other side of the fence line. These communities act as
a first line of defense. And we will receive
information from them long before any poacher
or potential poacher get foot into Lewa. JOHN KINOTI: The Lewa
Community Government Program entails dealing with the
communities around us in Lewa. We are trying to
positively influence the community towards
wildlife conservation, because we believe the
success of conservation work can only be possible if the
communities can believe in it. FAITH RIUNGA: Lewa
Wildlife Conservancy now is working with 15 schools. All these schools are
government schools. The Lewa [INAUDIBLE]
Education Program is going to be governed
by stakeholders. We will include the government. We will include KWS. We will include Lewa and
NRT, and also representatives from the community so that
the approach is holistic and the needs are coming
from the community. We are happy that
this is happening, because out of this
successful program we have had here, then we shall
be able to do it elsewhere where it is needed. NARRATOR: Lewa has become
a catalyst for conservation in the region, and the
model many conservancies strive to emulate– a model
for monitoring and protecting endangered species and managing
habitat to maximize diversity. It has become a
model for ensuring that conservation benefits
local communities, a model for sustainable
conservation and research, and a model through investment
in self-generating revenue streams for securing that
conservation and perpetuity. IAN CRAIG: We’ve
got a foundation to move proactive,
community-based conversation across a massive landscape
of Northern Kenya. And it wouldn’t without Lewa. GINGER THOMPSON: The video gives
you the sense of the place that some of you here have visited,
but most of you probably haven’t. It’s a small piece of land
in this vast landscape. And so much potential. We’re the gateway to
this northern area, and we’re also the engine room
for the actual conservation work, for the community
development work, for building buildings
that need building, for fencing where
there’s fencing needed for all sorts of
road building, lots and lots of different things
that Lewa actually provides the manpower, the skill set, the
talent for in Northern Kenya. I’m going to stop and let
you know that we have a goal to take 11,000 square
miles– about the size of Massachusetts–
and grow it to 35,000 square miles of open
range land for wildlife and for the pastoralist
people who live with it. And that’s a great, big,
huge, enormous goal, but one that we actually
see in our sights. We see it happening
in the next 10 years. And that 35,000 square
miles, roughly the size of the state of Indiana. So it’s a pretty big area. With the right help and with
all of you, we can get there. I’m just going to say one or
two words about these guys. Chege has earned his stripes
as our conservation head. He was rolled over or rolled
on upon by a 1.5-ton rhino. So we all come by our
stripes in different ways, but he has a pretty unique one. And John has really
been involved in a lot of the community
development work on Lewa– bringing solar to
schools, to health clinics. He’s really single handedly
moved us into a new energy era. And granted, it may be a
first step for all of you, but it was a huge step for
this area of Northern Kenya. So we’re going to
let them carry on. Thank you. And by the way, I want say
thank you to Katherine, too, for organizing us here. She is also a member
of our board now, and we’re so
delighted to have her. And thank you to all of you. JOHN BATTELLE: I get to
talk about why it matters. Why should we care? Because I come to the
same place you guys do. This is our backyard. It’s halfway around
the world, and we’re going, why does it matter. Why do I care what
happens over there? And there’s a couple
components that are really, really critical. The fact that you’re sitting
here is a first step. But on a broad, global
scale, this really comes down to
challenges that are going to happen with
biodiversity and challenges with resources. The reality is we don’t
have enough on the planet. And we need to link
the understanding behind biodiversity and wildlife
to the benefit of all of us. For now, the easiest one
that we can talk about is the reality around terrorism. If we’re not defending
against poaching, if we’re not out
there protecting wildlife and diversity
biodiversity, the activity and the civil unrest that occurs
from that affects all of us here no matter where it’s
happening around the world. We’re talking about
North Kenya, bordered by Somali and Ethiopia,
and the reality is that it’s a front line
of where we can actually make a difference. The beauty is that the
people in Kenya, specifically North Kenya, would
want nothing more than to be able to live the
way that they currently live and have a better life. And we have the tools, or
