Journey Around Tanzania

Geography, Areas & Climate of Tanzania

Geography, Areas & Climate of Tanzania

A Brief Overview of Tanzania

The United Republic of Tanzania, the largest in the East African Community, spreads out from the western shore of Lake Tanganyika stretching east to Dar es Salaam on the coast of Indian Ocean. Along its western border is the trough in which the great lakes of Africa lie, at the north being Lake Victoria, on the west Lake Tanganyika – the longest freshwater lake in the world – and south Lake Nyasa, almost as long. Both are very deep and are more like mighty rivers than lakes. The greater part of Tanzania is a high and comparatively healthy plateau with a low plain bordering the ocean. The back of this the land rises, opening up to woodlands and magnificent savanna plains covered with grass and bush. One of Tanzania’s most remarkable geological features is the Great Rift Valley in the north-eastern regions of the country. Two branches of the Rift Valley run through Tanzania: The western branch contains Lakes Tanganyika, Rukwa and Nyasa; while the eastern branch ends in northern Tanzania and includes Lakes Natron, Manyara and Eyasi. Mount Kilimanjaro lies on the northern border of Tanzania, halfway between Lake Victoria and the Indian Ocean. It is only a few miles south of the equator, yet, its top, the highest in Africa, is always covered by snow. Kilimanjaro is one of the highest of the world’s mighty mountains. It ends in two peaks, which viewed from a distance resemble a saddle, the taller one (known as Kibo) rising far above the other and each peak is a crater. Once the most valued of the German territories in Africa, and about twice the size of Germany in Europe, it is fairly well-populated, with well over 120 tribes. Administratively, the mainland of Tanzania is divided into 20 regions and Zanzibar into 5 regions. Each region is subdivided into districts. Republic of Tanzania borders Kenya and Uganda in the north; Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Zambia in the west; and Malawi and Mozambique in the south.

Salient Features of Tanzania

  • Surface Area: 940,000 km2
  • Number of Districts: 169
  • Major Lakes: Victoria, Tanganyika, Nyasa, Rukwa, Natron, Eyasi, Manyara
  • Date of Independence: December 9th, 1961
  • Current Population: 57 million
  • Official Languages: Swahili and English

Political Map of Tanzania
Political Map of Tanzania. Image courtesy of nations-online

A Look Into Selected Districts of Tanzania

1. Kagera Region

Spatial Location of Kagera Region in Tanzania

Bukoba is the chief town on the western side of Lake Victoria and the capital of Kagera Region. It is situated in the most north-westerly part of Tanzania, 1,400 kms from Dar es Salaam by road. Its position and the impaired communication means that it is isolated from the rest of the country. In spite of that, Bukoba District is an important part of Kagera Region and Tanzania because it is very productive. Tin is mined at Kyerwa and several cash crop are grown including coffee. Bukoba is made up of the east facing escarpment near Lake Victoria and plateau country inland. Between the ridges and the flat topped plateau are flat floored and sometimes marshy valleys. Along the lakeshore there are occasional rocky highlands, but mostly it is an area with relatively narrow lake plain with few deltaic areas, where rivers have deposited their alluvium at the edges of the lake. Located just south of the equator and lying close to an enormous water body, the climate of Bukoba could be described as equatorial with temperatures modified by altitude. It lies at an altitude of 4,000 feet (or 1,220 metres) and more, and it is, generally speaking, wet, since it receives over 2,000 mm of rain each year. More important than the total figure, as far as the coffee growing is concerned, is the fact that no month is dry, so that it rains throughout the year. Even so, there are two salient periods of heavier rains in March-April-May and November-December. These two wetter seasons are the ‘Long and Short’ Rains.

What gives Bukoba its very high rainfall is its closeness to Lake Victoria and the direction taken by the main winds. The short rains are the easiest to understand since they caused by the north-east trades, which have blown across part of the Indian Ocean and Kenya. When they reach the north-eastern edge of the Lake Victoria, these warm winds evaporate moisture from the surface of the lake. By the time they reach Bukoba, on the western side, the winds are saturated with moisture and heavy rainfall occurs as soon as land is reached. The Long Rains of March, April and May are caused in a different way. Most of the rain during these months is convectional. The strong heat of the sun causes air to rise; as it rises the air cools and rain may fall. Because Bukoba is very near the lake, the air that is made to rise will be saturated with moisture. Hence the local heating by the sun causes convectional storms which bring heavy rainfall. In addition, the south-east trade winds blow during these months. As these winds cross the lake from the south-east they evaporate moisture as rain when they reach the western side of the lake. If we now look at the temperature, the area is almost always hot year-round (24-28 degrees Celsius), reflecting an equatorial climate.

View of Bukoba Town in Kagera Region
A View of Bukoba Town in Kagera Region. Image Courtesy of The Citizen

About the Turkana Tribe

The Turkana of North-Western Kenya

The Turkana tribe of North-Western Kenya

On the west of Lake Turkana (in north-western Kenya) live the Turkana tribe, a fierce, arresting, war-like folk that have had to co-exist with several other gutsy neighbours. It is, perhaps, their considerable scrimmages with Suk or Pokot – “a people who might be described as halfway between the Maasai and Turkana” – and the Matheniiko tribe of Uganda, that have brought to the forefront their venerated warriorship. The Turkana tribe are often depicted as a race of giants, prodigious even, if you add the elaborate hair-dress with a circlet tuft of ostrich feathers that add to their imposing appearance, being certainly taller than many tribes of the north, and appear very big when compared to the compact Bantu people. A man of six feet is more the rule than the exception here, and as a race are as tall as some of the people in Sudan. All the same, the Turkana tribe of North-Western Kenya are a genial, hospitable people, who live much after the manner of the Maasai and talk the same. The Turkana girl wears her elaborately beaded necklace(s) which attests to her beauty, culture, and her father’s wealth.

Brief Overview of the Turkana Tribe

Against many odds, the Turkana tribe of North-Western Kenya have developed means of living in the desert and have maintained their way of life for centuries in a place where many could not. Their homeland lies in the eye of the sun, the altitude rarely rising over 1,000 metres, and the day temperature hardly falling under 35 C year-round. Except for the shores around Lake Turkana and along River Kerio, much of the country is semi-arid and in sizeable places wasteland; with no better example than the Suguta Valley in the southern area of Turkana County. Although there are many river beds in the Suguta Valley, which might suggest that rivers flow here, none of them is faintly permanent. They are all intermittent, that is, they flow immediately after a period of rain, but dry up completely. This obviously indicates a very dry climate. The total population of the vast Turkana County is still less than a million, with a population density of 12 people per square kilometre. The Turkana dwell in small groups, each group many kilometers distant from its neighbour. Their huts closely resemble those of the Maasai; usually several huts grouped within a surrounding wall of bush.

The huts consist of only a close framework of sticks, sometimes covered with skins when it is wet. The chief occupation of the Turkana tribe is herding of stock, and, it may be added, the acquiring of it by fair means or foul. There is a saying used in Turkana County when there’s a parlay on the latter: “Angatun aite apei ejok edwangit abongun kogin”: “Gaining one cow on a cattle raid is better than gaining none.” Raiding and counter-raids with their neighbouring communities, that have been ongoing for well over a century, may be described as an occupation, which has brought much trouble among the tribe. They own and take pride in their herds and packs of camel, cattle, donkey, sheep and goat.

Model Ajuma Nasenyana welcome you to Turkana Festival

Settlement in Turkana County

Many Kenyans have a blind spot about the inequality and existence of life in the North of Kenya. The disparity between communities in the Central and Western Regions of Kenya, that account for twenty of the well-to-do Counties of Kenya, instead view the Northern Frontier of Kenya as a thing-a-majig monolith with only occasional thriving business opportunities but nonetheless a broad brush of inequalities, in the past utterly marginalized and neglected by even its own Government. The surprising truth is there’s as much opportunities among these marginalized Counties of Kenya as there is among the fertile highland counties.

As recent development have brought to proof, the gilded mineral endorsement of Turkana in terms of oils reserves. Still and all, the North exists as a stressed out quadrum, unable to keep up with the rapidity of development in the rest of Kenya, while pressure by the harsh and inhospitable environment renders them victims of the desert. The predominant tribe on the western side of the Lake is the Turkana. Some of the minority tribes include the Luo, Kisii, and Luhya who have migrated from other regions. Turkana are by and large pastoralist, notable for raising camels and weaving baskets. The rely unsettlingly on few rivers, such as the Turkwel River and Kerio River. When these rivers flood, new sediment and water extend onto the river plains that’re cultivated after heavy rainstorms, which occur infrequently. When the rivers dry up, open‐pit wells are dug in the river beds, which are put to use for watering livestock and human consumption.

Spatial Location of Turkana County in Kenya - Map of Kenya

If you write-off Ilemi Triangle from Turkana County – that disputed triangular piece of land separating Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan – then Marsabit County which covers an area of 70,961 km2 is the largest County of Kenya. As a whole, Turkana County, covering 77,000 km2 and accounting for 42.4% of the total area of the old Rift Valley Province, is split into 7 sub-counties: Turkana North, Loima, Turkana West, Turkana Central, Turkana East, Turkana South and Kibish. The settlement patterns in the county are determined largely by climate, soil fertility, availability of water, pastures, infrastructure and social facilities; mainly found in urban and peri‐urban centres. Katilu has the largest number of people, owing to its proximity of Katilu Irrigation Scheme along the Turkwel River. Hence, the most populous region is Turkana Central with a population of 253,777 in 2012. Lodwar Town the principal town and capital of the county has the highest population projected to be 54,978 in 2012. Population density in the county varies from 24 persons per km2 in Turkana Central to 5 persons per km2 in Turkana East; averaging to 12 persons per km2. Majority of households in the Turkana County sustain a family size of five upto fifteen people per home.

The Turkana tribe of North-Western Kenya under normal situation settle in the plains. Considering variations in weather, very few of them settle permanently in one place. So that during and shortly after the rains, the Turkana people are concentrated at the plains. As the drier season starts, they move mostly to high mountain areas and even to neighbouring countries of Sudan and Ethiopia in search of pasture and water for their livestock. Permanent and semi‐permanent settlements in the county are to be found along Turkwel and Kerio rivers where small‐scale irrigated farming is practiced and along the lake shores of Lake Turkana, with some social infrastructures like schools and health facilities that support human settlement. Along these areas there exist peri‐urban market centres or fish trading centers. Majority of houses belonging to communities around the lake reflects their traditions. A typical Turkana house along the lake is made of mud floor with almost 90% houses made of stick/poles and reed or poles/stick and mud walla. Variations include use thatch to roof their houses, roofing with corrugated iron sheets. The typical hut is doom shaped with walls made of sticks/poles, and then covered with pieces of cloth, skin/cloth material.

Map of the Population Distribution in Kenya.
Map of the Population Distribution in Kenya.

Urban Revitalization in Nairobi

Urban Revitalization & Nairobi Community

Urban Revitalization and Nairobi Community

Brief Overview of Urban Revitalization

Every city has a distinctive social fabric stitched together slowly over the life of its existence. Urban infrastructure, landscaping plan, buildings and cultures are hence intermingled with the ways of life and the main components of the social fabric. The social fabric is not instantaneously built, it is a product created over time. The deep rooted socio-economic sustainability of Nairobi requires more than just environmentally sound approaches to modernization, urban planning and development. It is overdue for an urban revitalization project that blends in the social fabric with components of modernity. Urban revitalization may be defined as the process of rebuilding thriving economically, environmentally and socially sustainable urban areas and populations, and in areas that have been in decline and in those urban areas that are stressed from the continuing influx of people in urban areas.  Into that bargain, urban revitalization is conservation of heritage, and its meaning to public wealth and common good, which is helpful to improve people’s quality of life, enhances ownership and sense of belonging; which evokes people’s feelings. The concept of urban revitalization is growing internationally, with many projects as part of government’s effort to introduce new activities into economically and physically declining neighborhoods’ from which private sectors shy away. Essentially, it encompasses improving housing condition for the poor, upgrading housing stock, reducing density of crowded neighborhoods’, providing more open space and community facilities as well as changing residential land into more economical and profitable commercial use.

Nairobi, Africa’s green city under the sun, became the capital of Kenya in 1907, just 43 years before it was declared a city. Hitherto, Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, was the main centre and port of call for Kenya. It was the placement of the Kenya-Uganda Railway that exogenously led to its growth. Soon after the arrival of the railway line, Europeans were allowed to settle in the undulating area west of the city centre.  Later on, Asian traders were settled in the north-east (Eastleigh).  By 1963, Africans who formed a major part of the population, lived in the eastern parts, while Europeans and Asians lived in the western and northeast areas with access to better services. The early framers and planners of the city endeavoured to set proper development and outlines of the city. Take for instance Uhuru Park, that invaluable 13-hectare recreational park adjacent to the central business district, whose impact in urban welfare and happiness of the people remains one of the monumental urban revitalization projects to date in Kenya. It was opened to the general public by the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta on May 23rd, 1969, and is still indubitably the most patronized public outdoor space in Kenya. Other examples of urban renewal projects in Nairobi include the 30-hectare Nairobi Arboretum, City Park, Jevanjee Gardens and Karura Forest. The undertone to all these projects is that they were expensive to put into place. Try building a public outdoor park in the middle of the city. More often than not, this will run into tens of millions, with the cost of maintenance carrying an equally forbidding cost. What is more, the return on investment of such urban revitalization projects is hard to compute. Their impact becomes an interrupted conversation. As the city grows, as space for development becomes less, these revitalization projects become exposed to the development elements, and suddenly even the supporters don’t know what to do with them. Have you not noticed it? Nairobi is growing at a faster rate than ever before. One only has to look at the tower cranes across the skyline and the proposed developments to lend the idea of its future look to mind. Yet, ideas of urban revitalization seem to have been conveniently shelved by the modern framers and planners of the city. But what’s the opportunity cost for a big city with less urban revitalization.

View of a lake within Uhuru Park, Nairobi. Image courtesy of WikiMedia
View of a lake within Uhuru Park, Nairobi. Image courtesy of WikiMedia

The Case for Urban Revitalization

Urban renewal project strategies – urban redevelopment, urban rehabilitation, urban revitalization and urban regeneration – have been taking front stage in public forums and urban planning agendas particularly in the last two decades. Axiomatically, urban renewal projects that have been applied in various urban areas such as disaster hot-spots, urban declining areas, squatter housing areas and historical sites not only cause transformations in the physical structure of cities, but also affect the economic, social and environmental dynamics in the built environment. These extensive applications bring out the inquiry whether the urban renewal projects are good or not. In an increasingly urbanized world, the promotion of sustainable urbanization taking in issues of economic growth, social equity, cultural diversity, ethnic cohesion and environmental protection requires more than ever strategic planning, conscientious building and conflict resolution. It boils down to this: Urban revitalization projects are good for the community and modernization, but with reservation that the process must be approached with due diligence and consideration, especially with the aspects of sustaining the social fabric and cultural endowments.  To drive the point home: It’s important to suitably examine the importance of incorporating conservation of cultural endowments in revitalization projects and to incorporate heritage protection.  Moreover, a corporate approach to urban revitalization is pertinent.

Urban Revitalization and Culture Endowments

Cultural endowments such as unique streetscapes, traditional architecture and historic sites are increasingly recognized as important economic resources both in Nairobi and other major cities around the world. The preservation of cultural heritage supports urban revitalization by preserving city livability, increasing competitiveness, and creating a wide range of income-earning opportunities. Nairobi is an important focal point for development based on these resources because they provide concentrations of heritage assets, infrastructure services, private sector activity and human resources. Improving the conservation and organization of urban revitalization in Nairobi City is not only important for preserving its historic significance, but also for its potential to increase income-earning opportunities, city livability, and competitiveness. One of the most highly-visible and dynamic links between heritage conservation and the local economic development lies in the potential for cultural and natural assets to attract tourism investment and spending. Incorporating heritage protection into urban projects has supported the overall goal of revitalization, significantly increased client satisfaction, and led to a robust new business norm for Nairobi.

Wave Theatre: Public Performance Space, Ecuador. Image Courtesy of A.D
Wave Theatre: Public Performance Space, Ecuador. Image Courtesy of A.D

Revitalization Projects Around the World

No size fits all in urban revitalization. It requires local solutions to local issues. Thankfully, plenty of research over the past decade, with an aim to reiterate the importance culture plays in modern day cities, has presented scores of options for its application.  Research findings have brought to the forefront that culture in a city includes non profit and commercial goodwill as well the role of artists in building the culture.  It is irrefutable that informal art plays a salient role in building the social fabric, social networks and connections across communities.  In as much as the community culture is generally concerned with marginalized populations, there’s a growing need to develop a suitable mix for keeping track of cultural vitality – which has been defined as evidence of creating, validating, disseminating and supporting culture and arts as a dimension of everyday life in the community.  Planners should not overlook its importance when planning urban projects.  Incorporating concerns of cultural endowment in revitalization projects as well as including heritage protection is as important as raising any infrastructure. Take for instance its application in South America (using Mexico and Ecuador as examples) where ethnographers have archived the community building potential of informal arts. The Wave Theatre in Ecuador has proven that using cultural pith and artists to break down social isolation, strengthen bonds among the members, stimulates new social networking relationships and stirs on regional and international bonds with travellers from assorted societies.

