Happy Christmas – election day in Kenya!

A little late I know – but Happy Christmas to you all!

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This blog has been going just over a month – not long – but already it is quite addictive and I am always thinking of what would be exciting enought to include as the next blog entry………..none of the NRT staff are in the field at the moment as today is election day!

Campaigning has been energetic in the north and not too much violence reported – let’s hope it stays this way over the next few days and the people and politicians accept the outcome of the elections. Several of our Board members are MPs who are fighting to retain their seats this election, competition is stiff in most constituencies. We have even had some ex Conservancy Managers running in these elections so awareness of politics and interest in the outcome of these elections is high in all the conservancies – and among Kenyans in general.

An interesting article came out in the New York Times Magazine last weekend about the mix of politics and religion in northern Kenya and specifically Laisamis constituency where one of our conservancies – Melako – is situated. Will be interesting to see the outcome of the elections in this area. Politics is intertwined in the work that NRT and the conservancies are doing – local and regional political support are necessary particularly in the early stages of conservancy development.

This is an intro to the article I was refering to – sorry I don’t know how to create a link I hope you can work out how to get to read the full article!

MAGAZINE | December 23, 2007
The African Front
By JOSHUA HAMMER

Kenya ‘s remote north has become a battleground for rising Islamism and its pro-American opponents. Have aggressive post-9/11 policies fomented the very sectarianism they were meant to fight?

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.

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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.

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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.

Donations… and conservancies address insecurity in the north

I am reposting this as I have just figured out how to make the photos larger!

Thanks so much for our first donations from Kathleen l, Nicole K and Mary H – it is very much appreciated, thank you all.

Been an interesting few weeks in NRT as usual – mainly revolving around security issues in the north. With the lack of government capacity to deal with insecurity thoughout most of the areas we are working in, it is left to the conservancy security scouts to follow up on incidents of road bandity and livestock theft – let alone any poaching that may occur. Over the last two weeks, conservancy scouts from Namunyak, Sera, Kalama and West Gate conservancies were involved in following up several trucks that were held up on the main ‘highway’ between Kenya and Ethiopia. This meant days out in the bush tracking the bandits with no shelter and food supplies running low. A teenage boy who was returning home from school aboard one of these trucks disappeared into the bush when the bandits attacked – disorientated and no doubt very scared he walked further and further away from the road into the wilderness. The scouts and community members who joined in the search finally found him after 6 days – it had been difficult to track him because of all the rain in the area, but thankfully the rain meant there was also plenty of water around for him to drink and he was found near a water hole (with elephants all around!). The dedication of these conservancy scouts continues to amaze me, if it weren’t for them, this boy would certainly have died.

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Trucks transporting livestock and other goods are the only means of public transport in the north – passengers ride on top of truck; Sera Wildlife Conservancy scouts

In another incident last week Kalama scouts successfully returned over 50 cattle that had been stolen – although it involved a shoot out with the bandits, luckily no one was killed or injured.

Following the recent spate of security incidents, the Samburu and Rendille communities living in this area held several meetings over the last few days together with the conservancies NRT, Lewa and government officials. As part of the way to address the insecurity the communities have come up with a home-grown solution … elders are undertaking a ‘road-cursing ceremony’ over the next few days. I will bring you more on this once I have details……..

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Armed conservancy scout & dommunity members at a security meeting earlier this year

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.
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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!

Juliet

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.

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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.

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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

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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