the beginning of the tools, to make that impact. And you guys can be
a huge part of that. So that’s why we should care. The reality is that
premature extinction is going on around us. The baseline that has been
measured way back when, they measured what
the plant normally would handle in
terms of extinction. In 2005, we were– I’m going
to flip my slide here– we were 1,000 times the level
of natural premature extinction. By the end of the
century, they expect it to be 10,000
times that level. And the fact is that
when the planet is going through this exercise of
trying to adjust to what humans are doing, it can’t keep up. 50% of the population
on this planet get its livelihood from
biodiversity and natural resources. And if those aren’t
there, their livelihoods go away– their
ability to eat, ability to find jobs,
ability to survive. And that turns back
into the first slide, which is about this challenge
of why we should care. We look at premature
extinction, which is happening at a much more
rapid rate, caused by us. We have the loss
of biodiversity, the loss of livelihood,
food, water resources. And in the end, it affects
everyone on this planet. So we need to make this jump
to understanding this bigger picture. And I know you guys
are capable of that. You guys do it every day. You’re looking way out there. What we want to talk
to you today about is how we take that
vision and your skills and figure out how
we can actually map better picture specifically
right now in North Kenya. Chege. GEOFFERY CHEGE:
Thank you very much. And thank you, Ginger, for such
positive compliments regarding being rolled over by a rhino. It doesn’t happen every day. But the moment as it comes to
Lewa, take it as a challenge and you move on. And I thank god that I’m
standing right in front of you today to talk about
my experience. But that aside, we
believe that technology has got a significant role
to support conservation, to support protection,
and to support the security of wildlife
and people in Kenya and all over the world. And as we try to
understand nature, as we try to make the
linkage between the wildlife and community development,
we have quite a number of technological advancements
that we have implemented on the ground in an
attempt to secure the land both for
wildlife and for people. Part of the technology
that we’re talking about include fixing of
GPS tracking devices on wildlife, on
elephants, on rhinos, so that we know exactly where
they are on a real-time basis. We are more into
fixing of camera traps. Ginger mentioned about Lewa been
small, being completely fenced, but we have quite a number
of gaps that allow wildlife to come in and go out. So we have fixed quite
a number camera traps so that we can understand the
dynamics of the movement one wildlife outside and
then when they come back. We are very much into digital
radio communication, which is very important in
this era of poaching, in this era of terrorism, in
this era of insecurity issues that John has just alluded to. Digital communication that
we are using at the moment, they are secure,
they are encrypted, and there is no
way that anyone is going to hack into them unless
you’ve been given access to it. We are starting to get much more
into ID-based identification, individual wildlife
identification software, so that we can track individual
animals on a daily basis, on a monthly basis,
annual basis, and then we can recreate their
life history tables, their life history strategies as we
move forward, we move on. All of these are an
attempt to secure space for wildlife
and also people. Everything that we are doing,
we are not doing on our own. We are unto partnerships
with very many people. We believe that
scale is critical, and that’s why we have
partnered with other people in the region, including
a group like you, including people
like you, because we believe in tapping the
right kind of expertise. And that’s one of the
reasons why we are here. We are into collaboration
and partnership with Save The Elephants,
of which some of you may be aware about that
particular organization. We’re in partnership with the
Zoological Society of London. We are in partnership with
the Kenya Wildlife Studies, with the Custodians of Wildlife. In Kenya, we are in
partnership with Sarfaricom, who are the biggest
mobile telephony provider in the country, WildlifeDirect,
and several zoos and many other conservation
organizations in all over the world. JOHN BATTELLE:
What’s coming next? This is actually a
pretty easy step for us. If you look at what
we’ve done in the past, a few years ago, if we
could get a solar panel up, we were really kicking butt. But the reality is
that the ability to do that is pretty simple
now in terms of solar, wind, LED lighting, all that
kind of technology. There actually is
infrastructure in place that’s usable and functions
pretty well within East Africa, specifically in Kenya. So those resources are things