Likewise, urban revitalization projects have worked well where the concept of corporation between the government, private and public sectors is utilized.  In Canada for example, within the economic recession of the 90’s, a huge stock of office building went vacant in downtown Toronto.  The city adopted innovative reuse policy by converting the building to residential units.  The result: There was no pressure to demolish the buildings, city revenues grew by $ 1.6 million, and transport infrastructure was not interrupted. In Seoul, South Korea, the project “comprehensive measure to revitalize Bookchon” in 2000 also hedged on the corporate approach to urban revitalization projects. The project was successful in fusing collective public action, private and public ownership. The approach was two pronged; upgrading housing conditions for the poor and improving infrastructure. The corporate approach to ‘land development in Hong Kong’ saw the revitalization project achieve major success.  Hong Kong’s administrative and economic systems combined a non political and colonial administration with the so called ‘positively non-intervention’ to provide a favourable environment for corporatism.  In like manner, the older urban areas in Hong Kong by the year 2000 had deteriorated gradually.  Called to task, the Government took full control in revitalizing deteriorating parts of the cityscape. The desired goal was achieved through combination of financial, legislative, and administrative efforts.  It was unlikely that the private sector could launch such a large scale comprehensive redevelopment to address these pressing problems.

The urban revitalization project in Hong Kong was an ambitious goal to create better working environment and living condition by jigging existing standard urban areas, planning for conveniently cited government facilities, controlling use and configuring urban building, upgrading transport systems and providing for a safe and convenient pedestrian movement system within the area. The success of the project included getting rid of the poor living conditions in the former resettlement estates, encouraging participation by small owners in the development process, changing the physical and environmental characteristics, and, more fundamentally, enhancing the socio-economic structure. The last example of revitalization is from Joliet, Illinois. Historically it was famous as a steel town that faced economic ruin. In the 1980s, via a revitalization project, it became a thriving space. Formerly, listless black canal carried treated sewage from through the core of a decrepit downtown Chicago, 40 miles northerly, to where gangs roamed freely. During the 1980’s, with the machinery factories fast vanishing and city’s steel unemployment reaching a record 20%, the only thing left in Joliet was its maximum security state prison. But in a single decade, this city has burst into the ranks of the nation’s boom towns. The implications for urban revitalization and policy have turned Joliet to a thriving metropolis. The downtown area once lined with abandoned stores is now blooming. Nobody calls it the Sanitary and Ship Canal town anymore; it is the Des Plaines River. In addition, groundbreaking was carried out in the early 2000’s for a minor league baseball stadium. Renovation of the abandoned Louis Hotel into 60 apartments is nigh, and a sports bar opened in the restored and once barren Union Station.

Other Interesting Urban Revitalization Projects:

  1. The Downtown Project in Las Vegas
  2. The River District, Portland, Oregon
  3. The East Baltimore Revitalization Initiative
  4. Millenium Tower, Baltimore
  5. The Wharf Project, Washington DC
  6. Maboneng Precinct Project, Joburg, South Africa
  7. Inner City Project, Johannesburg, South Africa
  8. The 798 Art Zone, Beijing
  9. Rottermann Quarter, Estonia
  10. Clyde Waterfront, Glascow
  11. Downtown Arts District, Los Angeles
  12. Melbourne Docklands, Melbourne
  13. Wuhu Urban Renewal Project, China
  14. Guangzhou Bus Rapid Transit network
  15. Hybrid Habitation Project, Istanbul, Turkey

Urban Revitalization and Nairobi Community

Glitches with Urban Revitalization Projects

Many a government policies try to reduce public expenditure while seeking to improve conditions for the private sector (private profit) rather than collective public action.  Rapid urbanization has prompted the quick turn around time of urban renewal projects, with most carried out to meet the ‘peoples’ immediate expectations.  As a result, the modern and hastened approach to urban renewal or revitalization has destroyed valued urban heritage. Take for instance Beijing, which is gradually losing its heritage, where more than half of the olden Beijing building – enshrined in its history – have been demolished in just the past half century to pave way for larger modern buildings. The rapidly growing economy is drastically transforming the social, economic and spatial structure of the city. Concomitantly, modernization in Beijing, often times erroneously supplanted with revitalization, is in general regarded as erasing the past, and development is in itself viewed as short term.  In this scenario modernization or revitalization has broadly meant demolition and building.  But in order to preserve heritage, urban revitalization needs a long term strategy, a multi-disciplinary approach, a link between public and private sectors and public participation. That being so, can a creative economy eliminate urban poverty? Our modern day cities have witnessed an increasing proportion of their residents being denied progressive participation in the local economy, civil society and social institutions. Majority of our cities have weathered the transition from an industrial to an information-based economy with most developed neighborhoods bearing the never ending physical and social manifestations of social exclusion and economic inequality.

The New Wave of Urban Revitalization

Urban policy-makers generally agree that regional economic development and job growth are the solution to urban poverty, associated plight and pathology. Many cities have latched onto Richard Florida’s argument that attracting the “creative class” to the region will generate jobs and tax revenue; a trickle down of benefits to all citizens. Unfortunately, it appears that growth of the creative economy can spark inequality and exclusion. Is the creative economy a bargain with the devil? Does a city have to accept increased economic inequality to reap the prosperity of the creative economy? To enhance on livability, ownership and sustainability, the first step in revitalization is to endorse a registration system for the residents’ in-order for them to receive subsidiary funds for remodeling as well other incentives advantages which include resident parking permission.

Revitalization through Culture, Community, and Creativity

Urban Revitalization and Effects on Crime

In the book “Urban Revitalization and Seattle Crime, 1982-2000” a pertinent study was carried to investigate the relationship between urban revitalization and crime. The study, based on recent urban demography research, pitched a hypothesize that urban revitalization projects progressed rapidly in many cities across America over the last decade of the twentieth century, and that these changes had some impact on crime rates in these areas. Criminological theories hold competing arguments for the connections between urban revitalization and crime, and quantitative indagation of this link remain largely limited and infrequent. Using two measures of longitudinal track-level demographic and longitudinal crime data for the city of Seattle, the empirical finding were that many of Seattle’s downtown areas underwent rapid revitalization during the 1990s, and that these areas witnessed reductions in crime relative to similar areas that did not have urban revitalization projects.  Additionally, these were areas with higher-than-average crime at the beginning of the decade. Using a within-tract longitudinal design, the research uncovered that yearly housing investments in the 1980s showed a modest positive association with crime change, while yearly investments in the 1990s showed the opposite pattern. These findings suggest a curvilinear gentrification-crime relationship, in which urban revitalization in its earlier stages is associated with small increases in crime, but urban revitalization in its more consolidated form is associated with modest crime declines. Implications of these results for criminological theory, urban development, and broader crime patterns in urban areas are worth the inquiry by urban planners in Nairobi and other notable cities around the world.

Urban Revitalization in Nairobi

The concept of urban revitalization is not alien to Nairobi. A few projects have sort to claim the title; none, perhaps, as cosmic as the Kenya Slum Upgrading Project launched in 2004 as a collaborative project between the Government of Kenya and UN-HABITAT. The sheer scale of this ambitious is mind-boggling considering that roughly three million people in Nairobi City (accounting for almost 50% of its population) dwell in slums, in about 200 informal settlements spread across the city. Rather more importantly, all these people are confined to an area that accounts for only 6% of the surface area of Nairobi. Needless to point out, the challenges, costs and bureaucracy of upgrading slums in Nairobi are as many as they are compex. Just in one this informal settlements (Soweto) the target is to construct 822 housing units and 245 market stalls. Even so, an urban revitalization focussing on communities and cultures is overdue. Taking into consideration that Kenya prides itself on cultural diversity, and Nairobi as the melting pot, there is hardly an urban revitalization project that opportunely responds to this gap. One may argue that the Bomas of Kenya and the National Museum of Kenya respond to this cultural diversity by collecting, protecting and conserving cultural esthetics. And that’s correct. It unavoidable happens that the expanding cityscape is crying out for cultural identity under an urban revitalization project which aptly takes into account the main cultures of Kenya.

Nairobi is the birthplace of Kenya’s independence, the cultural melting pot of Kenya, where people from all around the world first arrive, which has grown to one of the largest cities in Africa. It’s home to practically all the communities of Kenya and vibrant cultures from Africa and beyond. And with a population of 4.3 million, Nairobi is Kenya’s largest, liable for trickling down developments, innovations and transformations to towns and cities across Kenya. But growth and evolution can fade the essence of any great city; the modern, powerful and influential cities bringing new change, posing a threat to the most important pillar of the city cohesion. In many ways, Nairobi is preparing for a time when Africa looks up to it to set new trends. It’s hard to overstate the degree to which an urban revitalization project in Nairobi would influence its livability. What are the options for Nairobi? A revamp of the expansive Nairobi Railway Station that’s rich in history and space? A rejigging of Jevanjee Gardens as a cultural and performance area? Rethinking the setting of the iconic KICC ground? The options are multifarious. Politicians can alter this policy, or the course of it, that change urban structures to benefit majority rather than the powerful and rich. The shortfall is that most government policies try to reduce public expenditure while seeking to improve the conditions for private sector and private profits rather than the collective public action. Perhaps a corporate approach to urban revitalization is a softer landing spot for all the parties involved in the outcome.

Urban Revitalization and Nairobi Community

In Conclusion

Persuading the stakeholders, and there are several, to kickstart a culture based revitalization project in Nairobi City is no plain-sailing. Flush with development agendas and steadfast on meeting hardline goals, the concerned would feel hard done to haggle over the terms. Thanks to growing international investors and a rising middle-class, Nairobi City appears more oriented outwards and upwards. A slowdown in the inflows could spell trouble for sectors of the economy which are long accustomed to secure international markets. The complacency of their markets moving in only one direction – up – have been bolstering their efforts to meet expected demand. Unfortunately for many of those agencies, there’s the danger of not filling the gap of looking inward to attract investors and tourists. The cultural diversity of Kenya aspects of urban revitalization in Nairobi need no more emphasis. Inevitably, the long term socio-economic sustainability of the growing city requires more than just environmentally sound approaches to modernization, urban planning and development, but requires well structured urban revitalization projects that blend in the social fabric with components of modernization. In order to preserve its heritage, Nairobi needs long term urban revitalization strategies which involve participation of the public. A good start would be an inclusive conservation on feasible projects. Their recommendation would point urban decision-makers and city professionals to strike a balance between social cohesion and economic competitiveness in urban revitalization projects that achieve a harmonious development of Nairobi: A balance between historic preservation, cultural diversity and development.  Urban revitalization in Nairobi should be adopted as a process through which the mismatch between classes, cultures, contemporary needs, and government services are reconciled.

Journey Around Uganda

Geography, Regions & Climate of Uganda

Geography, Regions & Climate of Uganda

A Brief Overview of Uganda

Uganda’s moniker as “the Pearl of Africa” aptly describes both its location and natural resources. On the map of Africa the landlocked Uganda occupies only a small area, yet few countries belong so vibrantly to the fertile sphere of Africa. Its compactness and the generously rich and fertile soils makes it a continuous green-belt country, a facet of inestimable value shared by very few nations in Africa. For better consideration, the ecological gamut of Uganda can be broadly split into three regions: The swampy lowlands region in the south; the fertile middle region elevated on a plateau with wooded hills; and the semi-arid region in the north bordering Sudan. Lake Victoria forms part of the southern border. Uganda is at the heart of the tropics, astride the equator, but its climate, thanks to the altitude, is unexpectedly pleasant. Its geography and lovely weather is as salubrious as any, and is comparable with a warm English summer most of the year. Temperatures range between 20 and 30 degrees celsius, and the 50 inches of rainfall each year keep the country lush and green. Uganda, which expands over 241,037 km2, is bordered in the west by Democratic Republic of Congo, in the north by the Sudan, in the east by Kenya, and in the south by Tanzania and Rwanda. It derives its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country including the famous capital, Kampala.

Salient Features of Uganda

  • Surface Area – 241,038 km2
  • Number of Districts – 121
  • Major Lakes – Victoria, Kyoga, Albert, Edward and George
  • Date of Independence – 8th October 1962
  • Current Population (2018) – 42,729,036
  • Official Languages – English and Swahili

Political Map of Uganda. Image courtesy of nations-online
Political Map of Uganda. Image courtesy of nations-online

A Look Into Selected Districts of Uganda

1. Kigezi District

Spatial location of Kigezi District in Uganda. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The impenetrable forest at North Kigezi, which is found between the developed area of Kigezi and the Queen Elizabeth National Park, has high trees – over 30 meters – that completely block the sunlight from reaching the floor.  Although the edges of the forest have plentiful bushes, the inner parts do not have these bushes because there is no sunlight. Kigezi District is situated in the far south-western part of Uganda, where it forms the border with Rwanda and Congo. Its location, far from the more developed parts of Uganda, has turned Kigezi into an isolated region. Only recently has the main town of Kabale been connected to the rest of the county by tarmac road.  Consequently, Kigezi is a district of subsistence farming with few economic activities of national importance.  It has however, the long, narrow Lake Bunyonyi, flanked by steep slopes that form a considerable part of the terrain here. Kigezi is formed of a plateau, about 8,000 feet (2,440 m) high; from this plateau the land slopes steeply downwards to form valleys occupied by rivers and long narrow lakes. Around the edges of this lakes are areas of marshland, where material eroded by the rivers is deposited. In the less developed parts of the region the valleys are covered with tropical forest. Kigezi is considerably higher than other districts of Uganda to the north.

Its high altitude was brought about during the formation of the western branch of the Rift Valley, found to the west of Kigezi. As the floor of the Rift Valley sank the sides were pushed up. So that, Kigezi forms part of the eastern side of the Rift, hence it was uplifted. Along with this uplift and faulting of the Rift Valley, there was a considerable amount of volcanic activity. This was especially strong in the south-western Kigezi District, near Kisoro, where Mufumbiro Mountains were formed. These are iconic lines of volcanoes which stretch from this part of Uganda, through northern Rwanda, and into Congo. The largest in Uganda is Muhavura, which rises to 13,540 feet (4,127 metres); another, Sabinio, at 11,960 feet (3,645 metres) is exactly at the point where the three countries of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda meet, hence the north-western slopes are of the mountain are in Congo, the southern slopes are in Rwanda and the north-eastern slopes are in Uganda! Much of Kigezi District consists of steep slopes since, although it is a plateau area, the rivers have successfully eroded the formerly flat plateau, so that very little flat land now remains. The only large regions of flat land are found in the floors of the valleys where marshland have been formed. The large marshland region is called Kamunyoro Swamp, was once a lake, just like Lake Bunyonyi. By and by, this lake too will disappear and be replaced by marshland.

Lake Bunyonyi in Kigezi District of Uganda. Image courtesy of Lanza Safari
Lake Bunyonyi in Kigezi District of Uganda. Image courtesy of Lanza Safari

National Parks in Uganda

Parks in Uganda: The Pearl of Africa

Parks in Uganda: The Pearl of Africa

Brief Overview of Uganda

North of Lake Victoria sits Uganda, one of the fertile, sempiternal verdant and interesting countries of Eastern Africa. It is a beautiful land with grassy plains, rolling hills and dark mountains. Its best soil is of a rich red. There are hills of fine pasture, thick forests filled with big game, swamps choked with papyrus reeds in which hippos are found, and other regions where the grass is 10 feet in height. There are vast patches of meadow land, dotted with groves of beautiful trees, and dotted here and there with villages about which are thriving farms. Uganda lies almost in the middle of Africa and the Equator runs it as does in Kenya. It occupies only a small part of the continental map, about 241,037 km2 – with a north-south extent of 650 km and east-west extent of about 500 km – yet, few countries belong so vibrantly to the continent’s fertile block, where the entire area is virtually evergreen and flourishing. The first impression on the visitor to Uganda is how green everything is. Its climate, thanks to the altitude, is unexpectedly pleasant, the mean temperature rarely rising above 29 Celsius or 85 Fahrenheit. Uganda forms part of the interior plateau of Africa, with an average altitude of 1,200 m (4,000 feet). There are vast open plains in the north and flat-topped hills in the central, western and eastern regions of the country. The rise of the plateau both in the east and west creates mountains along the borders; Block Mountains of the Rwenzori, Mufumbira, Mount Elgon, Moroto, Morungole, Timu and Kadam. Excellent roads are some of the main features of Uganda. Travelling through Kampala – its largest – the scenery varies from the scenic hills of the capital to the rolling savannah of Mityani and Mubende, and then on to Fort Portal, set in much more open country, with the epic backdrop of the Mountains of the Moon, where many of its parks are cited. Among the variety of attraction in Uganda are its National Parks. Rwenzori, as a cool, moist island rising from the dry tropical plains, has encouraged the development of a unique variety of animals and plants, including many endemic species. Keen motorists who decide to drive up into Uganda from Kenya (it is 667 kms from Nairobi to Kampala) now travel on good roads all the way through fine scenery.

