Shompole is a beautiful pastoralist area around one and half hours drive south of Nairobi. It has a vast array of largely unspoiled natural resources including forests, grassy plains, the Ewaso Nyiro River, unique volcanic landscapes including alkaline salty pan which is an extension of Lake Natron and the Nguruman Escarpment. The local Maasai people of Shompole earn their livelihood predominantly from these resources (particularly through livestock) and subsistence agriculture on the upper Pakase. The primary community based-institution governing land and natural resources is the Group Ranch through officials elected by the community members every five years. Shompole Group Ranch covers a total area of 62,700 hectares with approximately 2000 members – predominantly men and few widows who replace their dead spouses. Shompole neighbors Ol Donyo Nyoike, Ol Keri, and Olkiramatian group ranches, each of which is responsible for common property management in the four group ranch areas surrounding the Lake Magadi.
In 2017, The National Oil Corporation of Kenya which is a State Corporation involved in all aspects of the petroleum supply chains invited expression of interest from eligible candidates from Kenya and abroad for provision of onshore drilling operations in Block 14T which is located within the Tertiary Rift Basin and runs from the shores of Lake Bogoria down to Lake Magadi Basin on the border of Kenya and Tanzania. This was after having successfully acquiring up to 300 line km of 2D seismic data in earlier explorations.
The community is however concerned that minimal consultations were done by the Corporation who are the concession holders. During the 2D explorations, the exploration team used hidden maps with parallel transects which were located out of the conservation area and in the process and dug about 24,000 holes.
In the recent exploration, NOC lied to the community that they were looking for water for fear of rousing hostility from members of the community who feared that their lands will be taken away once oil was discovered. On instances when water was struck, they were reluctant to share it with the community although they later yielded to the community demands when they become persistent.
“Afadhali maskini ambaye ana njaa, kuliko maskini ambaye hana ardhi” – Joshua Parsaloi (resident)
The community wasn’t happy with the manner the Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted. They claim that meetings were held in the bars, to convince people to allow them back. The group ranch committee accepted a pay of Kshs.80,000 per month from NOC for leasing the land. Most of the agreements were verbal and not well communicated to the community. Majority of the proceeds paid by NOC was utilized in paying for fees for needy children.
The community’s main concern is the division that NOC has developed between the local leadership and it’s people. All the complaints and concerns raised have not been acted on and in most instances, the local leadership (MCA, MP and group ranch committee members) often takes sides with NOC.