that we don’t necessarily focus on. Cellular technology,
a huge shift for us which really affects you
guys from our standpoint and why we can use
you even more today than we could five years ago. Originally, and
even today, we’re really still in the voice
communication world. We’re just moving
into the data world. But the ability from
a cellular tower perspective to
get communications over large regions,
that’s happening. So we’re now looking at
first-generation apps, first-generation baking
tools, those kind of things. And those are where
we are at today. We’re looking at
that high-level, granulizing those down into
the next generation of things. So we’re leveraging
smart spatial monitoring for conservation. We’re looking at things
for security like drones. Everybody is talking
about drones. We are looking at
forward-looking infrared. We’re looking at better ways to
use existing technology that’s cheaper and faster and so forth. But that’s not the
leap we need to make if we’re going to take over
and try to develop 35,000 square miles of land
for conservation. We have to really take a leap. But today we’re in this
phase of really starting to bring technology to bear
on a lot of the core things that we’re doing today. GEOFFERY CHEGE: I think I
would like to dive into some of the challenges
that we’re facing in Kenya at the moment and
indeed the entire North Kenya landscape. And one of the most
critical points is the issue about insecurity. My colleague Ginger
alluded about poaching. We need to secure the landscape
for the benefit of wildlife and people. Without security, then
there’s nothing far. We will not move far. We need to reduce the
international demand for wildlife products. That is something that
we have got to do. It is all linked to terrorism. It is affecting us. It is a global issue. And we’ve got to
fight it as a team. We need to ensure that we engage
the right kind of community partnership. We need to bring on
board the communities so that we can secure
their livelihood, we can secure their health
care, we can secure their water needs, we can secure
their educational needs, and everything. The other major
challenge that we are facing in the country at the
moment is population explosion. In 2012, the
population of Kenya was approximated to be
about 44 million. By 2050, it is
projected that it is going to be about 94 million. And that is a
significant growth. What does it bring on board? One is that there is going
to be massive pressure on the resources. That is going to lead
to habitat degradation. It is going to lead
to habitat loss. It is going to lead to
isolation of landscapes that were initially
interconnected for the benefit of wildlife. I’m not forgetting the increment
in the human wildlife conflict. The other challenge that
we are facing at the moment is that it’s only about 40%
of the country’s wildlife that is within the
formally protected areas. It could be government,
it could be private, it could be community. But 60% of Kenya’s
wildlife lives in areas that are not
formally protected. And this is where now you’ve
got the greatest opportunity in terms of jumping in and
ensuring that that place is secure for the benefit of
not just wildlife but people. My colleague Ginger
alluded about Lewa being a kind of place in scale. I just want to give you
a context of what you’re talking about in relation to
the entire of Northern Kenya. Lewa is just this tiny
piece that is over here, 62,000 acres of land. And what you’re
seeing farther north in terms of all of these
yellows is a significant matrix of community
conservation areas that have established under the
umbrella of the Northern Rangelands Trust. On our south, we’ve got the
government-owned North Kenya forest and national park. So the current area that has
been protected at the moment is just about
11,000 square miles. And you would like to increase
that one to scale it up about 5,000 square miles. We’ve got great
opportunities that I’ve just presented along the
way, and especially in the last few years. One of them is about
the new wildlife act. Our president just signed
the new wildlife act in 2013. Part of that act is it is
galvanizing conservation as an alternative
for more land use. It is galvanizing the
establishment of conservancies as an alternative for land use. It could be community. It could be private owned. Last year, we got in to the new
constitution in the country. It is devolving
functions that initially used to be vested in
the state government. So things to do with
management of some of the natural
resources have been invested in the
county government or the regional government. And they’re making
significant contributions so that they can secure those
landscapes and wildlife so that they can benefit
their particular region. And number three is that all
of these landscapes, the yellow polygons over here,