Map of the National Parks in Uganda

Detailed Map of Uganda National Parks - Uganda Map - Safari Bookings

Discover the National Parks in Uganda

1. Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park

It is one of Uganda’s earliest established National Park. Kidepo Valley National Park expands over 500 km2 of the northern part of the Karamoja District, along the boundary with Sudan, and it was opened to the public in December, 1965. It is approachable from Kampala by a 210 kms drive along the tarmac to Tororo, and then an excursion of a little over 320 kms, through Mbale and Moroto. In a country that is rapidly developing, well laid with growing towns and farmlands, this region of Uganda is still untouched by development. It is a country of rich fertile valleys and vast plains, which are the kingdom of the elephant, buffalo and lion. Among the variety of attractions of the Kidepo Valley National Park is the spectacular display of wildlife which currently features almost 75 species of mammals and 470 species of birds. Its wealth of wildlife was the main reason for the area to be declared a National Park.  Among the species not found in any other park in Uganda include eland, greater and lesser kudu, klipspringer, dik-dik, Bright’s gazelle, roan antelope and Chanler’s mountain reedbuck. Perhaps the outstanding vista at Kidepo Valley National Park is the self-same valley, a wide basin lying at altitude of between 3,000 feet and 4,000 feet, with the hills surrounding it rising to almost 6,000 feet and the Morongole Mountain soars up to 9,000 feet. This remarkable variation in the altitude over a small area has pieced itself as one of the most epic landscapes in Uganda. Formerly the haunt of Sudanese Didinga cattle raiders and rebels, who from time to time swooped into Uganda on cattle rustling raids, this remote typically Africa bushland has a lot to offer, both in fine scenery and in presenting nature at its least disturbed stage. The park itself gets its name from the Kidepo River, which is several yards wide in many places, mainly dry for most of the year, and is reduced to mere sand and pebbles, with only Borassus palms which line its entire length reminding the visitor that it is a great river basin. Then comes the rains, the many tributaries are quick to react, and within a few hours the basin is full and overflowing, the Kidepo is unbridgeable and the might rush of water is magical. Then within hours the water disappears into Sudan, or sinks beneath the sand and black cotton soil, leaving nothing behind but moistened sand and pebbles.

Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment and its Perils

Capital Punishment in Kenya

Brief Overview of Capital Punishment

Capital punishment is the legalized infliction of death as a penalty for violating criminal law.  By that same token, criminal law is the branch of law that defines crime, establishes punishment, and regulates the investigation and prosecution of people accused of committing crimes.  Throughout history, the controversial death penalty, for various forms of crimes, had existed in antediluvian acts such as stoning, drowning, crucifixion, burning and impaling; with beheading being universally satisfactory. Today, capital punishment is widely accomplished by lethal injection, electrocution, shooting and hanging. Only corporal punishment comes close in severity to capital punishment (or the death penalty), which still remains the most controversial penal practice of the modern world.  Although corporal punishment has been generally eliminated in modern times, the death sentence remains widespread, especially in the developing countries.  “In 2008, there was a growing reluctance among those countries that do retain the death penalty to use it in practice. Only 25 out of 59 countries that retain the death penalty carried out executions” – AI. The trend in developed countries has been to abolish executing prisoners and substitute it with life in prison. While many supporters of capital punishment say that it is a necessary form of retribution, the detractors, and there are many, argue that it’s a barbaric and degrading act. 

Many such detractors dispute the proper interpretation of statistical analysis of its deterrent effect. They present it as a human rights issue involving the proper limits of governmental powers. Today, partly thanks to extensive government legislation authorizing immoral practices like abortion, it is an elusive theme to find any lawful authority that is justifiable with regards to the implementation of the death penalty.  Still and all, many agree that the ethical inadequacies of a government do not disqualify every facet of its authority, and if that were that the case, anarchy would prevail. Capital punishment is not, therefore, a flawless system in actual practice, because imperfect human beings are involved in the procedure of finding the guilty party, and, as such, they are in peril to human error.  A conference at the University Law School in Chicago brought under the limelight that since 1976 (when capital punishment was reinstated in the USA) that 75 convicts were found guilty of capital crimes, sentenced to the death penalty, and were later found innocent – accounting roughly for one seventh of prisoners who have been executed.  The counter argument is that courts would have to abolish all laws to avoid completely the punishment of innocent people.

An extreme version of this question arises in connection with the practices of capital punishment. What justifies the institutionalized killing of those guilty of murder or other grave offenses? Why do we, or should we, seek the death of some criminals? This question is much more pressing in Kenya as a result of the crime bill of 2015 that unsatisfactorily sought to abolish capital punishment in Kenya. How might we define institutionalized punishment, the justification of which is being debated here? Widespread academician agreement holds that legal retribution involves five characteristics. Firstly, that the punishment must engross unpleasant consequences for the offender; for example, imprisonment, fine, or death. Secondly, that the retribution must follow from the violation of a law: a rule of behavior prescribed by a properly constituted governing authority. Thirdly, the one punished must have been found blameworthy of violating the law. Fourthly, the affliction must be administered by someone other than the guilty party. And fifthly, the one administrating the said punishment must be a properly designated authority. Is it reasonable for an authorized representative of society to cause ultimate suffering on those found guilty of violating the law?

Top Five Facts About Capital Punishment

The History of Capital Punishment

The unnerving forms of retribution in ancient societies like Rome and Greece had ruthless chastises, taking to horrific forms like stoning, throwing offenders off a cliff, crucifixion, burning in public, burying alive, hanging, dragging and, of course, the fateful guillotine.  Other bizarrely inventive forms of punishment included physical mutilation like cutting off a hand, mutilating of a tongue or ear, branding, and corporal punishment like thrashing, torture, taking away of personal property, exile and forced hard labour like working in the mines, in the galley of a boat or forced to participation in gladiatorial combat. In medieval England similar hard-hearted capital punishment techniques were in effect, most carried out in public to deter likely offenders and public disesteem for the victims. For severe crimes, punishment took the form of exile and physical mutilation. So, by 1500, capital punishment, including the death penalty, was available for as many as 200 felonies. In fact, the benefit of clergy was applied as a way to downgrade the rampant use of capital punishment.  This is because the clergy in those dark-days was only answerable under ecclesiastical law.  As a result, common law courts could not impose capital punishment.  As the benefit of clergy extended, parliaments endorsed statutes quoting that many serious crimes were not be subject to the opinion of the clergy. And for minor crimes, varied forms of public shaming like the pillory and branding were usually used.

By the 1600’s, and more so in the 1700’s, transportation to new colonies, which involved forced labour in a penal colony, became a popular form of punishment and was by and large seen as an apposite substitute to the death penalty. Forced labour in ship galleys and workhouses was another form of punishment for the minor offenders. In England, anyone convicted of a crime was likely to lose all property rights and rights to inherit property.  In the late 1700’s transportation to the colonies became a less viable alternative, more so for those inhabiting the new colonies. At this point the penitentiaries gave rise to an alternative, capital punishment.  Penitentiaries were designed for holding death penalty offenders and long-term imprisonment.  Great Britain through her expansion of colonies influenced the use of the capital punishment in the United States, Canada and colonial Africa. In Canada for example, the first penitentiary system was ground in Kingston, Ontario, in 1835. Like other consequent penitentiaries, it adopted the congregate method. Retribution for crimes at the start of 19th century was comparable to England.  Death penalty, transportation, corporal punishment, banishment, pillory and branding were in wide use. In 1800, fines were set up in Canada as an alternative to branding, as was imprisonment with hard labour.

Canada’s Race to Abolish Capital Punishment

In 1830, branding was eliminated as a punishment in Canada as was corporal punishment in the form of public flogging. However, whipping in the private confines of the prison continued for many serious crimes offenders.  Whipping remained an alternative punishment for sexual offences in Canada until 1972. Also, capital punishment was also losing goodwill.  In 1833 the Upper Canada legislature restricted capital punishment by death penalty to only nine serious crimes: rape, treason, murder, rape, bestiality, buggery, robbery, arson, and burglary. In 1867, in the advent of Confederation, the federal government had exclusive legislative jurisdiction for determining punishment and crimes.  In 1869, the federal government passed a number of Consolidation Acts, one of which adopted the penalty structure delineated in a similar English Act of 1861. That penal structure for offences started with capital punishment, then life in prison, then terms of imprisonment for shorter spans ranging from six month to fourteen years.  That penalty scheme subsequently adopted in the first Canadian Criminal Code of 1892 and has remained in effect in many ways to date. The BNA Act also assigned the mandate to the federal government to establish and run penal facilities and assigned responsibility for reformatories and local jails to the provinces. Capital punishment by hanging was officially abolished in 1975 in Canada. The last hanging to occur in Canada was in 1962. 

Impact of NAFTA in Canada

Weighing the Effects of NAFTA in Canada

The Impact of NAFTA in Canada

History of Treaties in Canada

Finding relationships between varied intrastate and international governments and business assets is one of the most valuable things a mature democracy has on its side of development bloom. What’s moving together? What relationships help move products in and out a country? And what are the potential long term benefits and demerits of the relationship? Political scientists are always asking these questions. But how do we find out these relationship in the first place? In plenty of instances, these relationship are given the title of treaty – a formally concluded and ratified agreement between states – which gives some intuitive sense that two or more countries are related. For example, most neighbouring nation around the world organize themselves to one kind of block or another to the give and take benefit of enhancing their trading terms in cognizance of their geographical patrimony. But what if you wanted to analyse some relationships within a nation that were less obvious? One place to start is by looking into the treaties made throughout the history of each nation. Here’s an interesting one: Most historical atrocities against the minorities and less powerful have, in high degree of correlation, been hell bent on using one or another variant of treaties.

The impact of treaty making in Canada has been extensive and long standing. The first cardinal intra-national treaty was signed in the 18th century between the British Empire (the Crown) and the Aboriginal Community (First Nations in Canada), permitting the evolution of Canada as we know it. “This treaty-making process, which has evolved over more than 300 years between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada, has its origins in the diplomatic relationship developed between European settlers and Aboriginal people. As the two parties made economic and military alliances, Canada began to take form. These key diplomatic proceedings were the first steps in a long process that has led to today’s comprehensive claims agreements between the Crown and Aboriginal groups” – Government of Canada. Hence many treaties ensued, including: The Treaty of Albany, 1701, to resolve the colonial conflict between the British and French Era between 1534-1763; The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht ceding the mainland of the Maritimes, or Acadia, to Great Britain, leaving Cape Breton Island and and Prince Edward Island as the sole French possessions in the area; The Royal Proclamation of 1763 establishing protocols for all dealings with First Nations people, among many. In 1869, after nearly 200 years of control, the HBC sold the Rupert’s Land Charter to Canada. Through this transfer, Canada gained full control of all resources in what is now widely known as the Northwest Territory.

Canada History – Timeline and Animation in 5 Minutes

Brief Overview of NAFTA

The new ratification put in to North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on November 30th, 2018, between Canada, the United States and Mexico set to improve the domestic process towards the mutual benefit of the key agreement. Advances in mass production and artificial intelligence, as well as a paradigm shift in the global markets, are remaking the terms of the treaty and the terms of trade, with the NAFTA block vying to bolster their territorial trade alongside their competitive advantage against other great trading blocks. NAFTA became effective on January 1st, 1994, in Canada, United State and Mexico to forms the world’s largest free-trade zone, that brings together approximately 365 million consumers in the three member countries. By and large, the treaty is a pact that calls for the gradual removal of tariffs and other trade barriers on most of the good produced in North America. A tariff in its most common adaptation refers to a tax on consumption that raises the price of imported good and services. In 1995, during the Presidency of Bill Clinton, there were suggestions to include Chile in the trade-zone. However, the administration was unable to conclude the discussion and opted to keep the agreement with the initial three members. The concept of NAFTA borrows heavily from the classic work of Adam Smith, who convincingly demonstrated in his masterpiece “The Wealth of Nations” published in 1776 that, individuals are better off if they specialize instead of trying to be economically self sufficient. Likewise, countries are better off if they exchange the services and products they are relatively good at producing for those things that other cooperating countries are relatively better at producing.

From the onset, member states were apprehensive of the new agreement.  Many feared that jobs would be lost because as NAFTA facilitated the movement of US production plants to Canada and Mexico where plants would take advantage of abundant cheaper labour and lax enforcement of environmental and workers rights. More than one environmental group also raised concerns that pollution and food safety controls would be more difficult to enforce and could even be challenged or eliminated on the ground that they were trade barriers.  In a swift response to these concerns, two supplementary agreements were added to the former treaty, one addressing environmental issues and the other labour issues. In theory, NAFTA was intended to lower barriers to trade in Mexico, United States and Canada.  The projected effect of the agreement was, and is, that the three countries involved benefit from the increased exchange of goods.  New market for goods was anticipated to result in augmented industry as well as enhanced access to cheaper goods and services.  While the net economic impact of NAFTA to the three countries may be positive, models of international trade envisage that certain segments of the economy in each country benefit from the agreement while others lose.  Its effects on Canada’s bloom have been objected. 

Section of Toronto City in Canada. Image courtesy of Trip Savvy
Section of Toronto City in Canada. Image courtesy of Trip Savvy

The Norm of the Treaty

Communities from different nations have bought and sold from each other for centuries, but rarely have they traded fairly.  Historical evidence points out that countries have different terms for goods made in other countries with those for goods made at home.  These adjustments are primarily made by changing taxes and tariffs on exported goods.  In theory, the concept of free-trade is originated when nations sign and agree to reduce or eliminate trade tariffs and quotas. In relation to NAFTA, activists from the three member countries have often times criticized free trade on the grounds that businesses are simply attempting to exploit low-wage labour.  That free trade does not, as proponents argue, directly create jobs.  The net effect of the whole process is nil. Exports create jobs while imports frequently destroy the local industry potential. Atkinson and Kollman, both distinguished economists, have written widely on the negative impacts of NAFTA on employment, largely.  They suggest that free trade does not change the composition of employment.  Instead, as trade barriers decline, workers in industries that are no longer competitive in the regional and international markets experience increased unemployment.  The losses are accompanied by increased employment in export oriented industries in which the United States enjoys a comparative advantage.  Other sympathizers of Canada’s plight argue that the primary purpose of free trade was to move Americans out of unskilled jobs to high productivity jobs such as in software and in computer production.

Besides the plain to see oversight in sketching an all inclusive agreement for the three nations, the negative impact of NAFTA on Canada’s environment, both air and water pollution, remains a rather serious problem for the opposers. While for the most part the environmental issues had the most innovative ideas, they are the most controversial aspects of NAFTA.  The environmental provisions included in the agreement itself, as well as in the Supplementary Agreement on the environment, purport NAFTA as the most environmentally conscious trade agreement ever negotiated.  As per its numerous requirements, Canada, United States and Mexico are prohibited from relaxing their environmental regulations in order to attract additional investments to their economies. But in other ways, the environmental impacts have received mixed reviews. On the one hand, the Canadian Environmental Commission created an action plan to phase out four dangerous pollutants in North America and established systems to improve the monitoring of various environmental quality measures.  On the other hand, it investigated a number of complaints, only to report the results as inconclusive.

Negative Impacts of NAFTA in Canada 

Perhaps the most conspicuous negative impact of NAFTA in Canada is the lack of a significant improvement in environmental conditions, to a large extent due to the unwillingness and inability of the three governments. Economists have often lamented that the negative impact on the environment has been scaled further by the power and rights accorded to corporations.  The so called free trade agreement gives foreign corporations the power of intolerance, attenuated by an unexpected liberalism, weakening the Canadian, Mexican and United States governments from enforcing standards on home soil. This concept is not new to the US. In 1994, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a rule to ensure all gasoline sold in the US met certain levels of cleanliness.  In retaliation, Brazil and Venezuela complained to the World Trade Organization that the rules would put them at a disadvantage.  The WTO ruled against the United States forcing it to change these rules, thereby weakening the air quality.

Generally speaking, the negative impacts on trade for Canada, with constantly vacillating terms of NAFTA, manifest themself in two major ways: The race to the bottom effect; and imbalance in trade. The race to the bottom results when major businesses increasingly move factories in and out of different countries.  This mobility gives the companies power to make demands on governments to lower labor and environmental standards, failure to which the companies make threats of laying off workers.  Since its passage, hundreds of US firms moved their production to Canada and Mexico, where the laws protect them and not the workers.  As far as the imbalance in trade goes, workers in Canada suffer the effects of their living standards slowly getting degraded.  The state government revealed that in five years after NAFTA went into effect, real wages adjusted for price changes fell by a considerable percentage. Likewise, according to Vogel, the rift occurs when business is protected while labor and environment are not. 

NAFTA explained by avocados. And shoes.

Negative Impacts: Economic theories perspective

A great number of models of international trade identify the winners and losers within NAFTA. The Hecksher-Ohlin-Samuelson (H-O-S) model focuses on three factors of production which can be divided into labour, land and capital. And, based on the supposition about protective barrier and factor mobility to trade, H-O-S model infers that scarce factors in Canada, relative to its trading partners, suffer falling demand for their services if trade barriers are reduced.  For example, skilled labour is relatively abundant in United States and Canada as compared to Mexico; and the inverse is true.  The economy of Canada, being highly developed, is predicted to have a comparative advantage in the supply of highly-skilled labour.  So that those with fewer skills in Canada are at a certain disadvantage.  The effect is a decline in demand for semi-skilled workers in Canada – since goods that they once produced can be imported from Mexico. Ricardo-Viner theory focuses on economic sector effects rather than factors of production.  The theory assumes that sectors are economic groupings which contain comparable or closely related industries such as agricultural sector and the finance sector.  A sector may be disadvantaged or advantaged based on the type and profusion of resources available; land, technology and labour.  This theory boldly infers that people within certain sectors will experience the same positive or negative effects, regardless of skill level.  This argument is based on the supposition that there are costs in re-deploying resources that will prevents people from freely moving across sectors and taking advantage of the market changes. NAFTA has had harmful effects on a variety of sectors across Canada, most notably, in agriculture where farmers are faced with a range of adjustment costs. This theory predicted that losses for one trading partner will results in benefits for another. The consequence was negative for vital sectors in Canada. 

