9 stories from the Northern Rangelands Trust #NRT in #Kenya

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9 stories from the northern rangelands



One community’s efforts to recover the most endangered antelope in Africa.

Africa’s most endangered antelope, the hirola, is making a comeback in the Ishaqbini Hirola Sanctuary, thanks to efforts by the local community, elders, rangers and conservancy management. A 2018 aerial and ground survey conducted by Ishaqbini and NRT concluded that there has been a 140% increase in the number of animals in the Sanctuary since it was established in 2012.

“The local community see hirola as a blessing” says Ahmednoor Abdi Maalim, manager of Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy. “That is why they chose to assign part of their livestock grazing land to hirola conservation.”

Ishaqbini was the first fenced sanctuary on community land in Kenya dedicated for the conservation of a critically endangered species. Since 2012, increased community awareness and support for the project has enabled the hirola population to grow at an average of 15-20% per year. By mid 2016 hirola were breeding so well that there were 100 individuals; over double the initial population in just over three years. The aerial and ground survey concluded that the population stood at an estimated 115 individuals in mid 2018, but it is now thought to be around 118.

“This achievement has happened through collective efforts of the community, NRT and donors like San Diego Zoo, with support from KWS. It is proof that community-driven wildlife management works very well. We are working to continue into the next phase of this project, and we hope to see increasing numbers of hirola across Garissa County” says Mr. Maalim.



How the introduction of weighing scales is changing the way we do business.

In orange is Tume Tache Halake, a mother of six and a Jaldesa Community Conservancy member. For Tume and her community, livestock dictate the way and pace of life. Her cattle are the primary source of income for her family, and her children’s prosperity is inextricably linked to good grass, reliable rainfall and fair market prices. All of which have become a rarity for Tume lately.

As the northern rangelands of Kenya come under increasing pressure to support growing livestock numbers, conservancies like Jaldesa are trying to find solutions with the support of NRT and NRT Trading.

LivestockWORKS, a business of NRT Trading, holds cattle markets in conservancies that have demonstrated efforts to rehabilitate rangelands and implement grass management. Where cattle owners like Tume usually trek cattle for days to the nearest market to be paid a sight-based price, LivestockWORKS buys cattle directly from pastoralists on their doorstep, and now pays per kilo using mobile weighing scales. The price system is explained to sellers beforehand and is ensuring a fair and transparent market system, as well as encouraging pastoralists to focus on quality of their herd over quantity.

Earlier this year, Tume sold two of her bulls at the LivestockWORKS market in Jaldesa for Ksh. 90, 875 (US$ 900). “I am so happy to have sold my cattle to NRT-Trading,” she says. “The market is very good in comparison to what we normally have, because it gives me the opportunity to understand the price of my cattle as opposed to the ordinary markets where brokers decide and connive for certain prices. I would have sold both my cows at Ksh. 70,000 (US$ 700), but now I have a very good profit.”

Each seller at the market is required to remit a Ksh. 1,000 (US$ 10) conservancy fee as a contribution to conservation and livelihoods activities. NRT Trading matches this with Ksh. 2,000 (US$ 20) for each cow. According to NRT Trading’s Livestock Director Patrick Ekodere, this fee is as much about driving community ownership of conservancy projects and building a sustainable business mindset amongst pastoralists, as it is about the physical financial contribution. In 2018, over 2,000 head of cattle have been purchased from 14 conservancies in this way.

“With each market, pastoralists make tangible links between their conservancies, good rangeland management, and positive impacts on their lives and those of their children,” says Patrick. “Ultimately, this is building support for community conservation amongst those with the greatest potential to make long-lasting change.”



A few years ago, NRT partnered with a management consultancy company based in Nairobi to see if their traditional corporate leadership training could be tailored for conservancy managers. A bespoke programme was designed to accommodate the unique environment conservancy managers operate within. The impact of this training on the productivity, confidence and proactive leadership of managers was so significant, that NRT expanded the training to committee members and conservancy boards. We hear from the latest Leadership and Management Programme (LAMP) graduate, Stephen Hoko Guyo, Board Chairman of Shurr Conservancy in Marsabit.

“LAMP has enlightened me,” he says. “Before, I was not clear on my roles as a board chairman, I was not completely in charge of my board. Now, I lead the board in setting our agenda and I’m more proactive. We’ve learned to seek out and create beneficial partnerships for our conservancy. For example, last year, we went to the Marsabit County Government with a tree-planting proposal, which they have now committed funds to. LAMP was also great for my people management skills. I learnt that as a leader, I had to become good at handling different temperaments. I get more co-operation these days as a result of this!”

Stephen also feels that the improved productivity is helping deliver Shurr’s longterm goals. “One of the key things we learn at LAMP was mobilising action,” he says. “This has been especially helpful for implementing programmes such as the grazing plan which go a long way in solving problems we have had for decades. LAMP has given us the confidence and lit the way for us!”



