Ol Kinyei Conservancy
The Porini Conservancy Concept has had a positive social and environmental impact.
The tourism benefits are shared with the local people. The land owners are paid per acre of leased land. The camp has brought employment opportunities to the community, reducing the need for bread-winners to leave their families and migrate to places with jobs. In 2011 alone, the income generated for the community through salaries, wages, lease payments, entry fees, bed night fees etc was over US$270,000.
Through its Corporate Social Responsibility the camp supports education and health initiatives. The camp has invested in schools through donations on desks, food, books, solar lamps and shoes and the building of a class. In addition, the camp supports Koiyaki Guiding School through internship of the students and pays full sponsorship of a student from Ol Kinyei community.
The restricted numbers of guests and vehicles on the conservancy ensure that there is control over the impact on the land and wildlife, and strict policies are in place to protect the environment.
Visitor activities are designed to educate on local flora and fauna as well as culture and customs. Walking safaris are also aimed at reducing the carbon footprint.
Porini’s Employment & Training Policy
All vacancies that arise in the camp and conservancy are open first to qualified persons from the community, and as a result over 95% of the employees at the camp and 100% of the conservancy rangers and wardens are from the Maasai community. In addition, the community supplies part-time labour for road building and maintenance.
When a vacancy arises at the community is notified and they select suitable members who are most in need of financial uplifting through employment. The successful candidate’s progress is monitored and if they show initiative they are trained by the company, either in-house through mentoring or externally as required, in an area to which they are best suited. As a result, employment is not limited to security guards as is normally the case for the Maasai in the towns. Those who are able to speak some English are trained as room stewards, others as kitchen helpers and even chefs.
In Porini Mara Camp, the head chef is from the community. He began as a kitchen helper and was sponsored by the company through chef training in Nairobi. The company has also sponsored a number of community members to the Koiyaki Guiding School and pays the annual membership fees for their guides.
Porini’s Support in the Community
The area in which the conservancy has been created is generally under-developed with very little infrastructure development, few schools and limited health services and roads.
Over the years, Gamewatchers and Porini have contributed funds to various projects gradually improving infrastructure, provision of water, and schools.
Local schools have benefitted from the donation of desks and stationery and the supply of a bus to transport students who had won the chance to represent their district for the first time in the District Sports and Music Festival in 2011. In addition, 150 solar lamps were donated in 2012 through the GiveWatts Lanterns for School Kids Programme. In collaboration with the Nicole Goodfellow Foundation, the company donated 140 new safari boots to school children, many of whom had never had shoes.
Health care is another area that is very poorly provided for in the area. The company supports an American dental association which has set up a free dental clinic for the local community.
The company has now launched a Not-for-Profit Initiative that will pool the funds from clients, donors and their own CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) fund to undertake bigger or longer term projects. This initiative will also help clients to direct their good intentions in a productive and effective manner, targeting the actual needs of the community.
Porini Mara Camp has had an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approved by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) in Kenya and a working environmental policy that clearly addresses the impact and management of the land, water, energy, sewage and solid wastes within the conservancy.
The structures at the camp are temporary and are designed to leave behind no visible trace following one wet season. There is no permanent building and minimum amounts of vegetation are removed for walkways, the tents being positioned around existing trees. No hardwood is used within the camp (e.g. for furnishings). All cooking and heating is done using either eco-friendly briquettes or gas to eliminate the use of bush charcoal, which severely degrades natural habitats and solar power is used for lighting and radio operation. There is energy-efficient lighting and minimal electric appliances are used. Water usage is controlled and there is a strict waste management policy.
In addition the company has initiated the planting of over 8000 indigenous trees in the Kikuyu Escarpment Forests, established nurseries within the local community to boost income and help restore the forests and made donations to causes that seek to prevent environmental destruction, such as the successful campaign to stop the building of a highway through the Serengeti Plains.
The Maasai Mara Ecosystem is one of the most important wildlife areas in Kenya, containing 25% of the country’s wildlife population, over 500 bird species including 53 bird of prey and hosting one of the few remaining indigenous black rhino populations. Over the last 30 years, numbers of almost all large wildlife species have reduced and are now estimated to be only one-third or less of their former level.
However, the conservancy has had a significant positive direct impact on many key species which are increasing in this area. It is now estimated that there are over 30 lions (who have each been given a name and are known to the guides at the Porini Camps) and over 8 leopards within the conservancy. Elephants are also beginning to use the area more often. Eland have started re-occupying areas they used to graze prior to the 1990’s and giraffe, whose preferred habitat is the Acacia woodlands, are now returning to the conservancy where this habitat is protected. African hunting dogs have become extinct in the Mara Reserve but some individuals have been spotted in Ol Kinyei, and at least 12 cheetah have been regularly seen in the area.
It is not surprising that the success of the Ol Kinyei Conservancy has made it a model for the formation of other conservancies.