The Human Capital Model postulates that nations with high skill levels are better at adjusting to changing economic circumstances like new trade policies. Their skills allow for mobility.  As a result, only that segment of the Canadian population will benefit from the free trade policies of NAFTA, because they are well positioned to take advantage of new opportunities.  Only the highly skilled workers are more secure in their jobs, for their marginal productivity is greater than that of unskilled workers.  Concomitantly, unemployment in Canada after the NAFTA rose alarmingly. The impact in Canada has often been obscured by the “boom-and-bust” cycle that drove investment, domestic consumption, and speculation in the mid to late 1990s. Between 1994 and 2000 total employment rose swiftly in the Canada, causing overall unemployment to fall to record low levels. While Canada’s trade levels did increase, and jobs were created in export industries, many more jobs were lost. Between 1989 and 1997, 870,700 export jobs were created, but during the same period 1,147,100 jobs were destroyed by imports. Consequently, Canada’s trade boom resulted in a net obliteration of 276,000 jobs.  This huge job loss transformed into a sustained countrywide rise in unemployment levels. Unemployment since the 1990s in Canada has fallen lately to around 7%, but this is still far above the 5% average unemployment rate for the entire three decades from 1950 to 1980.  Canada has also witnessed the dismantling of the United States owned branch plant sector. Hitherto, the Ontario Ministry of Labour documented 397 entire plant closures from 1989 to August 1992. The closure of these branch plants, while contributing to Canada’s rise in unemployment, is also proof of a reduction in U.S investment in Canada.

The economic impact of a (partial) NAFTA breakdown - RaboResearch
The economic impact of a (partial) NAFTA breakdown – RaboResearch

The Negative Impact of NAFTA on Trade

As it boosted a new division of labour, NAFTA also encouraged the investment pattern that fueled the division. NAFTA encouraged investment in areas where production is cheapest.  The result, Canada became a much less desirable place to invest. Canada is a high tax, wage and regulatory cost jurisdiction making it a less attractive production site. There is substantial empirical evidence that this new era of capital mobility has resulted in a diversion of investment away from Canada. Cheap labour in Mexico then spurred on former investors in Canada to move their investments south to Mexico – becoming the new investment lure in North America. Canada received a lesser share of total U.S. direct investment. U.S. direct investment has heaved into Mexico in the latter years exceeding the total cumulative inflow for the previous ten years. The net inflow of U.S. direct investment to Mexico in 1990 and 1991 was $US 4.7 billion, greater than the net U.S. direct investment flows into Canada during this period of $US 4.4 billion. This is offbeat considering how much smaller in size of the Mexican economy is.

NAFTA has also contributed to rising income inequality and to the declining relative wages of Canadian workers without college degree, who made up 68 % of the workforce in 2001.  The growth in Canadian trade and trade deficits has put hard downward pressure on the wages of workers without a college degree especially to those who have no formal education further than a high school degree. This group consists of most middle and low-wage workers including the 65% of the total workforce with the lowest pay.  A large and growing body of research demonstrates that increasing trade has abridged the price of import-competing products and put downward pressure on the real wages of workers engaged in producing those goods. Because Canada tends to import goods that make intensive use of skills of less-educated workers in production, it is not at all surprising to find that the increasing openness of Canada’s economy to trade has reduced the wages of less educated workers relative to other workers in U.S.

North American Free Trade Agreement

The Future of the NAFTA Treaty

The effects of growing Canadian trade and trade deficits on wages goes beyond just those workers exposed directly to foreign competition. As the trade deficit limits jobs in the manufacturing industry, the new supply of workers to the service sector largely from displaced workers not able to find manufacturing jobs depresses the wages of those already holding service jobs. The growth in import competition and capital mobility under NAFTA has also contributed to stagnant and falling wages in Canada.   The “threat effects” arises when firms threaten to close plants and move them abroad while haggling with workers over wages and working conditions. Employers credible threats to relocating plants, outsourcing portions of their operations and purchasing intermediate goods and services directly from foreign producers has had a substantial impact on workers’ bargaining power. The use of these kinds of threats is widespread according to a Wall Street Journal survey of 1993.  The report stated that one-fourth of almost 550 American corporate executives polled admitted that they were “very likely” to use “NAFTA” as a bargaining element to hold down wages.

In Canada free trade has destroyed the balance of imports and exports.  In the sense of the definition of free trade, the markets are operating without rules and this does not work between countries any more than it works within countries.  The key question therefore is, are there any cues capable of boosting economic interest and persuading people from Canada to adopt the policy standards that conflict with their objective economic situation? The answer lies in research.  Based on this post, there are research question that attracts the need for further research.  As per the HO-S model there’s need for further research to determine how the low-skilled workers in Canada should oppose NAFTA while the high-skilled workers support it.  Based on the Ricardo-Viner model, there is need for research to identify the sectors harmed by NAFTA and if they should oppose it and what support for NAFTA should come from the sectors the benefit greatly?

On November 30, 2018, Canada, the United States and Mexico signed the new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), on the margins of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires. CUSMA outcomes preserve key elements of this trading relationship and incorporate new and updated provisions that seek to address 21st-century trade issues and promote opportunities for the nearly half a billion people who call North America home. Since 1994, NAFTA has generated economic growth and rising standards of living for the people of all three member countries. In 2017, total trilateral merchandise trade (the total of each country’s imports from one another) reached nearly US$1.1 trillion. Total merchandise trade between Canada and the United States has more than doubled since 1993, and has grown over nine-fold between Canada and Mexico.

Infogram of the Benefits of NAFTA

First Nations in Canada

History of the First Nations in Canada

First Nations in Canada

A chronological query of the history of the First Nations in Canada, and the geographical distribution of the indigenous people and the way that the outsider colonists influenced their settlement patterns.

Canada came to have its name from one of the Iroquoian languages. An epithet associating a ‘village’ or ‘community’.  Canada’s first inhabitants, the indigenous people, are popularly referred to as First Nations in Canada or the First Nation Community. They perpetuated elaborate political relations as well as composite societies long before the arrival of the Europeans (Vikings) in the 11th century. As the Vikings from Europe made their appearance – sending ships far across the Atlantic to land on the coastline of North America and Canada five centuries before Columbus – they quickly increased settlement and coterie, and until the 16th Century, manufacturing and trading grew swiftly. But this was also the era that began the gradual displacement of the Aboriginals of Canada.  The census of 1871 was arguably the first attempt to enumerate the Aboriginal population in Canada, with the census estimates for British Columbia, Labrador, Manitoba, Rupert Island and North West reporting an indigenous population of 102,353.  In like manner, in 1996, 799,010 people identified themselves as Aboriginals: 554,290 as North American Indians; 210,190 as Métis; and 41,080 been from Inuit origins – according to Statistics Canada. The disruptive distribution and characteristics of the Aboriginal people has its root in the history of colonialism in Canada.  The post colonial geography, including presenting the character of geographical representation on colonial discourse, is today a subject of interest.

Brief Overview of the Geography of Canada

Political Map of Canada. Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Political Map of Canada. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Provinces and Landscape of Canada

Canada in the north is marked by a fairy castle of mountains whose peaks tower over the extensive islands covered by snowy tundra and frozen glaciers, where the brooding hillocks sheathed in forests contain an enormous concentration of wildlife; polar bears, seals and narwhals. Prone to lengthy, cold winters, heavy snow and perpetually frozen soil, the area we now know as Northern Canada is virtually uninhabited. The northwestern half of Canada contains the country’s three remote northern territories of Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories. Concomitantly, Yukon possesses a more forested, Cordillera-style environment, in contrast to Nunavut and the NWT, yet, all three areas are rocky, barren, with only sparse vegetation. One of Canada’s greatest attraction today is the West Coast (or Cordillera region) and the most mountainous part of the country. In its furthest west, the Coastal Range mountains stretch down from Alaska along Canada’s border with the Pacific Ocean. Further east lies the Canadian portion of the Rocky Mountains, which forms British Columbia’s border with Alberta. Both ranges are home to massive evergreen forests and a diverse assortment of wildlife which aptly framed ‘Wild Canada‘. Sheltered between the mountains of Canada – east and west – is a flat country, in the southern interior of British Columbia known as the Okanagan, that hosts the country’s largest orchards and wineries. To the east of the West Coast Region the land dramatically to an open region spectacularly known the Prairies. It’s a typically warm low country, but is extremely well watered, making the flush plain the base of Canada’s agriculture.

The Prairies cover the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In the north limits of the Prairies, the country is considerably more hilly and forested than on the famous plains south. The central part of the province of Manitoba is marked by three big lakes – Manitoba, Winnipeg and Winnipegosis – which are surrounded by shallow swamps, rivers and bogs. Within the glorious and more temperate region of the central-southwest area of Canada is to be found its two largest provinces, Quebec and Ontario, which, scooped out by the giant Hudson Bay to the north and bordered by four of the five Great Lakes of Superior, Erie, Huron and Ontario, constitute, by sheer weight of size and the presence of thousands of small lakes and rivers, the largest wetland habitations in Canada. Furthest east, we have the Appalachian region, encompassing the four Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, which are all either islands or peninsulas on the eastern coast of Canada that extend into the Atlantic Ocean. Having said that, it’s important to note that Canada is the second-biggest country, and over 80% of its land is uninhabited. Most Canadians live in clusters in a handful of developed cities close to the U.S. border in the southern frontier. Canada’s only neighbour is the United States to the south, and north-east via the isolated state of Alaska. Canada’s longest distance from east to west is from Cape Spear, Newfoundland to Mt. St. Elias, Yukon – 5,187 km. The longest distance from Canada’s north to south is from Cape Columbia, Northwest Territories, to Middle Island, Lake Erie – 4,627 km.

First Nations in Canada: Introductory Notes

Who are the First Nations people in Canada? - Quora

With on too many jargons and labels for the variations and classes of the First Nations in Canada, the distinction in the variety of the Aboriginals of Canada can be largely broken up into six main geographic groups: Woodland First Nations, who lived in dense boreal forest in the eastern part of the country; Iroquoian First Nations, who inhabited the southernmost region, a fertile land suitable for planting corn, beans and squash; Plains First Nations, who lived on the grasslands of the Prairies; Plateau First Nations, whose area ranged from semi-desert conditions in the south to high mountains and dense forest in the north; Pacific Coast First Nations, who had access to abundant salmon and shellfish and the gigantic red cedar for building huge houses; and First Nations of the Mackenzie and Yukon River Basins, whose harsh environment consisted of dark forests, barren lands and swampy terrain known as muskeg. All the First Nations of Canada – once both a badge of success and the most widespread people across the country – had well established systems and symbiotic relations to both the land and their neighbours in far-away lands.

Woodland First Nations hunters and trappers had an intimate knowledge of the habitats and seasonal migrations of animals that they depended on for survival. Unlike the Woodland First Nations, Iroquoian First Nations did not migrate in search of food. Excellent farmers, these southern peoples harvested annual food crops. On the Plains, the unique migratory groups, each with their own chief, assembled during the summer months for spiritual ceremonies, dances, feasts and communal hunts. The First Nations of the Pacific Coast influenced their neighbours with social organization and trading. In addition, the Pacific Coast First Nations had a well-defined aristocratic class that was regarded as superior by birth. The basic social unit for all First Nations in this part of the country was the extended family (lineage) whose members claimed descent from a common ancestor. Mackenzie and Yukon River Basins were primarily occupied with day-to-day survival. As such, First Nations were divided into several independent groups made up of different family units who toiled together. Each group lived in a separate territory, with individual boundaries defined by tradition and use.

Distribution of the First Nations in Canada

Distribution of the First Nation Community of Canada. Courtesy of IOS Press
Distribution of the First Nation Community of Canada. Courtesy of IOS Press

Having thus attempted to introduce the reader to the geography of Canada, this post will now continue to chronologically analyze the history of the First Nation Community of Canada, the geographical distribution of the natives, and the way that colonists influenced settlement patterns.  It shall examine five critical eras in the history of Canada, which will be subdivided as: the indigenous era of the 1500’s; the European contact era between 985 – 1600; the New France era; the British era; and the post modern day era, and trace how each era influenced the demographic and socio economic characteristics of the First Nations. According to historians and anthropologist alike, the First Nations in Canada had existed as long as the landscape itself.  Evidence of their existence dates back 18,000 years ago when the land that is now Canada reappeared from under the great ice sheets that covered most of the country during the Pleistocene Ice age. Dry ice free land linked Alaska and Asia during this Pleistocene era, and historians believe immigrants from Asia and Alaska used this route – the Isthmus also called it the Beningia – to migrate to North America almost 15,000 years ago. Despite divisions owing to distance, cultures, languages, trading networks and diplomacy, alliances stretched far across the continent.  By 1500, there may have been about 300,000 people inhabiting Canada, with more than half of these clustered in the two key regions of Southern Ontario and the Pacific coast.

The societies of the Algonquian language family, the most widespread in North America, extended from the Atlantic Coast to the Rocky Mountains, making use of the extensive and rich coastline for fish and other marine resources.  Even so, most of the Algonquian remained hunters and gatherers and lived in the forests which stretched the entire Canada from East to West. A second main language during this period was the Athabaskan speakers, who were also predominantly hunters and gatherers who lived in the North Western forest and in the plains, side by side with the Algonquian and the Siouan groups.  A third predominant language family is the Iroquoian speaking people who inhabited the woodlands of the lower great lakes and St. Lawrence valley and were the largest and most complex society.  And, as early as 500 AD, the Iroquois had already established agriculture and fortified towns which were distinctively encircled by corn farms. The golden age of the mid-1700’s gave rise to another fourth language family in the First Nations, known as Plains Cree and Blackfoot.  The golden age had witnessed a massive importation of horses to North America through Mexico and this new mobility gave rise to a new era in hunting and thus marked the emergence of the Plains Cree and Blackfoot language family who flourished in the Great Plains. Over the Arctic Coast, Tundra and Arctic lands lived the Inuit who had developed and invented many ways to survive the forbidding climate.  They lived in small groups of hunters and spoke several dialects of a common language spreading eastwards, from Alaska to Greenland, until a millennia ago. 

Arrivals of the Europeans in Canada

The arrival of the European in 985 AD marked the first major turning point in the displacement of the First Nation Community.  The period between 985 and 1600 saw major disintegration and decline of the Aboriginals.  The invictus and valourous Vikings, colonists of Greenland and Iceland, were the first Europeans to set foot in North America in 985 AD. In 1000 AD Leif Ericson of Greenland sailed west to Vinland in the quest to build a settlement which historian believe to have been a place called L’Anse aux Meadows on the Island of Newfoundland and Labrador. The remains of a Viking village were unearthed by archeologists in the 1960’s.  Leif was the first known European to have set foot on continental North America. By the same token, the Viking’s contact was widespread in the North Eastern coast, and this contact appears to have been marked by conflict which continued through the entire period the European inhabited this region until they lost contact in 1410 with Greenland. And, for several hundred years, there were few European settlers across much of Canada, and thus there were few conflicts between them and the First Nation Community over rights of land.

Trading relations, ingrained in the fur trade that eventually spread across the continent, had a more significant outcome. Trade altered indigenous societies by adding European goods to their way of life, heartening them to concentrate on trade with the newcomers, and repeatedly leading them into new alliances or conflicts based on trade. But, trade rarely put the First Nations under European domination. Instead, missionaries, who often came with the early traders, tried to change the native peoples to Christianity but were frequently disappointed by their lack of success. So long as the indigenous societies remained independent, they rarely showed great enthusiasm for European religions. For centuries after the arrival of Cabot, most of them retained control over contacts with visitors. In these early years, disease was the biggest menace of European contact. They brought with them diseases that were unknown in North America, that natives lacked immunity for. The result was devastating epidemics that ran through the Americas long before any Europeans moved inland to report them. In fact, the First Nations began to decline as soon as the Europeans arrived. It’s estimated that the Mi’kmaq lost ninety percent of the population between 1500 and 1600. As contact moved gradually north and west, so did epidemics. The Great Plains nations suffered devastating epidemics in the late 1700s, the Pacific Northwest suffered similar catastrophes in the mid-1800s and the Inuits were hit hard by illnesses as they came into regular contact with Europeans in the 20th century. Indigenous populations in Canada declined continuously from 1500’s to 1930’s.

