MERU, Kenya—The First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta has applauded the Lewa Conservancy for its sustained efforts in protecting Kenya’s iconic wildlife and uplifting the livelihoods of local communities through their social responsibility initiatives.
Speaking during the flagship off the 19th edition of the Safaricom Lewa Marathon 2018, the First Lady observed that concerted conservation efforts and partnerships initiated by Lewa Conservancy continually contribute towards greater socio-economic and human development.
The First Lady singled out education, health facilities and socio-economic programs for women, disadvantaged youth and the disabled , as some of the initiatives supported by Lewa Conservancy from the proceeds of the marathon.
These initiatives have over the last 18 years contributed greatly to the development of the conservancy’s catchment area of Isiolo, Meru and Laikipia.
The First Lady observed that the achievements and milestones reached through the Lewa Marathons have been made possible through solid partnerships with corporate sponsors, county governments, local communities, conservationists and individual philanthropists.
“We must continue to promote human-wildlife co-existence to protect our country’s rich natural heritage. All these conservation efforts and partnerships can contribute towards a greater social and human development”, said the First Lady who is globally respected for her passion in conservation.
She said the Safaricom event resonates well with the Beyond Zero fund-raising Marathon model that raises funds to make healthcare more accessible to the hard to reach communities.
The annual Lewa Marathon-comprising the 42km race, the half marathon and the Children’s event -draws exceptional talent of participants from all over the globe to compete in an internationally acclaimed event whose course cuts through one of Africa’s most breathtaking wildlife conservancies.
The Marathon, famously branded “running through the wild” is primarily a fund-raising event which has grown to become one of Kenya’s major sporting events.
Funds raised through the marathon are channeled into conservation, health, education and community development programs aimed at promoting human-wildlife co-existence.
Although regarded as one of the toughest marathons in the world, runners of all abilities take part — leisure runners, amateur athletes and even internationally recognized runners are catered for in the various categories.
This year’s marathon attracted a wide array of athletic talent from over 20 countries including Kenyan greats such as Henry Wanyoike and the oldest local athlete, 80 year old mzee John Ruwengo who took part in the 21km race.
As part of her extensive tour of projects financed from proceeds of the Lewa Marathon, the First Lady visited the Lewa Health Clinic and the MSK Lewa Downs Primary School in Manyangaru area where she witnessed children using tablet computers issued under the Government Digital Learning Program ( DLP) initiated by President Kenyatta.
At the school, the First Lady congratulated 70-year old Mrs Florah Mumbi, who has returned to class one at Kanunga Primary school to enable her “transact business and also read the bible”, said the old pupil , adding that she had for long been cheated by brokers whenever they called at her farm to buy farm produce.
There are currently 17 government primary schools and 4 secondary schools under the Lewa Education Programme with an enrolment of over 7,000 children.
The First Lady said these projects compliment the aspirations of the Government and are in line with President’s Big 4 Development agenda.
Other programs that benefit from the Safaricom sponsored marathon include the Bongo surveillance project to protect the largest group of the animal species surviving in Maasai Mau forest and the Grevy Zebra Trust (GZT) which monitors and protects the rare mammals. Kenya is home to the largest number of the Grevy Zebra in the world.
Since 2013 to date, and for the fifth year running, Lewa Conservancy has managed to effectively maintain a zero-poaching rate within its boundaries, an achievement that was lauded by the First Lady.
“I am aware that over Sh. 60 million has been allocated to 30 conservation projects and organizations nationwide and with that we have protected our iconic rhino species. I am pleased to know that over the last 3 years no rhinos have been poached on Lewa -Borana Conservancies,” said the First Lady
The Lewa conservancy is home to over 400 species of birds and 70 different types of mammals including the Big Five- Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino, Lion and Leopard. It is also home to 11 percent of Kenya’s black rhino population and over 14 per cent of white rhino species.
Lewa Conservancy is also a Unesco World Heritage Site, inscribed in 2013 as an extension of the renown Mount Kenya World Heritage site.
On his part, Lewa Conservancy Chief Executive Officer Mike Watson said that the marathon had raised over Sh 700 million over the last 18 years-all of which had been ploughed into conservation interventions, education, health, forestry and other development programs especially in the three counties of Meru, Isiolo and Laikipia.
Philemon baaru won the 42km race for men while Morris Munene took home the trophy for the 21km event.
For women, Jane Ngina won the 42km event while Mary Ng’endo took home the 21km trophy.