The coastal region of Kenya is world famous for its natural beauty, rich culture and diversity of community, and as a recreational resource. This has ensured economic benefits for Kenya from mainly non-consumptive utilisation of its natural resources through tourism, but this development has not taken place without considerable environmental cost. Excessive construction along the coastline, uncontrolled access to marine environments, factory fishing and poor planning have led to a decline in the quantity and quality of the land and marine resources. This has been reflected in declining biodiversity, fishing stocks, livelihoods and tourism figures, although the latter are also attributable to security concerns over the recent decade.
There are now very few places remaining on the Kenya coast with pristine habitats and abundant wildlife. A few areas are legally protected but these are inadequately managed due to budgetary constraints affecting the responsible Government authorities, a result of the difficult economic conditions of recent years.
Through the initiative of Dr Omar Sherman, a Conservancy (Kipini Wildlife and Botanical Conservancy) has been legally set up on what has been known as the Nairobi Ranch (~40,000 acres), which retains considerable environmental integrity. This is thanks to the Sherman family (known as the Swaleh Nguru Family) who secured the land under a freehold arrangement and who have maintained the area even at a loss under livestock operations.
Development of the ranch is necessary as Kenya can ill afford idle land, but in this case it is imperative that this is undertaken with considerable care, ensuring adequate conservation of the area. The model of much of the rest of the coastline is not proving to be optimal, which puts considerable pressure on new initiatives to rethink the approach on land use. By creating an easement on this freehold land, the Swaleh Nguru family has put in trust this important resource for future generations of Kenyans and visitors to the country. This will need vigorous management and will involve a roll over from the ranch system based on livestock to one of mixed species and botanical care. Income generation will be based on heritage value and donor support in the short term, with increasing reliance on eco-tourism.