The Time of the French in North America

The Acadia, first colonized by the French in 1604, was out-rightly disputed by the British during the struggle for supremacy in North America.  The French controlled the region of Acadia now made up of Canadian Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, parts of modern day province of Quebec, and State of Maine.  This New France era, which happened between 1600 and 1760, had the biggest impact in the spatial displacement of the First Nation Community.  At the time, the French saw the potential of value of the fur trade and fishing, among plenty resources on North America.  New France eventually comprised Canada’s area drained by St. Lawrence, Acadia – Maritime Provinces, Island of Newfoundland and Louisiana.  For the most part, the First Nation Community continued with their way of life unaffected by the French Laws and customs. To confirm itself over the British, France raised permanent forts and settlement that eventually had a dramatic outcome to the displacement of the indigenous families of North America. In 1608, Samuel de Champlain, an explorer hired by the Monts, founded a settlement at Quebec on the St. Lawrence River, and, consequently, the French began their colonization focus on St. Lawrence valley.  To maintain the French settlement, Champlain had to form alliances with the local Algonquian nation and the inland allies – the Huron confederacy.  Under the company, the colony continued long after Champlain died at Quebec on 1635 and more settlements were founded, most notably of Trois-Rivieres and Montreal.  In 1663, when France had barely 3,000 people in North America, Louis XIV’s finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert abolished the One Hundred Associates, ending the company rule in the region.

Marking National Aboriginal Day in Canada. Image courtesy of SBS
Marking National Aboriginal Day in Canada. Image courtesy of SBS

British Empire’s Influence on the First Nations

In 1759, as written in the Journals of Captain John Knox, the British through General James Wolfe won a decisive victory in the French and Indian War, when the troops captured the city of Québec from French forces. The French and British were fighting for control of territory in North America. Québec was a center of French military power, and its defeat helped consolidate the British control of Canada. John Knox, a British captain who served under Wolfe, kept an all-embracing journal of his experiences in the war. After Britain ousted France in the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the territory formerly known as New France became British North America. Britain’s King George III issued the first constitutional deed of the new colonies, the Royal Proclamation of 1763. It established the rules by which the colonies would be governed. It also laid out the doctrines for land negotiations between the British Government representatives and Aboriginals, providing for the latter’s right to acquire land prior to settlement. The act was restraining for French Canadians, however, prohibiting Roman Catholics from holding public office and applying British law rather than the French civil code (Royal Proclamation, 1763).  Perhaps, it is the clause in the Royal Proclamation that elaborates best the harsh land policies that the British used, similar to the French and later the Canadian Government.

Brief Excerpt of the Royal Proclamation: “And whereas great frauds and abuses have been committed in purchasing lands of the Indians to the great prejudice of our interests and to the great dissatisfaction of the said Indians; in order therefore, to prevent such irregularities for the future, and to the end that the Indians may be convinced of our justice and determined resolution to remove all reasonable cause of discontent, we do, with the advice of our Privy Council, strictly enjoin and require, that no private person do presume to make any purchase from the said Indians of any lands reserved to the said Indians, within those parts of our colonies where, we have thought proper to allow settlement; but that, if at any time any of the said Indians should be inclined to dispose of the said lands, the same shall be purchased only for us in our name.”

Beginning 1850’s, the Canadian Government negotiated a series of treaties with the aboriginals, which consequently took much of their land and continued the confinement of indigenous people to reserves.  In May 1998, the Government of Canada issued an official apology for its past policies towards the First Nations. Historical geographers have indicated how colonial misgivings and mapping erased Aboriginal people from the Canadian landscape. Through a consortium of mechanisms that varied geographically, the Aboriginal peoples were confined to reserves and the cleared land made available for settlers and development. The scattered reserves were part of a strategy to force First Nations into the industrial workforce. These settlement patterns were also meant to cut off small groups and prevent united opposition against Indian policy and administration. Dealing with Metis rights through scrip – certificates to people to be exchanged in public land – meant that most of the land ended up with colonialist, virtually getting rid of Metis territory from the landscape. While Treaty negotiations had specifications of the amounts of land comparable to agricultural homesteads to be set aside for each Aboriginal family, a variety of occurrences, like; failure to survey promised areas, the harsh surrender of band lands and the expropriation of reserves, created small parcels of land which could not adequately support growing populations. The methodical underdevelopment of reserve areas and First Nations economies and populations, the geographies of reserves and the dispossession of land all led to the current privation of First Nations in Canada.

First Nations: A Colonial Misadventure

The geographical trait of reserves is very small, discontinuous and scattered – and the dispersal of the Metis populations also has continuing implications for First Nations and Metis identities and governance. In 1996, a report by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples cited the right of self-determination in ‘peoples’, collectivities larger than individual First Nation; Inuit or Métis communities. According to the Commissioners, the right of self-determination did not put power back in the hands of the Aboriginal groups, whose entire membership was scattered as a minority throughout the general population. Yet the geographical placement of reserve lands and Métis communities makes it difficult for this type of nation arrangement to exist. Among First Nations, most funding is conferred and administered by individual band councils, working against more co-operative arrangements. As they are currently devised, self-government arrangements, negotiated with individual bands on their reserve base, become primarily arrangements for municipal organization of a transfer-based economy. Although First Nations peoples have increasingly organized themselves into tribal councils for political purposes, major obstacles remain. The small size of most reserves implies that migration for employment becomes a necessity for the majority, scattering band populations. The challenges are even more compromised for the Métis who don’t have an established land base.

Today the Government of Canada is working in partnership with First Nations in this new era of reconciliation to build stronger First Nations communities. All across the country, this crucial collaborative work is taking place in areas as diverse as First Nations economies, education, governance, social services, human rights, culture and the resolution of outstanding land claims.

Canada 150: Indigenous People Remember Dark Past

Treaty of Versailles

Influence of Treaty of Versailles on WWII

Treaty of Peace of the Treaty of Versailles

“World War I that ended almost one hundred years ago, following the Armistice on November 11, 1918. The Paris Peace Conference was held to determine the terms under which this devastating war was concluded. A war that was fought for insane reasons and brought devastation to so many families only ended when The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. It had been a war that was brought on by inept bureaucrats and it was “The Treaty of Versailles” that concluded the war between Germany and the Allied Powers. This treaty required Germany to disarm, make extensive territorial concessions, and pay reparations to the Allies. The fact that Germany was required to pay unrealistic reparations during such difficult times was the primary reason that the Second World War was fought a little over twenty years later by bringing Adolf Hitler onto the world stage!” – Capt. Hank Bracker, “Seawater One: Going to the Sea”

History of the Treaty of Versailles

Treaty of Versailles: The Motivation and Effects

Jean Martet when quoting Georges Clemenceau, then Prime Minister of France, said: “I know men who profess to like and admire G. Clemenceau, who support the contention that he won the war but not the peace”. Failure by malice to the framers of the Treaty of Versailles, the actions of Mr. Lloyd George in blowing up the repatriation demands of Germany and the actions of the United States in withdrawing from any involvement with the rest of the world are key arguments that many historians including Hertherton and Martet have brought forward as key causes of World War 2. Martet considers the war could be attributed to the deprivation of the League of Nations of half of its influence for peace. Germany alone is to blame because she made no effort to fulfill the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.  Although some element of these statements may be true, this post shall not dwell on uncovering these facts.  Instead it settles on establishing how the Treaty of Versailles started a domino effect that eventually led World War 2.

Behind the signing of the Treaty of Versailles were three bigwig personalities: David Lloyd George (Prime Minister of Britain); Woodrow Wilson (President of the United States of America); and Georges Clemenceau (Prime Minister of France).  Two contradicting prospects marred this process. On the one hand, Wilson inclined towards a treaty based on a fourteen point plan to bring Europe to peace.  On the other hand, Georges Clemenceau wanted revenge asserted on Germany.  Lloyd, who was stuck in the middle, tried to strike a balance between the two opposing plans to end the war. Rather more importantly, Germany had been expecting to sign a ‘peace treaty’ based on Wilson’s fourteen points, and was unhappy with the new terms of the treaty, but, had no choice than to oblige and sign. Germany’s rearmament of the Fatherland, the remilitarization of the Rhineland, the Anschluss with Austria and the occupation of the Sudetenland were all significant attacks on the Treaty of Versailles on the approach to WW2.

Five questions will serve to bring the reader up to date with the complexities of the Treaty of Versailles:  One; how exactly did the Treaty fail in its quest to curtail a new war? Two; did the British public’s displeasure of the Treaty of Versailles play a role in the budding of the appeasement policy of the 1930’s? Three; did Britain demoralize the cause of the Treaty? Four; how did the failure of the treaty and adoption of the policy of appeasement lead to the signing of the Munich Agreement which strengthened Germany’s position on the road to a new war, an event led to the rise of Adolf Hitler?  And five; how did the complex and undependable relations of the League of Nations speed up the cogs of war?

To answer these questions it is important to point out some noteworthy events that were taking place at the time, post 1919. Firstly, the Anglo-French relations had significantly deteriorated.  This tended to encourage a sympathetic attitude towards Germany.  Secondly, Britain realized it needed its former partners in Central Europe for her own prosperity, and had a compromising desire to water down the points of the peace settlement which might have impeded Germany’s recovery. Thirdly, both the British and the French were aware of Adolf Hitler’s actions in Germany, but ignored the situation because they were more engaged with holding back the “domino effect” or the rise of communism.  For Britain and France, Germany building its defenses was essential to prevent the rise of communism to the West. Fourthly, and perhaps the most significant factor, was lifting of the “war guilt” on Germany. Henceforth, there was no more reason to blame Germany for falling out with Austria or blame France for supporting her ally; albeit Germany giving Austria a blank check. The German’s stormy blitz on Belgium was merely the “occasion” for Britain’s entrance into the war; the key reason was her ties to the entente and her fear of the consequences of a German victory. In fact, the real cause of the war was the split of Europe into two armed camps. The actions of each state were natural. None was guilty of desiring war, but all were guilty of failing to edit the international anarchy they had inherited.

The Peace Treaty / Versailles

Miscalculations Towards World War Two

The “war guilt” debate reached its pinnacle in 1938, with the Anschluss and the Czech crisis. Marriott and Temperley viewed Germany’s annexation of Austria as predictable, and any response by Britain as purposeless. Still to others the Munich Agreement was hailed as representing “the revival in this country of realist statesmanship in the best sense”. Temperley also saw Chamberlain’s policy as realistic and they condemned its critics as idealists. While pointing to the “tribulations” imposed on Germany by the peace treaty as a justification for the Munich Agreement, they revealed a heavier reason for their support of the appeasement. There is little doubt that during the 1930s the British public and its leaders alike clung to the old views inculcated by historians in the previous decade.  The views were that a relatively guiltless Germany had been unjustly treated by the peacemakers and that the injustices Germany was attempting to correct were therefore legitimate. As a result, the wave of pro-Germanism that flounced the nation in the wake of Hitler’s remilitarization of the Rhineland is an indication of the scope and strength of these convictions. All this time, the dilemma of French security was scarcely grasped, and the significance of the remilitarization of the Rhineland and the trouncing of the Czech defenses in shifting the equation of power went unnoticed. In a bid to undo the post-war settlement, they disregarded the elementary principles of the balance of power.

Britain’s displeasure on the Treaty of Versailles played a big role in the budding of the appeasement policy, or giving in to someone provided their demands are reasonable.  When Germany began arming in 1934, it was felt she had a right to protect herself. As such, the Munich Agreement, signed by leaders of Germany, France, Britain, and Italy, agreed that the Sudetenland would be returned to Germany. The Czech government was not invited to the meeting and protested about the loss of the Sudetenland. They felt that they had been betrayed by both Britain and France, with whom alliances had been made. However, the Munich Agreement was, generally speaking, viewed as a victory and a great example of securing peace through conciliation rather than war. When Adolf Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, he ruined the terms of the agreement.

The next domino to fall on the road to WW2 was Hitler’s actions following the undermined and weakened peace treaty.  Adolf Hitler was sworn as Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. And almost instantaneously began secretly piling stocks of Germany’s weapons and arms. By 1934 he had considerably increased the size of the army and began building warships and an air force. Contrary to Treaty of Versailles which prohibited conscription, Hitler brought into being compulsory military service. In 1936 Hitler directed German troops to enter the Rhineland. At this point the German army was not very sturdy and could have been easily overpowered. Yet, neither Britain nor France was prepared to start another war. In the same year, Hitler also made two imperative alliances: The first was called the Rome-Berlin Axis Pact that allied Germany with Italy; and the second was called the Anti-Comitern Pact that allied Germany with Japan. In 1938 Hitler began taking back land that had been taken from Germany.  In March of that year, the leader of Austria was forced to hold a vote of confidence asking the people whether they would like to be part of Germany.  99% of the Austrian people wanted Anschluss and not a union with Germany. The Austrian leader requested France, Britain, and Italy for aid. Hitler guaranteed that the Anschluss was the end of his expansionist aims, and, not wanting to risk war, the other countries did nothing. Just six months later, Hitler did not keep his word and demanded that the Sudetenland region be handed over to Germany.

Quite unexpectedly, The Munich Agreement stated that Hitler (Germany) could have the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, on condition that he promised not to attack the rest of Czechoslovakia. In March 1939 Hiltler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. Despite Czechoslovakia raising an alarm for help, it was ignored by all and sundry, for neither Britain nor France was prepared to take military action against Germany. However, action was now deemed necessary, believing that Poland was Germany’s next target.  Britain and France pledged to take military action against Hitler if he invaded Poland. Chamberlain believed that, faced with the prospect of war against France and Britain, Hitler would stop his offense. Chamberlain was wrong, and on September 1, 1939, German troops invaded Poland, dropping the last domino that ushered in World War 2.

The Treaty of Versailles and WW2

Failures of the Treaty of Versailles

In the debate on the failures of the Treaty of Versailles, historians claimed to speak with scholarly authority. Precisely as German officials had hoped, the demise of the belief in its war guilt, which was largely the making of historians, raised the question of whether it was morally bound to honor a peace accord concluded under what was later regarded as the misapprehension that she was chiefly responsible for the war. Liberal intellectuals, disillusioned by the Treaty of Versailles, eagerly embraced the new revisionist history as an argument for changes in the peace settlement. When Adolf Hitler proceeded unilaterally to dismantle the Versailles system in the 1930s, these liberals, frightened by the potential consequences of Britain’s opposition, urged acceptance of his ruinous aggression on the grounds that Germany’s grievances were valid. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, Grant and Temperley noted with great disquietude that the Treaty of Versailles was no longer the public law of Europe. In the commentaries written by Kepi, the Treaty Versailles was only one half of the peace dissonance, the other was the League of Nations. The failure of the League of Nations to keep countries in ‘check’ was also a fundamental faux-pax.

The League of Nation

So far, we have established that the Treaty of Versailles was no longer reliable in maintaining peace in Europe, and as a last resort the League of Nations was expected to uphold peace. The fundamental idea of the League of Nations in the mind of its founders was simple: To them the root of evil of the pre-war system had been secret diplomacy, aggressive imperialism, the balance of power, and the militaristic ambition promoted by autocratic blocks.  It was to offer impetus against the restoration of the old system of competitive diplomacy, by bringing all nations in an assembly that solves international problems that could cause international disturbance.  It cushioned against risk of war by requiring each member to permit inquiry for a given period into any dispute with another member before it started war like operations, and obliging members to take action against any member violating the rules. Howbeit, the League of Nations did not patently function as the universal clearing house for all the international disputes.  From the onset it had many shortcomings working against it.  Owing to the constraints of space, this post will only outline the main drawbacks that saw the League of Nations fail to hold back European nations from another war.

League of Nations – The first ‘world organisation’ – Published by FutureLearn

Failures of the League of Nations

Firstly, not all countries joined the LeagueWhile the vision of the League of Nations had come from Woodrow Wilson, there was a change of government in the United States before the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and the modish incumbent Republican government declined to join.  As a direct recompense for originating World War One, Germany was not allowed to join the League of Nations. And Russia was also excluded thanks to a growing fear of “the domino effect” or rise of Communism. Secondly, the League of Nations had no powers. Its main weapon was to ask member countries to discontinue trading with an aggressive country. However, this was not effective because countries could still trade with non-member countries. As it were, in the wake of 1920’s depression, countries were unwilling to lose trading partners to other non-member nations. Thirdly, the League of Nations had no standing army and it relied on soldiers supplied by the member countries. For the same reason, the countries were not keen to get involved and risk provoking an aggressive country into taking direct action against them and failed to provide troops. As a result the League was a “toothless” bulldog. Fourthly, the League of Nations was unable to act swiftly. The Council of the League of Nations only met every four months and decisions had to be agreed by all members. When they called on the League to intercede, it had to set up a crisis meeting, hold discussions and gain the consensus of all members. The tack meant that it could not act swiftly to stop acts of aggression.

The Treaty of Versailles: In Conclusion           

Did the Treaty of Versailles ever hold any water in terms of its ability to keep aggressors like Germany in check and maintaining peace in Europe? Arguably, the answer is a resounding no.  Firstly, the process of its creation was biased.  Failure by malice on the framers of the Treaty of Versailles: The actions of Mr. Lloyd George in blowing up the repatriation demands of Germany. On his part, Martet believes that the treaty which Clemenceau would have made in those circumstances alone — opposites disarmed or Germany shattered — would not have differed very much from the actual Treaty of Versailles. Martet adds that it is not the treaty as it was applied from 1920 onwards that was the onset of its drawbacks, but as it was drawn up, as it was signed on June 28th, 1919, and as it was corroborated by the Chamber of Deputies on October 2nd, 1919. That is a further reason why Clemenceau could feel altogether dissatisfied with his work.