they are all managed under the umbrella of
a Northern Rangelands Trust, which is formed in 2004. It was born out of Lewa. So opportunities are there. [INAUDIBLE] is growing. And we need to
partner with everyone and bring everyone on board so
that we can move and scale up. GINGER THOMPSON: I think
it’s important to note that those yellow areas
are all community owned. So they were community
ranches that very likely would have been split up into
individual small farms or shambas. And because of this
conservation act, it’s formally recognized
as a legal structure for tax purposes for all
purposes in Kenya now. So those group ranches have
become conservation areas and won’t be broken up. And that’s really important. JOHN BATTELLE: But
they were really becoming that well
before the act. The act picked up on a lot of
the trends that were happening. In working with
pastoral communities, we looked at how do we protect
wildlife and give you income without you breaking apart
the potential for wildlife. And this is where a lot of these
have been developing out of. This is way before the act. And now the act gives us
leverage to do it even grander as well as give legitimacy
to the exercises that we’re trying to
accomplish to the north. GEOFFERY CHEGE: Thank you
very much, John and Ginger. I think it’s very critical,
because there are tools– where it was being crafted, it
was very consultative. So what is happening in Northern
Kenya informed the new act. In terms of why we need to
forecast on Kenya’s vast lands, Kenya’s wilderness, one critical
point is that Kenya is vast. It has got some very vast, open
landscapes, which presents us with some perfect
opportunity in terms of conserving the
wildlife that is there and ensuring the livelihoods
of the people who live amidst to the wildlife
that is integrated within. Why is that possible? Because Kenya has got some
of these few landscapes where wildlife and people
do live side to side. Going back to the 1960s the
1970s, what used to happen is that we used to have
abundant wildlife densities. These used to be a
lot in Northern Kenya. But in the late
1970s, they were all decimated because of
quite a number of factors, of which poaching was
one of them to supply the legal markets. We had bush meat poaching. We had incremented a
population of people. And all that has been
bringing significant pressure on the resources. But now with an evolved
government, with a new wildlife act, with Lewa being on board,
with all the other partners who are on board, we’ve got
a perfect opportunity of recreating buck
what used to be there. So our vision as of now is
that it is very possible to use technology so that
we can secure the landscapes for the benefit of wildlife. And we make that particular
wildlife continue being abundant and
actually flourish. JOHN BATTELLE: You can
leave that slide up for a second, Ginger. Because there’s two points
that I want to say about that. What we’re talking
about is how do we empower communities
that are there to be able to survive the way
that they choose to survive within their own communities. And the way to do
that is holistically. It’s a way to
integrate how they live with advancements
in technologies and bettering their ability to
drive income from how they live amongst the land and
amongst the wildlife. How do we mitigate
challenges with wildlife so that they need the
wildlife and want the wildlife to be there? Because that also
brings them income through eco lodging and all
kinds of other components, which we’ll get you some
examples of in a little bit about some of
things we’re working on which can explain
a little better. But our vision
that we’re looking at in the future– you want
to move up on the slide– the vision that
we’re looking at is what we’re calling a
technological organism. The way that I look at that is
that it’s like a human body. We have a heart. We have a liver. We have a kidney. We have lungs. We have all these things that
can function independently of each other and have
very specific tasks. But they do not
function and can’t survive unless the whole is
functioning and surviving. So they need to work
together in order to do that. And this is about working
with multiple communities across a large area to create
a functioning organism that can function and work
together on multiple levels so that everyone can
succeed– not only wildlife, but also community. And that’s we’re talking
about trying to create. That’s a vision that we
need to come up with. GINGER THOMPSON: Sorry. We really believe it’s
possible to connect people in different places so that
if I have my cattle over here and there’s a pride of
lion coming through, somebody can warn me
that the lion are there and I won’t put my cattle in
a nighttime boma or protected area near where the
lion are coming. I can move them a little
bit further afield and herd them to a
different location, and therefore I won’t
