Problems of Kenya: Income, Population, Wildlife

Kenya is a very poor country. Estimates of the national income vary, but the UK Department for International Development puts this at $580 per person per year (purchasing power parity calculation). This is $1.58 per person per day. Since some people receive a lot more than this, it means that most of the people live on less than a dollar a day. Of course, some people (herders in remote areas, for example) are outside the monetary economy, and housework, and food eaten by the people who grow it is not included. Nonetheless it is a shocking figure.

Life in Kenya on $1 a day is described in a radio programme from the BBC and Public Radio International.

This poverty combined with a rapid increase in population higlights two factors which affect Kenya's wildlife. The money from the sale of one rhino horn, for example, will feed an extended family for their entire lifetime under Kenyan conditions. When life is so precarious on a day-to-day basis, the fear of being shot while poaching wildlife may not be very great.

Similarly, the temptation to farm the savannah intensively is evident, even though the savannah soils are not rich enough to support intensive farming, even with fertilizer supplements, and will turn to desert in a few years, able to support neither people nor wildlife.

Some argue that traditional Maasai pastoralism is the best fit to support both people and wildlife. However, this can only apply if traditional numbers of cattle are herded. With increased population of herders and cattle, the traditional balance would break down. There is no simple solution to the future either for the people of Kenya, or for the animals who live there.