In the face of the conquered nervy enemy, the only thing that concerned France was for her to regain her pre-war rectitude and independence, her territorial integrity, her agricultural and industrial prosperity. For Clemenceau, Germany had fired the train and must make amends. So, in the end, harsh clauses were drawn up that included: “War Guilt” stating that Germany should admit the blame for starting World War One; reparations that stated that Germany had to disburse £6,600 million for the damage caused; disarmament that stated that Germany could only maintain a small-scale army and minimal naval ships; and territorial clauses that stated that land was taken away from Germany and given to other countries. Needless, perhaps, to point out is that the Treaty was not objective and failed to account for rules of the jungle. Kepi asserted the jungle had developed two means of protecting itself from the worst of chronic low-less ness.  One method had been either for a single or combination of the more powerful states to develop such a preponderance of power that nobody else dared encourage war.  The other method had been the creation of a balance of power, where by two or more groups maintain amicable equilibrium that the expense of war and the uncertainty of the outcome act as effective deterrents.  Withal, the air in Europe at the time was too delicate for the treaty and there was no balance of power, besides, America and USSR which were new powers distanced themselves from Europe and had conflicting interests and ideologies. 

Historian J.A.M Sanchez points out that the Treaty of Versailles failed abide by several instances to the fourteen points. Indeed, many people in these countries are not a little shocked at the moral turpitude of those Europeans who regard this argument with little respect.  According to Sanchez, he cannot conceive of a written Treaty which would have incorporated within its clauses so imprecise a formula as is the fourteen points. I should have thought that by now it would be fairly generally known that the fourteen points were as definitive a part of the military campaign of the last year of the war as were the daunt operations of the American Army in the St. Mihiel Sector. Whether they were intended as such is not yet perfectly clear; that they became such is certain. Their wording seems admirably designed to achieve just exactly what they did achieve, a scaling up of the will to win in the Allied block and a weakening of it in Germany and Austria.

World War I – Treaty of Versailles – Published by WatchMojo

Treaty of Versailles: Milestones & Timeline

January 18, 1919Paris Peace Conference commences
April 14, 1919Reparations provision set at 5.4 Bn. Pounds
June 24, 1919German scuttle their fleet, at Scapa Flow,
rather than handing it down to the Allies
June 28, 1919Treaty of Versailles signed and reparation
set at 1 Bn. Pounds
September 12, 1919Gabriele d’ Annunzio and an Italian army
seize Fiume, against the Treaty
November 19, 1919United States Senate refuses to join the
League of Nations
January 16, 1920First meeting of the League of Nations
February 5, 1920The German government refuses to hand
over 890 alleged ‘war criminals’
February 19, 1920US Senate refuses to sign the Treaty of
March 17, 1920Kapp Putsch (rebellion) in Germany,
against the Peace Treaty, fails
April 6, 1920French troops invade Ruhr (until 17th
May 1920) after government troops had
sent troops to Rhineland to stop rioting
April 25, 1920Poland invades Russia and Lithuania and
takes land east of the ‘Curzon line’ agreed in
the Treaty of Versailles
April 25, 1920The League of Nations suggests reparations
of 4.5 Bn. Pounds
June 22, 1920The League of Nations suggests reparations
of 12.5 Bn. Pounds
July 28, 2020The Allied block bully Poland into accepting
Czech occupation of Teschen
January 28, 1921The League of Nations suggests reparations
of 10 Bn. Pounds
March 8, 1921French, British and Belgium troops invade
the Ruhr in Germany (until 30th September
1921) to force Germans to pay reparations
April 27, 1921Reparations finally fixed at 6.6 Bn., to be paid
in installments until 1984
May 11, 1921Germany agrees to pay reparations
July 11, 1921The big three agree to hold a disarmament
May 15, 1922Upper Silesia, which had been voted in a
plebiscite to be German, is partitioned and
given to Poland after an investigation by
the League of Nations
January 11, 1923French and Belgium troops, against US and
Britain’s advise invade Ruhr in Germany
(until November 1924) to force Germany
to pay reparations
October 16, 1925Locarno Pact: Peace agreement between
France, Belgium, Italy and Germany
January 30, 1926British troops leave the Rhineland
September 16, 1927Germany denies war-guilt

Hiking in Kenya

21 Best Hiking Trails in Kenya

Hiking in Kenya - Travel Quote: "Getting to the top is optional.  Getting down is mandatory" - Ed Viestrus

Brief Overview of Hiking in Kenya

Mountains are, without a doubt, nature’s most astonishing wonders, that fill us with marvel: Muted cathedrals and idols of unspeakable beauty. Their extreme terrain has always beckoned and repelled, enthralling us with mystery and awe. Mountains have invariably stood as places to be revered, either as the home of the holy or the hostile. Just a little over a century ago, climbing mountains was unspeakable if not unimaginable, yet, in climbing them they have become icons of dreams and desires. “The silence of summits has always drawn man in both spirit and adventure.” Or again, “the mountains we climb are mountains of the mind.” Mountaineering, walking, trekking, rambling, strolling and bushwalking (all variants of hiking) are today’s nature-based tourism per-excellence, to seek out these ungoverned up-country paradises. Our enchantment with mountains and the challenge of hiking them gives us the grand magic to venture upwards, and to yield upon the human imagination the dreams of conquering the highest summits. ‘Chasing angels or fleeing demons off we went to seek the mountains’.

As the challenge to summit mountains got bigger adventure replaced reverence. Earliest explorers took to them in earnest to name these uncharted worlds. As the mountains of Europe became popular and great numbers assembled at the Alps each season, many hikers began looking for challenges in other continents, where there are high peaks, which were not so widely-known. East Africa began experiencing this migration, and it is not surprising as there are five mountains of over 14,000 ft. Of the five mountains, three are permanently snow-capped – Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft.); Kenya (17.058 ft.); and the Ruwenzoris (16,763 ft.). They were first climbed in that order – Kilimanjaro being first in 1889; Kenya second in 1889, and the summit of Ruwenzoris, Margherita, in 1906. To make up the five, Mount Elgon (14,178 ft.) and Mount Meru (14,978 ft.) cannot be neglected, as they both support mountain vegetation and scenery that could be termed unique. Both mountains are often covered in frost, indeed in the years gone by were occasionally covered in snow, but the snow was never permanent.

Mount Kenya – A Climber’s Paradise. Published by Ake Lindstorm

Planning Your Hike in Kenya

Whether a day or overnight adventure, hiking into the hillsides and mountains of Kenya offers the intrepid new perspectives and a chance to experience rare and unusual horizons. Knowledge, preparation and planning are your keys to success. “Be honest about your health and fitness, know your limits and avoid spontaneity.” Hikers should be suitably clothed and equipped. Warm clothing and a change of it, dark glasses, deep-threaded sturdy boots (or shoes), large woolen scarf, mittens, sun-proof hat, at least three good blankets (a sleeping bag preferably), a first-aid kit, and vaseline for the protection of the skin, are necessary. Always carry enough refreshments! “Eat double your normal intake of carbohydrates and salty foods. Calories play an important role in regulating body temperature, and hiking suppresses your appetite.” There are two major seasons for hiking in Kenya (and notably of hiking Mount Kenya), they are late December to mid-March, and July to early October during the dryer times of the year. Depending on your destination and target of the hike, clothing for various locations will vary, but for Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon and Aberdare Range is almost self-same as that needed on Mount Kilimanjaro, but the serious climber wishing to tackle hard routes will know what extra equipment to take. All parties hiking the big mountains of Kenya are required to get in touch with Kenya Wildlife Service and Mountain Club of Kenya to get useful and the latest information on the state of huts, trails and conditions of the mountain. Last but least, know how to rescue yourself in case of danger or alarm. If you start to feel nauseated, dizzy or disoriented during a hike, rest, eat and drink until you feel better; taking as long as needed. Always check the weather forecast beforehand.

Hiking in Kenya: View inside Mount Elgon National Park.  Photo Courtesy of Primadona
View inside Mount Elgon National Park. Photo Courtesy of Primadona

“People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is of no use’. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron… If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.” – George Mallory (Hiking)

Best Hiking Trails in Kenya

Embu County

1. Nthenge Njeru Falls Hike

Hiking in Kenya - Nthenge Njeru Falls in Embu County

Great for groups, backed up by local guides that can be availed through Melody Eco-Lodge prior, Nthenge Njeru Hike Trail is one the veritable hikes in Embu County. The fact that the 8 kms trails can be portrayed before commencement (at Melody) makes this hike agreeably. The aim is to go up and over the tapered wooded hill within sight of Melody Lodge, through tea farms, a small unnamed rapid and bucolic boonies, then go down a steep side of a hill to Nthungu Falls (also known as Mbiu-Njeru) and back to Melody Eco-Camp, to descend on yet another steep side of a hill to Nthenge Njeru Falls; the crowning moment of the hike. After a short brief and warm up, you head out of Melody Eco-Lodge along the narrowed and winding Mukuuri-Kevote Road for about 1.5 kms to the base of the hill – passing both the paths to the Nthenge Njeru and Mbiu Njeru Falls. Whilst it’s a rather steep hill climb, it’s bright, airy and smelling of fresh stems, and provides a powerful shift in the senses. Atop of the hill there is a viewing ledge from where Ruyenges Town and the stunning countryside appear rather small and distant in comparison. The walk down the hill is also engaging, over pencil-thin footpaths often through thick bush and scrambling over small steep sections. Once through the tea farms, you double back along the bituminized Mukuuri-Kevote Road, down a steep sometimes slippery path to explore Mbiu-Njeru Falls. Once back up, the walk takes to near Melody Eco-Camp, down a steep slope to Nthege-Njeru, thence back to the camp. The Nthenge Njeru Hike takes about 5 hours and it is rated easy to moderate. A good watch for weather, lots of drinking water, snacks, sturdy walking shoes and raincoat are necessary.

Homa Bay County

2. Homa Hills

Hiking in Kenya - Homa Hills in Homa Bay County

The 6 kms long range of peaks of Homa Hills seen as you approach Homa Bay from Kendu Bay form a pleasant roadside delight. Set between Homa Line and Mainuga Beach, on the Homa peninsula which protrudes into the Winam Gulf and forms the east flank of Homa Bay, they sit in the tectonically active region along Kendu Fault. The main peaks, Nyasanga, Apoyo and Homa, are encircled by cliffs steeply standing out above the surrounding landscape as they abruptly rise from the Kavirondo Gulf, with the tallest of these, the Homa, rising to 1581 ms. The geothermal prospects of Homa Hills, with hot springs on the northern and southern parts of the area, are especially of interest for visitors. These hills, which are a popular hiking and scrambling locale, are best explored during the early morning hours when the sun is not too high overhead.  From above, the boundless vegetation in the delta region, typified by grass, shrubs and natural trees including acacia and other semi-arid species, is striking. The view of Lake Victoria from the upper reaches of Homa Hills are superb. Kisumu and Ndere Island can also be sighted. Kisindi Spa and Lodge is a perfect jumping-off place.

3. Mount Kwitutu

Rising to 1,635 ms from the south to center of Mfangano Island, Mt. Kwitutu is its most prominent landform. Its moderate slope allows for easy walking to its upper reaches and where the Kwitone Rock Art site in located. Made up of sets of intricate red and white circles, on a concealed 40 ms overhang ledge on the hillside, sometimes known as the Kwitone Hill, the Kwitone Rock Art delineates that this site was most probably used as a shrine.  It bears much resemblance to Mawanga although here the colour and vibrancy is more intricate. “According to the elders, in times of war and trouble, people would come to the cave to ask the ancestors to bring peace. In their battle between the Wagimbe and Wasaki (about 200 years ago), the Wagimbe had taken refuge in the cave” – TARA. The Abasuba used Kwitone Rock Art Site for rainmaking ceremonies as late as the 1980’s, before the missionaries opposed ‘these rituals of worship’.  The Kwitone Rock Art is found 6 kms from Mawanga site. It can be visited with a guide from the Abasuba Peace Museum, and requires a hike of one and half hours to reach.

Kajiado County

4. Ngong Hills

Hiking Ngong Hills in Kajiado County. Image Courtesy of Afro Tourism

Topologically Ngong Hills are remnants of an old volcanic cone thought to have had an original diameter of 11 kms prior to being cut by the Rift Escarpment. In 1885, Joseph Thomson, who passed through Ngong Hills on his route from Ol Doinyo Orok to Ngong, described these as “a hallmark of Kenya’s beauty”. Over the years, Ngong Hills have received lots of high-praise for their rare beauty, to include the exotic descriptions given by Karen Blixen in her book Out of Africa. A joyride over the four-peaked Ngong Hills, hundreds of feet above the plain of the Rift Valley, offers a memorable drive over one of the knockout landscape in Kenya.  The scenic jaunt over Ngong Hills also beholds great views of the Kapiti Plains where one can catch a glimpse of prolific plains-game freely roaming the lowlands.  The paucity of wildlife, depending on the season, is compensated for by the beauty of the area. The drive is best approached from the southeast. That is to say, you drive out on Magadi Road through Kiserian and over Ngong Hills.

5. Nguruman-Entasopia Falls

Away from the plains of Narok, the life-giving brown and muddied water of the South Ewaso Nyiro River, sometimes spelt Uaso Ng’iro, flows in a graben valley with Nguruman Enkorika Scarp or Nguruman Escarpment as its western wall on its journey to Lake Natron, the final destination. As it negotiates the course, leaping over one of the abrupt ridges of the Nguruman Escarpment, it forms the wildly-pretty Entasopia Falls nearby Oloibortoto. Originally known as Hayton’s Falls, this is a spell-binding corner of paradise reached along a veritable journey of ecological display – starting at the windswept plains and culminating in the jungly wooded areas near the Falls. Depending on the starting point, it takes on average six hours (round-trip) to hike up Nguruman and reach Entasopia Falls.

6. Ol Doinyo Orok

Quite unmistakable a stone’s throw away from the Kenya-Tanzania boundary at Namanga, is the eminence of Ol Doinyo Orok which rises to 2548 ms and 1190 ms above the surrounding flat country. Also dubbed as the Namanga Hill, this conspicuous triangular range trends northerly from Namanga into the interior of Kenya akin to a harbinger pointing north to Kenya. From Namanga, 57 kms from Kajiado Town, holiday-makers aiming for Amboseli National Park take a sharp turn left, easterly heading to the park. Ol Doinyo Orok is much-liked as a hiking destination visited by hundred of hikers each year. The hiking trail itself goes past a montane forest, patches of exotic flora, rivers, caves, viewing ledges and Maasai bomas before reaching the summit. The Enkamuka Peak, its second highest, on the eastern side, is the most favoured landing. It takes on average 7 hours (round-trip) to complete the 9 kms hike up and down. Native guides are available at Maili Tisa lying 13 kms before Namanga and 150 kms from Nairobi.

7. Mount Kilimanjaro

Granted that Mt. Kilimanjaro lies just over the Kenyan border, in Tanzania, the appeal of this magnificent haunt caps the beauty of the southern area of Kajiado County. Rising 19,340 ft. (5,895 ms) from the game plains of Kenya-Tanzania boundary, the snow-capped peaks and glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro provides a knockout landscape. It is the highest mountain in Africa as well as being one of the highest volcanoes in the world. Kilimanjaro has two main peaks. Kibo is the main attraction, being the true summit of the mountain. Mawenzi rises east of Kibo to a height of 16,980 ft., and is of particular interest to the serious climber. Whether you are an active potential mountain climber or a mere beauty lover, Mount Kilimanjaro is a must. The walks take through a fairlyland of forest and waterfalls among the colourful, happy Chagga people who give the traveller as warm a welcome as can be had in any part of East Africa. The ascent of Kibo can be made from many different routes, but the common ways are from Moshi (on the Tanzania side), and from Loitokotok (on the Kenyan side). The best months for climbing Kilimanjaro are January and July in a round trip of five or six days.

Mount Kilimanjaro Montage Video. Published by Arienne Parzei

Kiambu County

8. Gatamaiyu Camp

The biologically-diverse forest trail of Gatamaiyu Camp is enclosed by Kereita Forest. It marks the southern limits of the forest patches which collectively fall within the Kikuyu Escarpment. Gatamaiyu Camp is a no-frills all thrills nature-lovers spot, mostly liked for its forest trail that is marked by a rugged trail with plenty of steep-sided-valleys containing slow-flowing streams that culminate at Thaba Falls; that is the primary interest of visitors to this forest trail. Along the riverine walk, trippers can easily spot plenty of monkeys and birds. The walk commences at the Gatamaiyu Forest Gate and follows the course of the river, to Thaba Falls. A round trip takes about 2 hours. It is located 41 kms from Nairobi.