lose my livestock when the lions come through. JOHN BATTELLE: The point
is, what we’re evolving is, we need to develop a very
sophisticated management platform that can be dynamic
and changing, that can handle the amount of data and
the amount of points that we would want
to be able to handle, and be able to
recognize spatially the differences between them. And I’m not talking about
smart technology everybody is talking about today, which
is really about a single focus conservation approach and
solving a specific problem spatially for rangers
in a conservancy. There’s a lot of great
technology coming out. What I’m talking
about is spatially looking across
multiple communities doing different activities. One might be a farmer. One community might
be pastoralists. Another one might
be herding goats. Another one might actually be
developing some other thing. We need to be able to see across
35,000 square miles with all these different conservation
managers, with all the different elders, with
all the different conflicting issues that go on and be able to
support those organizations as though it’s living. And to do that, we need a
management platform that can support that,
and we need tools that can adapt to each
individual component and work interconnectedly
together so that we can look at it on a much bigger
scale and be able to say that. We need really strong
push-pull technologies, like Ginger was talking about. We need be able to alert
particular areas that hey, there’s a lion in your area,
so don’t put your cattle there today. Because if a lion kills
the cattle, guess what, they’re going to kill the lion. But the lion
actually brings them other income and other
biodiversity, which they need. But it’s hard to
necessarily get that across. So we need to be able to
look at a much bigger scale. We need to be able to look at
one community over here who’s making beads for income and
connect it to a community that could be 100 miles
away making necklaces that needs beads instead of
them buying beads from China. We need to be able to see
things completely different than we can see them today. Because today, while we’re
getting more granular, we’re still singularly
silo focused. Because we can’t see
across those problems yet. So this is where
your ability to help us look at this in a different
can be really valuable to us. GINGER THOMPSON: We have
a whole lot of examples, but we also have a little
bit of a time crunch. So we’re going to
go very quickly through a couple of examples
of work that we’re doing, and you can get a sense
of how things can change. It’s going to be very quick. And then we’re going to
open it up for questions. GEOFFERY CHEGE: We’ve
mentioned that Lea has been an anchor,
the heartbeat of what goes on in Northern Kenya. And we have perfected
some of the systems that we are taking place. One of them is about
trans-location or different wildlife species, regardless of
whether it is just one animal or they are hundreds. This particular one was
trans-location of rhinos from Lewa to a
contiguous neighbor. And we have planning that
we are going to take more into one of the
community conservancies. And this is a first of its kind
in terms of community, private, and then government partnership. The other one is about
the connecting ecosystems that were initially isolated
from each other because of human development. This one is depicting
an ecosystem that is farther north. They are depicting
Mount Kenya above us. And then we have got
the sky blue outline, that is over here. That is Lewa. And we have got significant
human development that is over here. And what has happened is that
these two ecosystems have been split, or they
had become isolated because of development. But what happened
in 2009 and 2010 is that Lewa and other
like-minded partners came together and they created
a 16-kilometer long wall of corridor fully
fenced on both sides. And that is funneling
wildlife, especially elephants, from the high altitude
areas of Mount Kenya to the low-line areas of Lewa. I’m trying to depict movement
pathways of two animals. The red tracks are
the movement patterns of one particular animal that
we had nicknamed the mountain bull. And you can see the way he used
to smash the fences over here on his way to mountain
and then on his way back. But the establishment
of the corridor, you can see that most of them
have actually been funneled. So what does that lead us to? Inter-mitigation of
human-elephant conflict. JOHN BATTELLE: The thing
about the other slide that’s really,
really critical is that the partnerships
between the farms, the communities, the
conservancies, the government, to actually get commitment to
build a 16-kilometer corridor connecting 2,500 elephants
on Mount Kenya to 10,000 to the north to give them a
safe route had never been done. And it really is a
spectacular achievement to actually see that succeed. And we know that
