Friday, January 17, 2014

Kenyan Dreams Crushed

A review of Galana - Elephant, Game Domestication and Cattle on a Kenya Ranch by Martin Anderson, Stanford University Press,2013..

Galana ranch was a great swath of Kenya, over  2,500 square miles located adjacent to Tsavo East National Park in Coast Province.  Author Anderson led a team of American and  Kenyan investors in convincing Kenyan authorities in the late 1960s of the vast potential of the area for cattle and game harvesting - both for meat and as hunting trophies.   Consequently, the team was granted a long term lease and went to work. It was an enormous job to build the necessary infrastructure - roads, airstrips, water impoundments, wells, housing, etc. -   employ the right people and to make a go of ranching, game ranching, hunting and high end tourism in the theretofore pristine area.  Elephants roamed in vast numbers and lions preyed upon livestock.  Yet it was not the natural obstacles that ultimately derailed the venture, but misunderstandings, politics and corruption.   Although Galana appeared to be registering success and began returning a bit on investment by the mid-1970s, a new unchecked wave of poaching coupled with nasty allegations and false accusations led the central government finally to cancel the lease. 

Anderson’s book is the story of Galana - how it came to be, how physical obstacles were surmounted, how local herders were involved, how game ranching developed, how the hunting ban affected operations, how poaching threatened people and animals and ultimately how the whole  operation began to come apart on account of falsehoods and the greed of Kenyan politicians.  It is a sad story with some blame on the investor team for not having been able to make their case and doing the necessary ground work that might have avoided the demise of the project, but most of the blame rests on the failures of the Kenyan government, its high ranking civil servants and its politicians who deliberately sought to terminate the project in order, presumably, to hide their own involvement in poaching and to benefit from the spoils of the ranch.
Unfortunately for all concerned there were no spoils. The acreage has devolved into largely unproductive use

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