Kirinyaga County

9. Kamuruana Hill

Set about 4 kms from the Chehe Forest Station, in Kangaita, the wooded dome-like undissected ash cone of Kamuruana Hill is one of the worthy walking trails in Kirinyaga County. The moderate gradient of Kamuruana Hill makes it rather easy for trippers to reach its upper limits and enjoy the diversified flora and rich bird life. Kamuruana Forest, which covers 23.9 hectares, is one of two gazetted forests found in Kirinyaga, together with the 202.3 hectares Muriinduko Forest. There is a lovely natural clearing at the summit, with amenities like toilets and water, which is popular for picnics and birding, and which can be reached by car for those not aiming to hike. From here, the views are great and trippers can enjoy romantic walks along the trails. This is located on the southwestern tip of Mount Kenya Forest, 16 kms from Karatina, via Gikororo-Ndima-Itundu Road.

Machakos County

10. Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park

Hiking in Kenya - Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park

The relatively small 21 km2 Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park situated 30 kms east of Thika Town, along the A3 Thika-Garissa Road, is dominated by the forested top of Ol Donyo Sabuk Hill. A considerable part of its top, excepting the summit itself, is covered by forest consisting of lofty trees, of which Conopharyngia and Croton are the most important. Plants of the forest floor include Cape peppers, stinging nettles and Aneilema pedunculata (or the “Mickey Mouse” flower). Ol Donyo Sabuk is also known as Mount Kilimambogo, an epithet that answers to the few buffaloes that use this forest as a refuge, grazing outside it after dark. Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park is more scenic than faunal and makes a delightful goal for a weekend trip. The object of many trips here is an active adventure up and down Ol Donyo Sabuk Hill, on an 8 kms ascent which is well rewarded with knockout views at the summit; making up for what little wildlife is found within the park. Here, Mount Kenya stands guard to the north beyond a saucer-shaped valley separating the two. On most days, Yatta Plateau and Mount Kilimanjaro can also be easily glimpsed, immediately south and far southeast, respectively. Westwards, the flat volcanic scrub plains stretch away towards the Mua Hills. A round-trip takes about six hours on a moderate walking pace. Other interests at the Park are the MacMillan Grave, nearby MacMillan Castle and Fourteen Falls.

11. Kanzalu Hill

Hiking enthusiasts who love going off the beaten trail to find hair-raising ledges with breathtaking views will find that Kanzalu Hill near Tala rarely disappoints. A moderate-to-challenging ascend to the upper reaches of the 1,730 ms Kanzalu Hill rewards one with astounding views that delight almost to the blink of fear, especially at Kanzalu’s most treasured place at the naturally formed ledge of an un-fenced large overhang outcrop at the summit. For here, the belt of semi-arid country stretches northeasterly to merge with Kangundo Hills. To the east, Mua Hills stand guard with the shimmering line of Athi River forming abstract loops and bends outwith. The chain of highlands formed by Kanzalu, Kangundo and Machakos Hills, and Ol Doinyo Sabuk, has been, and is, a major watershed. Its deflecting action is illustrated by the Athi River, which flows east-south-east from its source to Athi River Town, then north-east before turning to flow in a south-east direction round the northern end of Ol Doinyo Sapuk. On most days, at the summit of Kanzalu Hill – one of the most exciting hiking experience in Machakos County often sold short – hikers can also spot Mount Kilimambogo and Yatta Plateau. Kanzalu Hill (near Kanzalu Hill Primary School) is in direct connection with Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park, 54 kms north, on a good road passing through Tala. The popular route is along the Northern Bypass (either through Ruiru or Embakasi), and then via C100 Kangundo-Tala-Kanzalu Road.

12. Lukenya Hills

Recognizable by the rutted scarps on the eastern side, Lukenya Hills trending in a north-east strike close to A109 Nairobi to Mombasa Highway form part of the superb highland chain of hills in Mackakos County. Separated from Iveti Forest Reserve and Mua Hills by a wide shallow basin-like depression, the sequestered Lukenya Hills are a popular hiking destination. There are various hiking trails around Lukenya Hills which are also excellent for mountain-biking adventures. Most travellers to Lukenya Hills opt to use Lukenya Getaway as a jumping-off place. With a day to spare, you can visit Lukenya Motocross with an overnight rest at Lukenya Getaway. Lukenya Hills are located 50 kms from Nairobi’s CBD.

13. Kiima Kimwe

A hike up Kiima Kimwe, to the upper reaches and the summit, in one of stellar hiking launches in Machakos County, and a memorable and rousing experience. This offers compelling facilities for taking in the landscapes and photographing. Quite unmistakable and easily recognizable by its deep gulleys, the bulk dome of Kiima Kimwe, just outside Machakos Town, is an imposing and breathtaking sight. Reaching 6,078 ft east of Machakos Peoples Park and south of the main Machakos Town, this isolated hill where Rivers Liyini, Maruba, Miwongoni and Metheu converge, was traditionally cherished as ‘The State House of Akamba’ serving as a base for Local Native Councils. Or again, it is on the Kiima Kimwe that the celebrated Prophet Masaku of the Akamba People is believed to have lived in the 1700’s. And there are yet more fascinating allegories to beckon the hiker to Kiima Kimwe: “On the hill is a crater they believe Masaku drew water from but due to prolonged drought it has since dried up and a hulking 26 ms high rock which was child’s play for Masaku to leap over” – Standard Media. Kiima Kimwe is located 1 km from Machakos Town via Machakos to Kitui Road.

Makueni County

14. Nzaui Range

Hiking in Kenya - Nzaui Hill or Nzaui Range. Image Courtesy of Makueni Tourism

Most on leaving Makongo Valley opt for the (C99) through Nziu and Kalamba to the A109 Nairobi-Mombasa Road at Emali. This stretch of road cuts through Kitondu and Kitende Hills on one side and Nzaui Range on the other, that rise to an altitude of 1675-1830 ms (5500-6000 ft). On the eastern side along this route rises the 13 kms long Nzaui Range which is a fine example of the ancient granite masses containing rafts or roof pendants in Makueni County. The Nzaui itself is fashionable for the well-defined shelf (sharp nose or rock face) marking an abrupt change of topography on its southern edge. The summit is covered with pine forest and several large outcrops which double as viewing ledges. For touring, the range is a lighthouse hiking destination at Kalamba Village. The landscape around Nzaui is managed by Kenya Forest Service who also operate a guesthouse and campsite. Hikers and walkers to Nzaui Range are advised to report to Kenya Forest Service office before embarking on the hike and from where they can get assistance of expert guides. The 12 kms round trip with the Mituluni Center as a usual starting-point takes on average 6 hours (round-trip).

Meru County

15. Kaithandu Hill

Just in case you want to sight the Kierra Valley 200 ms above the surrounding landscape, Kaithandu Hill is one of Meru’s finest viewing ledges, which rarely disappoints. As alluded to earlier, the Kierra Valley is a staggering beautiful no-man’s land in amazing contrast to Mount Kenya and its associated forests. It is especially stupendous when viewed along the 3 kms stretch between Kaaga and Runogone Market where Kaithandu Hill is located. Rising to 1618 ms and 200 ms above the surrounding landscape, the summit of Kiathandi Hill provides an excellent base to take in the landscape of Meru. The amusing unexacting hiking trail eventually gets to the top of this hill which is round and flat with a vegetal profile of a forest patch, shrubs and grass turfs, making it an ideal site to picnic. Kiathandi Hill is found near Runogone Market 2 kms off C91 Meru-Maua Road.

Nyandarua County

16. Kijabe Hill

Hiking in Kenya - Kijabe Hills in Nyandarua County. Image Courtesy of How and Where Kenya

Reaching 2,915 ms (ASL) and 400 ms above the surrounding landscape at the south edge of the Kinangop Step, Kijabe Hill is considered a precursor to many of Nyandarua’s superb hiking destinations (notably of the Elephant Hill and Ol Doinyo Lesatima) owing to its proximity to Nairobi and the easy-to-moderate level of difficulty. On a similar note, Kijabe Hill marks the southernmost edge of Nyandarua County along its boundary with Nakuru County. By the same token, it marks the steep sloped corner of Kinangop Step – a 16 kms step on the side of the Great Rift Valley. Eke-named the miniature Mount Longonot, which stands sentinel just a few kilometres north, Kijabe Hill is geologically thought to be an old eruption that burst out following the astronomical faulting of the Great Rift Valley. It takes on average 5-6 hours (round-trip) to hike Kijabe Hill. Make sure you carry food and drink and attempt to start as early as possible. Considering its light vegetation and clear line of sights it may not be necessary to arrange for a local guide, but, hikers should elicit some cordial tips from the natives. From the summit hikers can relish views of Mount Longonot, Great Rift Valley, Lake Naivasha, and much more. It is located 55 kms from Nairobi and Mai Mahiu is a popular start-point, with the trip terminating at the Flyover-Njabini Junction.

17. Ragia Forest Trail

Ragia Forest is one of twenty forests that consist the 1,149 km2 Aberdare Forest Reserve which expands over four counties: Nyandarua, Muranga, Kiambu and Nyeri. Ragia Forest covers 26 km2, of which 17 km2 is a natural forest, 8 km2 is planted forest and 1 km2 is glades. It is the 6th southernmost forest following, Kamae, Kieni, Kinale, Kereita and Uplands. Ragia Forest Trail is reached via the C67 Flyover-Magumu-Njabini Road through the Ragia Forest Station and takes on average 6 hours (round-trip). The hike proceeds deep into thick bamboo and follows elephant trails down the valley to march along Sasumua River and going past a pleasant waterfall simply known as Number 18. From number 18 the trail aims for an exacting descent which forms the better part of the trail to yet more sights and a second falls, and to the ghostly Mau Mau Caves. From here the trail goes past a bamboo forest en-route the main forest road which marks the end of the Ragia trail. The usual start and finish point is the impressive Sasumua Dam.

18. Elephant Hill

The taper, symmetrical and steep scarp on the south tag-end of Aberdare Range spectacularly named Elephant Hill – both for its shape and for the abounding numbers of elephants in these forests – is proper hiking country, classified as moderate to difficult, yet, in addition, it really is full of heartwarming sights; in conformation to the acclaimed beauty of the elephant. Along the trail, Sasumua Dam, Ndakaini Dam, Mount Kipipiri, and, the Honi, Wanjohi and Rift Valley Valleys are sighted. Elephant Hill is a part of Aberdare Simbara: a series of hills that form the mountainous part of the Aberdares. The Simbara is uninhabited, with unnamed streams, grassy slopes, deep valleys, bogs and dozens of dykes. Many a sad hiker have regretted not adequately planning for the hike especially for the second push up the rump of Elephant Hill. This has tested the resolve of many, who, taking a chance on the ever impeding cloud, discovered it was really not much fun. Stories of the wardens high consternation over an downpour that appeared hours away, only to drench hikers in minutes, are not rare. It always rains here and a hike should be planned in good weather – that is not in April, May and October. Obvious perhaps is to take snacks and water and wear sturdy shoes. It takes on average 8 hours (round-trip) to hike Elephant Hill. The trail starts at Njabini Forest Station near Njabini Town. Generally speaking, the fees for engaging a ranger are USD 25 for local residents, and USD 40 for non locals.

19. Rurimeria Hill Trail

“ln the northern Aberdares, on Kipipiri and in valleys near the southeast edge of the area, the exposed volcanic rocks are basaltic lavas of a distinctive type. In fact, the principal centres of eruption of these basalts were around Satima and Kipipiri. Closely similar basalts were erupted including Rurimueria, Nyandarua and Kijabe Hill, probably during the same volcanic phase. Denudation has long ago removed any trace of the craters of these volcanoes and other lavas have been erupted on and around them.” – R.M. Shackleton. From the higher peak of the Elephant Hill in the southern area of Nyandarua County, the overall dip of the Aberdare Range is north-easterly trending, the range deeply dissected by numerous streams, a feature that is most pronounced in the Kijabe area where scarcely a single ridge is wider than half a mile. ln the northern Aberdares, the Satima, Kipiriri and Rurimueria Peaks are the highest areas, in that order. The Rurimueria Hill Hike commences at Kingangop through Ndunyu Njeru Forest Gate. It is rated moderate to difficult. “Rurimueria is under the Kenya Wildlife Service. Besides the entrance fee, one is required to pay for a guide. Given its beaten nature, a local guide is also provided. You will need someone who’s been brought up there, believe me. The mountain knows her children.” – Wacera

20. Satima Peak

Ol Doinyo Lesatima, simply known as Satima, is the pièce de résistance of the many spectacular scarps and rock faces on the Aberdare Range. And with just a metre over 4,000 is the third highest peak in Kenya. The Satima Scarp found on the north-western edge of Aberdare Ranges, and which more or less marks the north-eastern frontier of Nyandarua County, “is the most scenic and gentle of all the trails in the Aberdare Range – with the route hugging the escarpments above undulating valleys and hills of rich alpine and sub-alpine flora to include rare species of lobelia, erica, giant helichrysum and tussock grasses” –The East African. There is no difficulty in ascending to Satima, but is a mountain walk of pleasing beauty and interest which goes past the Dragon’s Teeth (the sporadic spread of jagged rocks that rise above the consistently wet boggy moorlands), undulating hills, deep incised river valleys and remnants of volcanic vents. It takes on average 7 hours to complete the 14 kms trail starting-off at Wandare Road head. For more inspiration read Jambo Nairobi’s Guide to Hiking Satima.

21. Njigari Forest Hike

‘Nature will reward your courage to be out there’ as you divest yourself from the demerits of gridlocked roads and expanding towns, into a trail weaving through health-giving bamboo forests, hilltop plenaries, picturesque waterfalls and past ancient podo trees. Njigari Forest Trail, at the southeast corner of the Aberdare Forest, commences near Njigari Center – 15 kms west of Othaya Town – cutting through a section of the Nyayo Tea Estate and inclining for about 1 km to the Aberdare National Park fence and thence leading you into the dense forest. The 12 kms trail rated moderate is a fairly long-distance trail typically taking over 8 hours to hike. “Not for long in the giant Podo forest, the trail evolves into a huge bamboo garden; some shooting, others rotting, others hugging, others standing alone, others broke and dying along elephant tracks, and yet others have broken but growing again; nature has so much to teach” – HikeManiak. It is a hike of great sceneries and some steep ascents, challenging in parts, accomplished by almost anyone with average fitness. Ensure to carry plenty of water and snacks, wear sturdy shoes and carry a poncho. The hike through the Aberdare Reserve must be in company with by park rangers. For group trips contact Hike Maniak.

The Kenya Safari Heritage

A Look Into the Kenya Safari Heritage

Sala's Camp Mara - A Look into Kenya Safari Heritage
Sala’s Camp, Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya. Courtest of SA Lodges

Brief Overview of the Kenya Safari

It’s no secret that Kenya safaris are among the sought holidays, and it certainly has enormous wildlife resources. Kenya has no less than 50 National Parks and Reserves which cover about 11% of her land surface area. Within this protected areas are a grand arena to experience some of the wildest safari still left on our planet, with unquestionably astounding wildlife displays. The sharp contrast in Kenya’s ecological gamut is, without doubt, responsible for the variety in scale and range. Safari as we know it now took some form of organizational frame in 1946 with the establishment of Nairobi National Park, Kenya’s first. The general concept of Game Parks in Kenya resonated with that signed on August 25, 1916, by President Woodrow Wilson that led to the creation and protection of the 35 National Parks in the United States of America. Closer to home, National Parks were officially designated as areas set aside for conservation in perpetuity, and which farming, livestock keeping and human residence are barred. The concept was embraced with as much gusto as was hotel investments. Emboldened, the Government agencies as well as devoted non-government organizations began the forbidding task of protecting wildlife after almost 150 years of wanton big game hunting, ivory trading and the most brutal acts against wildlife in the history of Kenya. Of a more recent development, the concept of private wildlife conservancies kicked the campaign a notch up bringing to the forefront unlikely heroes and brilliant visionaries. Moreover, only 35% of Kenya’s wildlife is found within nationally protected areas, with almost 40% in privately protected areas. The famous Kenya safari mix is a complex one, with many setbacks and pitfalls, and although the situation is not where many expect, the progress has been A1, momentous and extraordinary, in a turnaround that has earned global acclaim.

A Look into Kenya Safari Heritage

Eccentrics of the Kenya Safari

The difference between a National Park and a National Reserve is historical and somewhat obscure today. Before 1976, when there were two bodies responsible for wildlife conservation in Kenya – the Game Department and the Trustees of National Parks – a Park or National Reserve could be proclaimed to protect a locale of faunal interest. However such a designation did not preclude human activities or residence. They were called Park or National Reserve depending on which body looked after them – Game Department or National Parks. Just to confuse the matter a bit further, there were nature sanctuaries within the forest reserve system which were looked after by the Forest Department. The Wildlife Management Act of 1976 sought to bring all these institutions, other than those under the Forest Department (now Kenya Forest Service) under one authority. Just before his death the late David Sheldrick stated that Meru National Park was the best run in the country. This was also a warm tribute to the warden of the time – Peter Jenkins – who had converted it from a ramshackle reserve into a park Kenya would be proud of. Sheldrick, the first warden of the Tsavo Parks, had taken up office at a time of wanton poaching. He estimated that there were more than 1300 men in the Tsavo Parks illegally hunting. Ultimately, big game plummeted fast that it prompted his intervention and intensified Government’s effort to stop poaching. At Kora National Reserve, George Adamson set up base in the 1970’s at a time when it was raged by a wave of poaching. Adamson, one of the great eccentric conservationists Kenya has yet been blessed with, lived his twilight years here, freeing lions back to the wild and rehabilitating the Reserve.