we can actually do more corridors and
other areas to continue to expand the interconnectedness
of these wide open spaces. GINGER THOMPSON: A lot of people
believed it wouldn’t happen, that the elephants
wouldn’t use the corridor. But within the first 24 hours,
Tony, the yellow elephant that we saw on the
map, went through. So all the others followed. It was a great experiment. JOHN BATTELLE: It was
really spectacular. It was was amazing to see that. Grassland management
ties into the vision of what we’re talking
about on a larger scale, about 35,000
square miles. If you look to the
right, you will see grasslands that
have been overgrazed, which is why there are
no wildlife for quite awhile in North Kenya. Overgrazing or pastoral
communities– we’ve got cows, we want them to have the grass. Tribal conflict– you’ve
got better grass than I do. We’re going at it. So that’s what you
see on the right. What you see is through
the use of science and other things, the
redevelopment of grasslands, amazingly, cattle is the
way to redevelop grasslands. So by using cattle correctly
and by education and training, we can use cattle
to actually rebuild the grass, which makes the cows
fatter, which makes everybody happier, which takes
more money to market, which makes communities happier. So grassland management
is an incredible tool to help all these
pastoral communities. When the grasslands are
improved, wildlife comes back. Because wildlife knows
where the good grasses are. So now we have to
work on how do we mitigate the challenges between
the grassland and the wildlife for cattle and so forth. There’s been a
lot of great stuff that we’re working on with
lion predation and so forth to actually educate how to
protect cattle from wildlife. These are low technology
things that we’ve been doing, and they’ve been
very successful. But now we’re looking at
it on a much bigger scale, so we have to start getting
a lot more creative in how we help these
communities do that. GINGER THOMPSON:
Anybody here have a question they want to ask? AUDIENCE: How did you
get that first corridor in that three-way partnership
between the government and private? GEOFFERY CHEGE: In terms of
how we got the corridor moving, we had a government entity
that owned Mount Kenya. And from there the
private organization that is Lewa on the lower side. And then from the in-between,
we had the private farms that used to be or experience
significant human-elephant conflict. So we had three
willing partners who came together around
the table and realized that there was a
problem here, and there was a need to
solve this problem. So how do you go about it? The private owners
of their farms said that we are going to
donate this piece of land, because they are pro
conservationists. They donated this piece
of land so that you guys, you can create the corridor. So farming also decided
the corridor was fenced. We had a major
underpass that was dug into one of
the major highways. In one of the slides, you may
have seen we had elephants. We also had
[INAUDIBLE], and that is an underpass that is
functioning very well. So it was about
willing partners who came on board, realized
that there was a problem, and then they put their minds
together to solve the problem. GINGER THOMPSON: There’s a lot
of generosity involved, too, on the landowners’ part. They contribute the
land to it, farmers did. And obviously there
were individuals. In fact, there’s one
lady who contributed most of the actual cash
who is right from here, from Palo Alto, and
heard about this and thought that was something
she wanted to support. So it’s very local. Let’s see. “Are there plans
to share these learnings and strategies with other
wildlife organizations?” It just disappeared again. Sorry. “Namely, tiger
conservancies in India.” Lewa hosts groups from
all over the world on Lewa to be a demonstration site for
how you can manage wildlife in contiguous areas or in
sparsely-connected areas. So we’ve had people– huge
groups from China, in fact. There is a conservancy
now in Southern China that has been modeled on Lewa. There are conservancy
groups all over Africa that come and visit and spend
two or three weeks at a time training with our
people, including Chege. We haven’t done a
lot of publishing in terms of written work,
but we plan to do a lot more. Our research team was
expanded quite dramatically in the past 14 months. Chege can talk more
about that if you want to ask questions after. But absolutely. We host people. We want to share
this information. And we’ll be publishing
quite a few reports in the next year or two. “What technological
hindrances exist and how can we, Google, help?” JOHN BATTELLE: That
is a great question. And the answer is
the biggest challenge we face right now
is understanding how to tackle on
such a large scale the management of
all the things we will need to be able to monitor. We’re not even equipped to
