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Vanishing Land Fuels ‘Looming Crisis’ Across Africa

Her son now patrols the family ranch in a flak jacket and operates a new drone they bought for surveillance. The herders throw rocks at it.

About an hour away from that ranch lies the small village of Nadungoru, the one where Mr. Lekisio stood on an empty farm in disbelief. It is a stunningly beautiful place of thick green grass, wide-open skies and little wooden cabins, which, on a recent day, stood empty. The invading herders had stolen all of Mr. Lekisio’s cows and ransacked his house.

“We feel bad, bad, bad, bad,” he said.

The Kenyan government has deployed hundreds of police officers and soldiers, some in bulletproof cars and Humvees, declaring parts of Laikipia “dangerous and disturbed,” which is like a local state of emergency that gives officers more power to crack down on invaders.

But Laikipia’s farmers say they’ve never seen such timid men in uniform. So they sometimes confront the herders themselves.

Tristan Voorspuy, a former British military officer, lived on a ranch that was invaded in March. The security forces were doing little to help him, so he rode on horseback to the young trespassers in hopes of asking them to leave.

The men shot him in the face. They killed his horse, too.

The next month, Kuki Gallmann, the Italian-born author of the best-selling book “I Dreamed of Africa” and one of Kenya’s celebrities, was rumbling across her property, the Laikipia Nature Conservancy. At 88,000 acres, it is one of Kenya’s biggest pieces of privately owned land. Ms. Gallmann, 74, has set aside the expanse for protecting wildlife like elephants, leopards, lions and buffaloes, as well as the rare species of trees and plants that thrive in the gorges and hillsides of her sculpted property.

As she drove, with a contingent of armed wildlife rangers behind her, shots rang out. Several bullets flew threw Ms. Gallmann’s car door and tore into her stomach. She remains at her Nairobi home, convalescing, with severe internal damage. She said many of the recent invaders came with no livestock, and she called them a militia.

On another Laikipia ranch, Anne Powys, whose hands shook as she sat by a window, surrounded by old pictures and dusty books, said she could not count on anyone protecting her. So she has made a choice: She is trying to make peace with her attackers.

She paid the same young men who had burned down her eco-lodge, which she said was part of her soul, to help clean it up.

“Isn’t that insane?” she said.

Source: NYT > World

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