Category Archives: Pastoralism

Planned grazing to reduce conflict

Within NRT – we have a livestock programme that focuses on improving market access for cattle from communities engaged in conservation (i.e. the community conservancies), as well as assisting conservancies to implement and manage planned grazing in their areas. For pastoralists – livestock are and will continue to be the most important livelihood option and therefore as conservationists we feel it is vital to address both livestock and wildlife needs if conservation is to succeed in this landscape…..

Caroline Karwitha is our Livestock Programme Officer and she describes the planned grazing that the community are carrying out in Il Ngwesi………..

The pastoralist community is an area that has been ravaged by constant conflict over many years. Despite the conflict being cultural, most of the time it occurs over competition for pastures and water for livestock. The big challenge in the pastoralist areas of Northern Kenya has been posed by the old theory “tragedy of commons” where most community members are not able to come together and make decisions to help them move forward. Many of the traditional systems which governed communal grazing have been eroded by ‘modernisation’.


Il Ngwesi group ranch based in Laikipia District and bordering Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a community that has broken the many odds and come up with a system to manage the range. This has helped them establish a grass bank; a huge rescue plan for grazing during the dry periods. When other communities are moving further in search of pasture, the situation is much better for the Il Ngwesi community, which is able to support a reasonable number of cattle within their conservation area.

Il Ngwesi view Nov08 sml.JPG

Il Ngwesi is one of the 15 conservancies under the Northern Rangelands Trust. Il Ngwesi group ranch which is 8,675 ha has been divided into a settlement area and a conservation area. This was done through the help of the elders who are the key decision makers. The conservation area is further divided into a core area and a buffer area. The core area is a complete livestock exclusion zone set aside for the eco-lodge and tourism. It only has a radius of 5 km2, a small area in comparison to the whole conservation area. The buffer area is 6,000 ha and this is the area that serves as a grass bank. Livestock grazing is not allowed for the better part of the year following the rains, when grass is available elsewhere, which allows for good growth of grass in the buffer zone.

If the dry season exceeds its expected time, the elders give consent to allow grazing in the buffer zone and this is conducted in an organized manner, block by block until it is all utilized. The block grazing helps efficient utilization of the grasses in contrast to scattering small herds in the whole conservation area without a plan. This way livestock are able to graze for longer in the conservation area. When rains commence, livestock is immediately withdrawn from the conservation area and the cycle continues.

Eles Il Ngwesi Nov08 2 sml.JPG

Planning grazing has also been the backbone of the eco tourism venture. Abundant pastures are not only needed by community livestock but also the wildlife that is daily increasing in number. The eco tourism creates more employment opportunities for the youth (morans) who most of the time play a role in cattle raids, the main cause of conflict.

Peace and security emerging out of conservation

I thought this short article would be of interest as it highlights how much the conservancies in northern Kenya are doing not only for wildlife but also for the people who inhabit this region and share their land with the wildlife.

The Sera region of north-eastern Samburu District is an area with a history of insecurity and ethnic conflict. In this arid landscape, pastoralist tribes have traditionally fought for access to meager resources for their livestock – water and grass are the lifeblood for the Samburu, Rendille and Boran people who inhabit the area and are solely dependent on livestock for all their livelihood needs. The area is scattered with abandoned settlements like Koya, Kom and Kauro; fierce battles and constant raiding by neighboring tribes, as recently as 2005, caused their inhabitants to retreat to safe areas closer to towns. Until recently, heavily armed herdsmen and warriors were the only people who dared venture into these areas accompanying their livestock during the dry season.

Sera View.JPG

Views of Sera

Since 2004, with USAID support, the Northern Rangelands Trust has been working in this region to establish the Sera Wildlife Conservancy, a community conservation initiative owned by Samburu people. Early on it was understood that the success of Sera would be dependent on good relations with the neighboring Rendille and Boran communities. In 2006, NRT facilitated the formation of a joint grazing committee including elders from all three tribes elected by their respective communities. This committee has become a vehicle for peace and security, particularly between the Rendille and Boran. The committee has managed to bring together warriors from the three communities to discuss peace initiatives in the Sera region; this is the first time such a meeting has taken place. This year there have been four unprecedented cases where stolen or lost livestock have been returned peacefully as a result of dialogue and intervention by the grazing committee elders. Elders are working together to create a system to compensate for livestock not recovered and avoid retaliation by their respective communities. There is evident joint grazing by these communities who use the same watering points with little or no friction. Genuine cooperation is emerging from the work of the Sera Wildlife Conservancy, the Rendille-owned Melako Conservancy and newly formed Biliqo-Bulesa Conservancy owned by the Boran. Plans are afoot to create joint security patrols between all three communities based from Kom and the Melako Conservancy Headquarters will be built at Koya. The committee is reaching as far north as the Korr and Kargi Rendille communities with the aim of also developing a way of peacefully resolving disputes between these once warring tribes.