understand that problem. We’re not equipped to
understand all the tools that we would need to
have within those devices, within the baskets,
to be able to look at how to solve this
problem versus this problem. So I think my answer is that I
don’t have a clear picture yet. I just know what I
need to be able to do, what we need to be
able to do, what we’re looking at in terms
of this problem. Because this is going to
scale with or without us. But technology is going
to make it successful. It can’t be
successful without it. But we need to be able to
link all of these variables and components together
through technology. And I have no clue
how to actually do it. That’s what we
need you guys for. GINGER THOMPSON: Yeah. That’s where we need your help. Also, energy is a
big piece of this. Because we obviously need power
to make this happen and make this a reality, and this
is a very rural area. There isn’t much power up there. Some power coming in through
some projects I think you guys are involved with. But to distribute that at
a very grassroots level is really, really important. The mobile access has
actually stepped up. Safaricom is making
an inroad into really increasing mobile access. But energy is a big one. AUDIENCE: In terms
of the communities, you talked about both
building schools, bringing water, things like
that, and also creating revenue streams– this
was in the video– so that the conservation effort
continues in the long term. Can you talk about that and
how the efforts you’re doing are bringing money
to the communities or what’s paying for
the schools, all that? JOHN BATTELLE: From a
technology standpoint, there’s a lot going on from
education, family planning, really, really critical
components that come through the process of
using technology– education, lights, laptops, education
centers, and so forth. What we have found
is there are so many little examples of this. On the biggest scale,
obviously everyone has always talked
about ecotourism. You bring wildlife,
you build a lodge, that’s an incredible thing. That’s a simple one in
terms of understanding. In terms of pastoral
communities, you have obviously cattle
and those kind of components that are really,
really critical. There are a lot of
programs going on about how to grow your own food,
how to manage your own food. We usually tie that into
the school components. GINGER THOMPSON: We have
farms at all of the schools. Not all of them have them yet. But we actually
now run 19 schools, and there are farms on I think
about 15 of the 19 schools, and they’re actually
community managed. So the produce that comes
from the school farm not only feeds the
kids lunch, but also actually is sold by
community members. So it becomes a source
of income for them. So that’s a piece. We have a microcredit program. And women have started, I
think, over 1,000 businesses now in Northern Kenya that
are active and thriving, and all kinds of businesses. You can explore your
imagination and probably come up with what they’re doing. They’re doing all
kinds of things. JOHN BATTELLE: They
have grandmothers doing sewing projects for
the schools for uniforms and so forth. So it’s all very interconnected. If one community is doing
sewing of, say, uniforms, that can go across all
these different communities. GEOFFERY CHEGE: We also gave
got up to 10 water projects whereby water has been
harnessed for agriculture, that kind of farm produce. It goes toward sustaining
the family needs. And then from there, the
excess is sold to the market and brings more
cash to the family. GINGER THOMPSON: And we’re doing
things like biomass stoves. We have biomass stoves in
one community as a test. And what it’s doing is
basically freeing up at the time that women were spending walking
into the forest cutting limbs off trees, which we didn’t
want to have happen, and then walking back. That was an eight-hour process. Now the women are
cooking at home. They manage those bio gas
stoves in about an hour a day, and they suddenly have
seven hours of free time and they’re starting businesses. So each piece, each cog in the
wheel makes a big difference. JOHN BATTELLE:
It’s very holistic. You can’t look at
individual problems. You have to look across. You’re going to
affect this region. You have to look across the
impact across multiple things. You want kids to go to school. When I started, I was like,
I’m putting power into schools. I think this is a great thing. I’m putting power into clinics. Well, if I can’t feed
the child one meal a day, they’re not going
to come to school. And if I can’t afford
a book, they’re not going to come to school. If I can’t afford teachers,
I need teacher housing. So power, which is a
world that I came from, a little bit on the
technology side, I looked at like I’m
doing a great thing. And then as you get
into it, you realize that there’s so many
