Joan Wandegi Nthiga shares her thoughts on the Laikipia Land Invasions


Laikipia is not a bad place. Residents here are among the most diverse of any Kenyan county. People who choose to live here are often a little bit on the “adventurous” side. They take risks as they live alongside wildlife. They like the big spaces of this high plateau. They take on the challenges of business, ranching, and agriculture on big and small lands.

More recently, tourism has come to figure prominently in our economy. We offer some of the best tourism products in the Country. We’re also good at growing grass and ranching. And as a result, our wildlife populations have thrived. Right now we seem to be feeding the livestock of Isiolo County (25,336 square kilometres), Samburu County (21,000 square kilometres), and Baringo County (8,655 square kilometres). We are 9,700 square kilometres in size. That’s about 2.4 million acres.
And for us, it’s all about land use.

  • Large ranches of mixed African and European origins own 37% of Laikipia.
  • Areas under pastoralists occupation or ownership include 32% of Laikipia
  • 21% of the land of Laikipia is owned by small-holder agriculturists
  • 10% of the land is under municipalities, towns, villages, or trading centres.

These are the facts. Not those being peddled by newspapers and politicians.

Laikipia is hurting right now. We are facing a set of challenges that presently outstrip our capacity to join together and to help each other. We are being challenged by powers we can’t see or that we ignore; and by politicians that play with our heads and our land.
It’s not about who owns the land. It’s about how we share access and use of natural resources – grass, water and wildlife – while respecting each other, healthy lands and good land use.

We are losing our vision of Laikipia – our unity in purpose, our strength in diversity, and our ability to listen and support each other through good and bad times.
No one really knows the number of immigrant herders in Laikipia, and no one really knows the number of illegal cows. Illegal cattle numbers in the press are based on an LWF funded sample survey conducted in April 2016. There are more cows illegally in Laikipia now than in April 2016. That’s a fact. There are also more sheep and goats than in April. But again, the actual numbers are imprecise.

The number of immigrant herders are also a guess. No one has really counted the number of herders. The press is guessing when they write, “10,000”. The number of guns on this landscape is equally unknown.

Livestock and people have always entered Laikipia. Some legally. Some illegally. We have always accommodated each other. Sometimes easily and sometimes begrudgingly. But now the situation has changed. Why the violence? Why the looting? Why the killing of livestock, pets, and wildlife? Why the destruction of property? What’s to be gained? There is nothing to be gained. Anger and resentment are running high. Kenyans are dying on both sides of the fence. And fences aren’t working! Violence cannot continue. Confrontation cannot work. Moranis must put away their guns. Police must put away their guns. This is a pre-requisite for discussions. Guns don’t listen; people do.

Here’s our suggestion:

1. You must engage with all of your neighbours. All of them. Not just those you like.
2. Dialog, dialog, dialog……………Don’t like it? Find someone that does, but talk. This is the only way we will work out a solution. It’s one of Laikipia’s land use transaction costs, and what makes us a success if we’re to be successful.
3. We all come to a meeting with a pre-determined agenda. Learn to listen and adapt. Compromise is not a sign of weakness.
4. Our immediate future lies with assisting people in our neighbourhoods to become better custodians of the land. Rangelands management and rehabilitation in these communities are key to our livestock, livelihoods and wildlife.
5. Our future lies in assisting our neighbours to the north and west. The grasslands of these areas are almost ruined. There is still hope in that soil, but we must act now. We will work with NRT and whoever else is chosen to grow grass with communities and conservancies who have so far failed to grow grass successfully and in the amounts that are needed.
6. Livestock management. Simple right? Learn to manage the land using livestock and understand what is meant by the capacity of the land to carry the impact of livestock numbers. Ofcourse Laikipia can help with livestock fattening and markets.
7. Work with communities and conservancies on group ranches and trust lands to register their lands under the new Community Land Act. While this ACT waits for implementing regulations, we can still work to prepare these areas to prepare for security of tenure.

All our communities, our children, our parents, all our residents, and all our businesses are the victim of any aggression. The only way forward is Dialog. Let’s discover peace now, before it’s too late.

For additional comments on this subject please contact the Executive Director Peter E. Hetz on peter.hetz

Best Regards,

Joan Wandegi Nthiga

Communications Specialist

Laikipia Wildlife Forum

Office Cell: +254 726 500 260




  1. I think that everyone should be taxed on the amount of cattle that they have above that which the land they are grazing on can sustain. If they are responsibly miaintaining the level of cattle to the land that they graze they should receive subsidies that enable them to look after the cattle properly, build dams etc. the money should go into projects, not personal bank accounts.

  2. I would like to caution irresponsible individuals bringing racist undertones into this already highly volatile situation. Their comments, needless to say, will not be published and treated as spam but where appropriate will their hate speech be reported to the authorities to be investigated. All IP addresses and email addresses of anyone commenting here are captured allowing for such individuals to be identified and followed up.
    There are only Kenyans for me and the colour of their skin, cultural background, religious or other preferences are immaterial to being citizens of Kenya.

  3. It’s high time the admistration accepts and engages in dialogue and address the needs of the larger Majority, holders of large and vast lands.
    Times and needs have changed and if anything demand for equal control of resources more wanting….otherwise conflicts are bound to persist if not well addressed..DIALOGUE.. ALL THREE CATEGORIES TO BE INVOLVED IN DIALOGUE.
    R. K