Lourens Leeuwner, Manager, EWT Wildlife and Energy Programme


The EWT’s Wildlife and Energy Programme (WEP) was recently contracted by Power Africa, a USAID-funded development programme, to set up utility and NGO partnerships in Africa.  The focus of this project is to optimise electricity supply through reduced wildlife interactions, and is modelled on the long-standing partnership between the EWT and Eskom.

Lourens Leeuwner, WEP Manager, and Constant Hoogstad, Senior Manager: Industry Partnerships, travelled to Kenya in February to meet with Kenya Generation (Kengen), Kenya transmission company (Ketraco), the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) as well as Kenya Power and Lighting Corporation (KPLC).  Unlike South Africa, where all aspects of electricity generation, transmission and distribution are controlled by Eskom, the responsibility lies with a number of different entities in Kenya.  This makes it quite challenging to drive change within the respective organisations.

In order to address the numerous topics surrounding wildlife and electricity infrastructure interactions, the EWT co-hosted a conference, Designing Linear Infrastructure for Sustainable Outcomes in conjunction with Ewaso Lions, the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Africa Conservation Centre, Centre for Large Landscape Conservation and the Development Corridor Partnership. The three-day workshop, hosted in Nairobi, exposed delegates to the benefits of utilities and NGOs partnering together to work towards a common goal. This could not have come at a better time as Kenya is in the midst of a massive linear infrastructure development drive.  The scale of development is almost overwhelming, and concerns have been raised around power line routing and structure design.

During the energy sector breakaway session, we had the opportunity to engage at length with representatives from various entities, including consultants, utilities and other wildlife NGOs.  The message was clear: designing infrastructure in a wildlife friendly manner right at the beginning of a project will optimise the quality of supply to utilities while ensuring minimal impact on wildlife. After two days in the boardroom, delegates had the opportunity to get out into the field, and a number of electrical structures were inspected and discussed.

This inaugural engagement in Kenya is the start of a much bigger mission by the WEP team.  We are planning to set up numerous engagements across Africa and guide utilities towards best practice. By setting up partnerships between local NGOs and utilities, we hope to promote sustainable development practices in Africa, with the ultimate goal of having wildlife friendly electricity networks across Africa.