lower elements that have to be solved in
conjunction with that problem. So it becomes pretty
powerful to engage on the ground over
there, because there are so many different levels. And the thing is, this is
what makes Lewa the anchor and the gateway to
the North for me. When I started looking at
where I can have impact, Lewa as an institution,
as a conservancy, has logistical capabilities,
they have access on the ground, they have skills,
and they have people. So when you bring an
idea to the ground, there’s no better place to
develop it, test it, and move it out than Lewa. And that is why you
see those conservancies to the north developing–
because they know at the end of the
day they’ve got Lewa as an anchor to support
those organizations. GINGER THOMPSON:
“How can technology help with education?” We have this program
where we are currently supporting the education
of about 5,500 kids in an area around Lewa. We also have a
scholarship program that gets kids out
to secondary schools. And one, we’d like to grow that. And that actually is
something that we’re going to implement
across Northern Kenya to get kids from
primary school up into secondary schools, which
is a big leap financially for the families. Primary school is free in
Kenya, but secondary school is a year’s salary for somebody. So if we can get more kids
into secondary school– and one of the ways we’re thinking
of doing this is literally by starting almost like a KiVa
program that would support individual students as
they go through school. So we call it a bursary program. We have 300 kids
in it right now. And individuals like
each of us are all supporting kids in the
schools right now who are going to boarding
school, and some are going to
university, and we’ve had graduates from medical
school this summer. It was very exciting. We want to do a lot more of
that across a greater geography. We don’t have the systems in
place to really manage this. So we need help with that,
and technology could really be helpful. JOHN BATTELLE: We keep talking
about technology on the ground. But the other
component of technology that we haven’t talked about
is connecting corporations, donors, and other
organizations to the efforts that are on the ground. Traditionally today, when a
donor looks at something– I want to build a school. I want to put my name on that. And we build a school. Even if we don’t need it,
we will build a school. Because somebody is
going to give us money. The reality is that our
ability through technology to better connect where the
dollars need to go and better connect the donor to seeing the
work being done on the ground is a really important
next up for us so that we can more granualize. I want you to come to me and
say, I want to build a school, and I want to be able
to say within Lewa, a school is great, but here’s
five things in education that are more
important, and I can keep you aware of
all these things. Because as donors, we’re still
locked into brick and mortar. We’re like, I want to see
something physically made that I know is there. And with technology,
we can probably break that barrier
down much better and be able to show
the impact that they’re giving on a much
more granular level. And we haven’t actually
begun to do that yet. GINGER THOMPSON: Yeah. And that’s where things
like power comes in. If we can get power up to some
of these remote communities, we can get kids on some
kind of device and learning. And we had one child who
we were able to furnish his house with a solar light. And as a result, he was able
to do his homework at home, and he ended up getting
into Nairobi University, and he’s now doing really
well in a Ph.D. program. This was a few years ago. It was tough to get
him enough power to do his homework at night so
he could qualify in the state exams to get into university. But it is happening. And these are small
steps we’re making. With support, we
can go the distance. We really can. And I think what
John was saying is Lewa is really well positioned
where financial efficacy is top notch. It’s why Sabrina, my colleague
who’s in the back there, and I really got involved. Because we saw what was
going on and we thought, wow, this is an
amazing organization. The investment here, the very
small amount of investment– we run this whole thing on
$3 and 1/2 million a year. It’s really extraordinary. That includes four
health clinics that serve 60,000 people,
these schools that are serving 5,500 kids, the
microcredit, all this stuff. It’s an amazing anchor
for what can happen. And we’re well poised. We’re well managed. It’s very well organized to
really go a big distance. And we need lots of help
to do that, to scale it. OK. Well, thank you all so much. Thanks Chege, and thank you
John and Gina and Sabrina, who came with us today. We really appreciate everybody. And Catherine.

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