The Laikipia and beyond Unity Cup
The Earth is our home and together we must conserve our precious water, land, forests and wildlife. I am proud to pledge that I will unite with others throughout Laikipia and that I will give a red card to environmental destruction and defend our natural heritage.
This was the pledge made by competitors and spectators at the Laikipia & Beyond Unity Cup, Laikipia’s response to the World Cup fever that gripped the world this summer.
Laikipia District is a wildlife rich region the size of Wales, where wildlife populations are on the increase, and densities rank second only to the world famous Maasai Mara. The Laikipia ecosystem hosts over 7,000 elephant, Kenya’s second largest population after Tsavo National Park, and over half of Kenya’s national rhino population. At the end of 2009, a survey confirmed that Laikipia has 541 rhino and of these 290 are black rhino. The region also has abundant endangered species including approximately 300 wild dog, and 400 patus monkeys – Kenya’s largest population. But what makes Laikipia so unique is that it does not have national park / reserve status, and conservation initiatives are being undertaken by people from different cultures and backgrounds who have come together under the umbrella of their own organisation – the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF). These conservation efforts aim to support, protect and restore natural resources such as rivers, trees, grasslands – for the benefit of all living things.
This conservation approach has been strongly supported through The Laikipia & Beyond Unity Cup (LUC) – an event that brought together thousands of people on several occasions in the spirit of sport, for peace, unity and as its pledge states – environmental conservation.
A Zeitz Foundation initiative, in collaboration with Laikipia Wildlife Forum, The Laikipia Unity Cup kicked off in each corner of the 10,000km² district with 32 teams, concluding six weeks later in an exciting final held at Nanyuki Municipal Stadium, supported by thousands of people. The knock-out tournament created a great deal of fun and excitement, especially with attendance of patron Samuel Eto’o - international football star and captain of the Cameroon national team. Samuel not only attended the final but also played in a friendly match between the Laikipia United (a combination of the best players spotted during the tournament) and Kenya’s top team, Mathare United.
Credit: Laikipia Wildlife Forum
Alongside the football matches, spectators, supporters and players took part in a variety of meaningful environmental activities, including local clean-ups involving litter collection and disposal; sharing of information on conservation agriculture; river water management; construction of predator proof bomas to protect livestock from lion; and tree planting. LWF also initiated an environmental awareness debate named ‘red card, yellow card’ in line with the ‘pledge’, sparking ideas and dialogue.
Free medical clinics were held at each regional event and over 12,000 people, mainly women and children, received medical attention from Nanyuki District Hospital and the Kenyan Airforce medics.
Mathare Youth Sport Association, a self-help group dedicated to linking sports with environmental clean-ups, carried out ‘football clinics’ for school children, and also engaged them in environmental education sessions.
At every event, thousands of people watched World Cup matches live on giant TV screens – a hit for the fans considering that most of Laikipia has no access to electricity.
The event brought together people in a spirit of peace and unity, with a willingness to collectively conserve their environment and build a better future for Laikipia.
LUC partners and friends are Zeitz Foundation, Laikipia Wildlife Forum, UN Environment Programme, Safaricom, British Army (BATUK), Kenyan Airforce, South African and British High Commission in Kenya. The games were attended by landholders, communities, local MPs, chiefs, members of the provincial administration, Kenya Wildlife Service.