Taita Taveta County has started plans to convert Tsavo National Park into a game reserve in an effort to increase its revenue.
Speaking in Wundanyi, Governor Granton Samboja said he would lead county leaders, including members of the county assembly (MCAs), to move across the 20 wards to collect more than 250,000 signatures to petition Senate and President Uhuru Kenyatta on the move.
Governor Samboja said they had agreed with other leaders to draft a petition in the next four weeks, after which it would be forwarded to the Senate for debate and to the President for assent.
He said the county needs a share of revenue from Tsavo East and Tsavo West national parks since they occupy 63 per cent of its land.
“I raised this issue with the Senate and they assured us of support. When we start managing the park, we will be able to further develop this county as we will get a share of the revenue. The money will be used for development,” he said.
Mr Samboja called for support from both leaders and residents to conclude the process.
He said MPs from the county’s four constituencies and the senator would be involved.
“This will require all our efforts. We must speak with one voice until we’re heard,” he said, adding that experts would help in drafting the petition. "Should the Senate and the President oppose the move, the county leadership would push the government for a share of revenue from the two parks, he said.
The assembly’s budget committee chairperson, Mr Godwin Kilele, said since the county is at risk of being removed from beneficiaries of the Equalisation Fund dispersed to marginalised counties, there was a need to device new ways of generating revenue.
He accused Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) of failing to do Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the county, adding that residents suffer from frequent wildlife invasion.
“We are getting nothing from KWS. I know this petition will be supported by residents. We are too generous and lenient. That is why they take us for granted,” he said.
Tsavo also borders Kitui, Makueni, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River and Kajiado counties.
Questions have been raised on how the revenue would be divided among these counties if the park is converted into a game reserve.