SAFARI in Kenya (at Tsavo East National Park) by Kubson Production

Status of Wildlife in Kenya

The extent of national conservation strategies necessary to conserve vulnerable wildlife species in Kenya will be hard to square with the alarming rate wildlife is diminishing globally, in a planet on the brink of overload. 107, the number of animal species in Kenya which are classified as threatened species. Of these: 55 are classified as vulnerable; 34 as endangered; and 16 as critically endangered. The destruction was swift. 20000, the number of black rhinos in the 1970’s in comparison to today’s 900 – with only 300 white rhinos left in the wild. 15000 the number of lions in the wild in 1990’s: Today only 2000 exist with 100 dying yearly. 167,000 the estimated number of elephants in the 1970’s. Today, in part thanks to determined conservation efforts, an estimated 31000 exist in the wild.

Much less widely reported were results of studies by Dr Joseph Ogutu and colleagues at International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which reveal that Kenya’s wildlife numbers are plummeting. Some of our most treasured animals, such as hirola, rhinos, cheetah, lions, and giraffe, are being pushed to the brink of extinction.

History of Wildlife Conservation in Kenya

For the past 27 years, steps forward in nurturing Kenya safari have taken place since the debut of Kenya Wildlife Service in 1990. None, though, has been taken in a time of scaled loss of wildlife and habitats. The next leap in conservation of wildlife looks set to change that. All the probable solutions to the self-inflicted mess requires a significantly new approach, not least because of international concerns, but locals actively want greater conservation efforts that would bring them appreciably closer to the glory days as ‘the paramount safari country’. The past year’s near continuous human-animal conflict has done little to reduce the risk of extinction of vulnerable species, which continues to rise with the wanton slaughtering of lions, spotted hyenas, elephants, among others. The risk shows no signs of receding before the turn of the new decade. After that we may be grappling with a run-away extinction of Kenya safaris and celebrated wildlife. Conservationists for example warn that, if little changes, lions could be extinct in Kenya in just 20 years and in less time for the black rhino and spotted hyena.

The Consensus on Wildlife Management in Kenya

A consensus is slowly emerging that, if the prospect facing wildlife in Kenya is to be averted or weathered, there should be greater level of integration in the conservation efforts, with tighter constraints on the slaughter of animals. Some countries, in the same situation, have tiredly worked to put in place sustainable approaches. South Africa and Botswana have had, responding to a similar crisis and in large part to sustain a thriving tourist market, embarked on country-led approaches to manage wildlife. The ‘Conservation and Management Forum for Lions and Spotted Hyenas’ headed by Kenya Wildlife Service quotes an official who points his finger on one of the spot of the problem facing large carnivores in Kenya: “The growing competition for space with an ever increasing human population, persecution by pastoral communities and farmers living close to them, reduction in wild prey base, and land-use changes constitute the threats”.

A Look into Kenya Safari Heritage

Threats to Safari & Wildlife in Kenya

The oldest problem facing wildlife in Kenya is a dark craft, which fanned by the fashionable society and a lucrative Asian market for animal bones, tusks, hides and sometimes teeth, warrants no introduction here. Another weighty problem facing wildlife is human population growth, which has encroached into wildlife domains, reducing the range for wild herbivores and carnivores. Kenya’s native large carnivore species – lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, spotted and striped hyenas – have been expatriated from at least 62% of their historical range. In Nairobi, as an example, the growing economy has expedited a distressing influx into the city and more and more settlements are developing around the Nairobi National Park. Among the more recent concerns is the building of a railway line across Nairobi National Park and the immense pressure by hotels to build as close to the wildlife as possible. We are yet to foresee the outcome of the bloom.

The Wildlife Conservation Deficit

The conservation deficit in Kenya’s wildlife is hardly new. The first Government deliberately shirked it, in favour of infrastructure development. And having just emerged from the colonial era, the priorities were to augment an economy that would allay the dark continent image and place Kenya prominently on the map. Thanks to the decisive interventions of the second government, anti-poaching laws were enforced and the Kenya Wildlife Services was established under CAP 376, to conserve and manage wildlife in Kenya. Still less chargeable, the Kenyan conservationist efforts incorporated many less direct approaches from the start. Poaching persisted as the number one threat. Now that the crisis had struck, all the deemed responses to the conservation efforts had now been found wanting. Scores of local and international conservation institutions working tirelessly to conserve and manage Kenya’s wildlife quite frequently felt hardhearted, and the wildlife marginalized. The conservation game is complex. First of all, the zones outside the demarcated government reserves are not party to some legislation, making them prime war grounds. Further, the compensation package devised by Kenya Wildlife Services erodes even further its ability to control the fate of wildlife. Crucially, anthropogenic activity has had significant effects on Kenya’s wildlife as land changes use and humans occupy areas once roamed by wildlife.

A Different Approach to Kenya safari

If the Kenya safaris are to survive, it will likely be done by impinging on current conservation efforts yet further. Conservation output is hard to sell. Majority of the people involved in the human-animal conflict consider it a crisis they didn’t create, and conservation efforts they don’t want. And as nothing but heaven is impregnable to vice, it unavoidably happens, that in as much effort is put in by wildlife conservation bodies, a small dark part of our society lured by the black market will be orchestrating schemes to poach the vulnerable species. And what of the Kenyan parliament? It has, if anything, widened the deficit it is meant to make up. It has increased its powers, and salaries with every new government; but it has done little in the wildlife conservation fight, considering safaris are a key income earner. In the county governments and in the national government alike, frustration with the parliament has been growing. It is almost always in favour of more spending and new regulation. Any justification that this is what voters want is thwarted by the fact that the voters show ever less interest in it – voter absenteeism has risen steadily with every passing election and generation. If a more tightly knit conservation strategy is the refuge, then there is hardly a shortage of ideas about what to do. The most obvious is to ensure that wildlife stays within their ecological functional reserves using interventions that require minimal management: to limit the extent of human encroachment to territories demarcated for wildlife. Another possibility is to establish conservation zones around the demarcated reserves which will boost conservation efforts, specially for the large carnivores. The constraints on settlement need not imply common rules on spending. Each county should institute new mechanisms for the local people to receive benefits from hosting, protecting, and showcasing the wildlife.

7 Successful Wildlife Conservancies in Kenya

The conservancy concept has evolved in Africa over the last 30 years and has spread fast. Conservancies in Kenya are regarded as a way of involving local communities with wildlife conservation. The purpose of a conservancy is not the same as a nationally protected reserve like a park and they do not replace these areas, instead they complement them. Conservancies provide a range of local values, including clarifying and firming up local land tenure over pasture and grazing areas, improving security through networks of community scouts and communications infrastructure and law enforcement bodies, and providing a legal structure for communities to enter into third-party joint ventures with tourism investors in order to generate revenue from wildlife. Conservancies in Kenya are represented Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association “who work with landowners and communities to sustainably conserve and manage wildlife and their habitat outside formal protected areas to perpetuate Kenya’s heritage

1. Solio Game Reserve

Solio Game Reserve. Image Courtesy of African Safaris - A Look into Kenya Safari Heritage

More popular as Solio Ranch, the 300 km2 privately-run Solio Game Reserve began in 1970 by Courtland Parfet is notable as the first conservancy in Kenya dedicated to the preservation of the endangered rhinos. Up until now, it’s still an indispensable forte in many rhino conservation projects, and its success in breeding rhinos and providing a safe habitat for them to thrive is a highlight of Kenya’s conservation efforts. Callers to the inter-territorial Solio Ranch, shared by Nyeri and Laikipia Counties, can enjoy uninterrupted open-top game views of the prolific wildlife with the option of self drive or guided tours. “The wildlife experience at Solio is intense and exclusive with 19,000 acres of conservancy surrounded by 45,000 acres of ranch and just one lodge” – Safari Collection. A trip through the elaborate network of roads around Solio Ranch would not be complete without visiting the rhino sanctuary and the bespoke Solio Lodge. The main gate is located 22 kms from Nyeri, along the B5 Nyeri to Nyahururu Road.

2. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Image courtesy of Ndege News - A Look into Kenya Safari Heritage

24 kms from Meru Town en route Nanyuki the B6 Embu-Meru Road meets A2 Nanyuki-Meru Road on an approach which would cut across Lewa Conservancy and Ngare Ndare moving forward. Lewa Conservancy, which stretches across north from the intersection lining-up with the A2 Road as its eastern limit and bound in the north by Leparua Community Conservancy in Isiolo County, was begun in 1983 as Ngare Sergoii Rhino Sanctuary and reestablished in 1995 as Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Its far-reaching wildlife conservation projects have anted-up the complex game of endangered wildlife bouncing back and a second chance to thrive. A multi-award recipient for its conservation model, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 and featured on the IUCN Green List of successful protected areas, Lewa is the nexus of conservation and sustainable tourism in Northern Kenya and their working model has provided a framework used widely in the region. Today, the 250 km2 Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, that is contiguous with Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve in the south, is home to 11% of Kenya’s rhinos and the world’s largest bevy of Grevy’s zebra. 70 other species of mammals including elephant, lion, giraffe, leopard and buffalo also roam freely here. Almost 50,000 people directly benefit from Lewa’s projects in education, health, water management, infrastructure upgrades, micro-enterprise projects, improved security and much more. Lewa is home to five luxury lodges – Craig’s House, Sirikoi House, Kifaru House, Lewa Wilderness and Lewa Safari Camp. In addition, travellers can enjoy three additional accommodation options at the adjoined Borana Conservancy: Borana Lodge, Laragai House and Arijiju Lodge.

3. Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy - A Look into Kenya Safari Heritage

Dubbed “the Best Western” owing to a subtle resemblance of a classic western movie scene, the obscurity of Nanyuki has always been fascinating. Spatially, it marks the northeast gateway into Nyeri County and conversely as a gateway to Northern Kenya. Nanyuki is also the main jump-off to the ranches of Laikipia. World-famous as a model for conservation of wildlife in Kenya, the 360 km2 Ol Pejeta Conservancy, located west of Nanyuki Town, boasts the largest sanctuary for the endangered black rhino in East Africa. Ol Pejeta Conservancy burst into international fame as the home to the last remaining “Northern White Rhino” in the wild, indelibly named as Sudan. In addition to the 100 plus rhinos which thrive in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, it hosts all members of Africa’s high-minded big five – lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant and Cape buffalo – which represent safari royalty. Then, there’s their Chimpanzee Sanctuary which is the only place in Kenya where these rare primates can be sighted. On the whole, close to 1,000 mammals coexist in Ol Pejeta Conservancy handily spotted on wildlife tracking tours. It is located 22 kms west of Nanyuki along C76 Nanyuki-Rumuruti Road. Launched in 1988 on 24,000-acres within Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Sweet Waters Tented Camp is one of its eight accommodation options; the other seven are: Ol Pejeta House, Ol Pejeta Bush Cottages, Ol Pejeta Bush Camp, Porini Rhino Camp, The Stables, Pelican House and Kicheche Laikipia Camp.  Sweet Waters Tented Camp is consisted of 50 beautifully-appointed safari-style bandas that overlook a large watering-hole where considerable wildlife gathers throughout the day to recharge. Aside from relishing these views, travellers to Sweet Waters Tented Camp may take part in one of sundry enriching adventures centered around nature and wildlife. For those who fancy adventure extraordinaire, Ol Pejeta offers private air excursions around Laikipia, and the Northern Frontier.

4. Ol Jogi Conservancy

Ol Jogi Wildlife Conservancy | authentic-africa - A Look into Kenya Safari Heritage

Some of Laikipia’s greatest attraction today are found in the middle of Laikipia Plateau in award-winning safari properties. They are unique in that they cater, luxuriously, for the wealthy travellers. The 58,000-acres privately-run Ol Jogi Wildlife Conservancy, set dead-center on the plateau (with Sosian Ranch to the west, Ol Lentille Conservancy to the north, Mukogodo Forest and Il Ngwesi to the east, and Ol Pejeta Conservancy to the south) is hailed as one of the most remarkable private wildlife conservancies in Africa, epitomizing Laikipia as the most enliven wilderness in Kenya. Booked onliest by families and friends with deep pockets, it offers a wildlife experience on fleek perhaps like no other. The lodge and house are set on the side of an isolated hillock, above mile upon mile of savanna, and boasts of a paradisal pool, a chain of ornamental lakes, riverine drifts of Ewaso Nyiro River, and such facilities as riding, air safaris to Suguta Valley and superb garden greens. The top of the hill is an easy-to-reach beyond-money vantage point to sight the dramatic scenery interspersed with wondrous kopjes, which is easily combined with look-sees of its private animal orphanage (hosting the only bear in Kenya), walking with baboons tour, touring the Twala Cultural Centre and open-top game drive. Ol Jogi is rented on exclusive terms and accommodates a maximum of 14 guests. It’s found about 48 kms north of Nanyuki via Nanyuki-Ol Jogi Road. It is also reachable via small charter planes.

5. Namunyak Conservancy

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Namunyak Conservancy. Image courtesy of Ami Vitale - A Look into Kenya Safari Heritage

The intrepid who decides to travel up into Northern Kenya – it is 223 kms from Archer’s Post to Marsabit – now travels on tarmac all the way through some of Kenya’s most beautiful scenery. Also unique to the stretch of road from Archer’s Post to Merille, 104 kms, is that it cuts through two protected areas: Namunyak Conservancy (west) and Sera Conservancy (east); redolent of the surpassing 60 kms stretch of road along the A104 between Mtito Andei and Manyani that cuts through Tsavo East National Park. Founded in 1996, the 3,440 km2 Namunyak Conservancy is comprised of six Samburu Group Ranches that joined hands to better manage land and provide a safe range for wildlife to thrive. Namunyak, meaning ‘blessed’ in Samburu, is notable as the first community conservancy established in Northern Kenya and which has grown into a treasure trove for safari enthusiasts who can explore its rare and uncatalogued floral diversity and the outstanding wildlife displays. Likewise, Namunyak serves as a vital wildlife refuge for varied species and is home to plentiful populations of giraffe, gerenuk antelope, leopard, African wild dogs, impala, lion, greater kudu and elephant. Equally stirring are the landmarks and formations: Mount Ololokwe, Mathews Mountain Range and Kitich Forest. It is also home to Sarara Camp and Kitich Camp. Namunyak Trust HQ is about 80 kms northwest of Archer’s Post, via A2.

6. Sera Conservancy

Inside Sera Conservancy. Image courtesy of Asilia Africa  - A Look into Kenya Safari Heritage

More proper Sera Wildlife Trust, the 3,450 km2 Sera Conservancy arrays the largest widlife conservation area in Northern Kenya. Its western border runs astride the A2 Isiolo-Archer’s Post-Merille Road for 104 kms from Archer’s Post until Merille Town; extending about 30 kms at its widest easterly towards Merti and Barata. It was established in 2001 under Northern Rangelands Trust with the aim of bringing together three historically rival ethnic groups and to foster conservation and sustainable use of resources in their traditional lands. Unique to Sera Conservancy is that it is the only place in Eastern Africa where visitors can actively track the black rhino on foot, and is the only sanctuary in Eastern Africa to operate a sanctuary principally dedicated to the vital conservation of the endangered black rhinos. Despite its size, Sera Conservancy has real beauty about it, with plenty of mind-blowing landforms. The landscape is typified by a mix of bush and grassland with a few forest patches teeming with respectable wildlife. It is also well watered. Some of its perennial streams including Kisima Hamsini, Lenkolii, Lerigrig, Lontopi and Lchoro losowan. Other water sources include boreholes, hand pumps and shallow wells at Kapai, Chapulo, Lesura, Losesia, Laresoro, Lbaa Lolparuai, Sereolipi lugga, Kauro, Naitolai, Lenkaya, Lantana and Turgung. In recent times, the discovery of a ‘Rock Gong’ and ‘Rock Painting’ at Kisima Hamsini, mused to be a few thousand years old, highlighted its historic importance. Its HQs office is located about 47 north of Archer’s Post.

7. Oserengoni Wildlife Conservancy

Oserengoni Wildlife Conservancy  - A Look into Kenya Safari Heritage

Formerly known as the Oserian Ranch, the 18,000-acres private sanctuary and adventure site has for years focused on extenuating the age-old human-wildlife conflicts in Lake Naivasha Ecosystem. Oserengoni Wildlife Sanctuary works to guard and conserve endangered wildlife through sustainable programs centered on preserving and perpetuating a natural balance.It has two luxury properties – Chui Lodge and Kiangazi House. The wildlife sanctuary surrounding Chui Lodge was created in the mid 1990’s with the sole purpose of giving the resident wildlife a place of safety and refuge. Over 18,000-acres is girded by an electric fence, as much to keep illegal cattle grazers out as it is to keep the wildlife from straying into the nearby farmlands. Within the sanctuary and game corridors there are over 50 mammal species, that include, leopard, topi, zebra, serval cat, impala, warthog, and lesser galago. All year round, there are over 400 species of birds that thrive in the different ecosystems. On the other hand, Kiangazi House offers pretty views of the Great Rift Valley and the shimmering Lakes Oloiden and Naivasha. Kiangazi House is located 5 kms from Elsamere Nature Reserve.