Boran elder addressing meeting.JPG

Boran elder addressing a security meeting

Through collaboration and a genuine desire for peace and stability, economic development of the region will become possible. The development of tourism in this region, which is the major income earner in most conservancies, is dependent on security returning which has now been achieved in Sera through the work of the conservancy.

Poisoning of lions and mass die-off of raptors

A couple of months ago Ian Craig, our Executive Director, witnessed the devastating effects of insecticide posioning of lions just to the north of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. A camel that had been killed by lions was subsequently poisoned with Furadan (a lethal pesticide) by local communities with the aim of killing predators that came to feast on the carcass. The result of the poisoning was the death of two lions as well as fifteen vultures collected in the immediate vicinity of the carcass. This kind of mass die-off of raptors as a result of poisoning has been witnessed in several parts of Kenya before, and conservationsits are concerned that this is having devastating effects on raptor populations, as well as carnivores, throughout the country. Dead Vultures LMD.JPG

The use of poisons is becoming more widespread in pastoralist areas as a means of dealing with wildlife conflict – targeting carnivores – as these agro-chemicals become more widely available. In response to this incident NRT contacted the Peregrine Foundation and Kenya Wildlife Service. A student will begin his project to gather more information on the impact of poisons, such as Furadan, on carnivore and raptor populations in the Samburu/laikipia ecosystem. With this information we hope NRT and other conservation organisations can effectively lobby government to regulate the distribution and use of hazardous chemicals. On NRT’s part we will be looking at ways to reduce predator conflict and improve awareness about predators amongst the communities we work with.
Poisoned lions 025.jpg

If anyone has any information on similar use of poisons targeting carnivores and their effects on raptors we would really like to hear from you.

Please excuse the formatting of this first posting – hope to get the hang of this programme soon!


5000 km2 of Conservancies.

Welcome to the first blog of the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT). This first posting will give a brief insight into the work of NRT and the community conservancies we represent; over time we will introduce you to each of these conservancies through updates and regular news from the field.


NRT is an umbrella organisation for community conservation in northern Kenya, which began operating in 2004 with a membership of 9 community conservancies. Today there are 15 member conservancies that collectively cover an area of over 5,000 km2 and represent an estimated 60,000 people.

Community conservation in Kenya is gaining momentum as communities realize the benefits that conservation can bring through improved security, natural resource management and opportunities for economic development.


The communities we work with are predominantly nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists who depend on their livestock for all their livelihood needs. However, gradually the conservancies are providing employment, meaningful revenue and enterprise opportunities to these people.

Pastoralism provides an opportunity for wildlife conservation which is all but lost in the rest of the country; creating space for wildlife at a landscape level without the confinement of fences or agriculture.

The region NRT works in is historically insecure; ethnic conflict over meager resources is common-place, illegal firearms are widespread and the area has been largely neglected by economic development that has been felt elsewhere in the country. Insecurity in itself is a deterrent to economic development; one of the major roles of these conservancies is to improve security thereby creating an enabling environment for development including tourism.

NRT’s role is to develop the capacity and self-sufficiency of these community conservancies to ensure their success and continuity in the long-term.

NRT provides technical support in ecological monitoring, enterprise development, livestock marketing, rangeland management, security, project management and governance, community mobilization and infrastructure development.

A crucial role of NRT is to link the conservancies to donors to ensure financial stability in the medium to long-term until the conservancies are able to become financially sustainable or self-supporting. This is a goal of all conservancies, however, in our experience it takes at least 10 years before conservancies can generate meaningful revenue through tourism and the donor community will always play a crucial role in supporting these conservancies.

The community conservancies we are involved in include:
Þ Il Ngwesi Group Ranch
Þ Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust
Þ Naibunga Conservancy
Þ Lekurruki Group Ranch
Þ Ngare Ndare Forest Trust
Þ Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy
Þ West Gate Community Conservancy
Þ Sera Wildlife Conservancy
Þ Melako Conservancy
Þ Ltungai Community Conservancy
Þ Ruko Community Conservancy
Þ Meibae Conservancy
Þ Ishaqbini Community Wildlife Conservancy
Þ Biliqo-Bulesa Conservancy
Þ Kipsing Community Conservancy


In our future blogs we will introduce you to each of these conservancies and provide regular updates of news and activities. Blogs will be written by Conservancy and NRT staff and researchers and we hope will give you a fresh, exciting look into the future of conservation in northern Kenya!

Juliet King – NRT Research & Monitoring Coordinator