Earthwatch Institute, Maynard, MA, October 5, 2009 —This advisory primarily addresses drought conditions and altercations over livestock in northeastern Kenya, an area near the site of Earthwatch’s Samburu Communities and Wildlife project. Currently we are planning on fielding all currently scheduled teams but we wanted to provide background about the situation to keep you fully informed about our safety protocols.
The drought has had a devastating effect on livelihoods as pastoral communities have lost perhaps up to 60% of their livestock. This loss of livestock has led to increased cases of cattle rustling (theft) and violent clashes between communities.
Rustling has caused an influx of armed herdsmen with large numbers of cattle into some game parks. Operations by the authorities to remove these herdsmen, particularly in the Shaba and Buffalo Springs reserves in the Isiolo area of Eastern Province, have led to tension and insecurity in the area. There is no evidence that tourists are being deliberately targeted, but there have been isolated incidents of tourists being caught in clashes.
The Earthwatch expedition Samburu Communities and Wildlife is located well north (2-3 hours by road) of the site of the current clashes. Most large cattle stocks from this region have been moved to areas with some pasture and water; therefore the Wamba region is unlikely to experience skirmishes from stock raiding, as it is devoid of pasture and large stock. Our area of operation in Wamba is shielded from potential conflict by community conservancies that have provided increased security in the region over the years. As an added security measure, Earthwatch will employ scouts from local conservancies to travel with our vehicles while volunteers are working in the field.
Earthwatch has been in communication with International SOS, our health and security consultants, and has also been monitoring security advice from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the US State Department and the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs. None of these agencies have changed their overall travel recommendations for Kenya in response to this recent activity. Therefore, as stated earlier, Earthwatch is planning on fielding all currently scheduled teams on our Samburu Communities and Wildlife expeditions in Kenya.
Earthwatch cannot guarantee anyone’s safety completely. Natural and political disasters can, and do, happen without warning. Volunteers should read Project Briefings thoroughly and think carefully about their personal comfort level with the field conditions of the project, the volunteer tasks and their own physical and mental capabilities. We encourage volunteers to educate themselves about current conditions in Kenya by consulting the following resources:
United States State Department: Kenya
United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Kenya
Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Kenya
http://www.internationalsos.com/en/index.htm - Member Login: 14ACPA000075, select “Security Online” from the drop-down menu.
If you are scheduled to field on an Earthwatch expedition and would like to speak to a volunteer advisor please call 1-800-776-0188 in the US or +44 (0) 1865 318831 in Europe.