There were three black rhino calves born in Sera this year, and zero incidents of poaching. This is a fantastic achievement and a true testament to the tireless work of rangers, the community and their partners. These collaborative efforts have shown that not only is community-led black rhino conservation possible, but it makes sense.

Particularly for one little black rhino calf – Loijipu. Loijipu was abandoned by his mother in February 2017, discovered by a ranger patrol. With the support of the Kenya Wildlife Service, he was moved to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in nearby Namunyak Conservancy, to be hand-reared by keepers. Like Sera, Reteti is another ‘community conservancy first’ for east Africa, being the only community-run establishment of its kind in the region. Loijipu thrived under the care of his keepers, and as his wild instincts became stronger, they decided he was ready to go back to Sera. He was moved on the 6th June 2018, and arrived to a colourful welcome by Sera Community Conservancy members.?His re-wildling will be a gradual process, and for now he remains under the close watch of keepers and rangers. He is taking well to life at Sera, and is now one of 15 black rhinos in the Sanctuary.




“I cannot rely purely on the boda boda (motorbike taxi) business as sometimes clients are hard to come by. So now I have a shop on the side. This loan will help provide some consistent income for me,” says Yusuf Salat. In September 2018, Yusuf was among 22 morans (young warriors) from Songa Conservancy in Marsabit to receive a KES 25,000 (US$ 250) business loan from NRT Trading, as part of the Moran Economic Empowerment Savings and Credit Cooperative (Morans SACCO).

“A lot of these young men face difficulty in accessing loans from financial institutions such as banks due to lack of guarantors or security,” says Songa Conservancy manager Daniel Esimbasele.“It means they struggle to access capital to start or sustain their businesses. Unemployment and poverty are big drivers of insecurity, especially livestock theft. ”

And this is what NRT Trading hope to tackle with the Morans SACCO Initiative; which reached more than 60 young warriors like Yusuf in 2018. He was selected by Conservancy board members, who were asked to look for promising morans to take part in the project.

The group underwent two days of financial literacy training before receiving the loans through a cooperative that will be owned and managed by the young men themselves. After a grace period of two months, the members will be expected to repay KES 2,500 (US$ 25) a month. Repayments will be overseen by nominated group leaders. Using this model, NRT Trading hope to nurture business development and stimulate economies in conservancies. There are also thriving women-only SACCOs operating in several conservancies.



Over the past few years, NRT has been supporting conservancies to make jobs and leadership positions more accessible to women. There are now more women sitting on conservancy boards, employed as drivers, and now, increasingly, as rangers too. Meet two brave ladies from Kalama.

“I didn’t think I would manage, but I decided to try and I am glad I did. Now my children, especially my daughters, can look up to me and see that when challenges come, we should not shy away from them.” – Clementina (left).

In 2015, Clementina’s husband, a Kalama Conservancy ranger, tragically lost his life during a stock theft recovery operation. He was the sole breadwinner for their family of five, and his loss left Clementina trying to manage her grief alongside the daunting prospect of providing for her children. She had never been formally employed in her life. Keen to try and help, the Kalama management called a community meeting. They wanted to offer the widow a sustainable solution – one that could put food on the table every night and see her kids through school.

They decided to offer Clementina a job: the position of a community ranger. Bravely, Clementina took the job, assessing the risks and opportunities. She now works alongside five other female rangers, including Josephine (right), who are her support network as well as her colleagues. Josephine is a radio operator; as much a ‘first response’ position as the rangers on the ground. “I am at the heart of what is happening in our community,” she says, “if anything happens, I am the first to know and record it.”

She says that like Clementina, her job has also pushed her out of her comfort zone. “There are certain things I can do now that I could not do when I first came. I can operate a radio, relay information and interact freely with people from different places.” Josephine commends her friend’s courage – “our work can be very hard sometimes and it especially hurts when we lose one of our fellow rangers in the field. But we know that it is worth doing, because we can take care of our families and contribute to a better life for our community.”



Young warriors in Westgate trial a new approach to keeping cattle.

The northern rangelands are under pressure. Growing livestock numbers and an unpredictable climate is leading to degradation and erosion in many grassland areas, threatening livelihoods and wildlife. Many pastoralists struggle to reach or maintain decent market-value weight on their cattle, particularly during dry times. Yet where communities are successfully implementing and scaling their traditional grazing management strategies, planting grasses and clearing invasive trees, the potential of the grasslands to support commercial-grade beef cattle and abundant wildlife numbers is huge.

That is why a group of pioneering morans in Westgate Conservancy have partnered with NRT, The Nature Conservancy and Grevy’s Zebra Trust to trial a supplementary feeding experiment with some of their bulls in August 2018. This trial complements the successful grazing management and rangeland rehabilitation activities that have already been carried out by the Conservancy for the benefit of wildlife and cattle.

For these morans, supplementary feeding is a new concept – traditionally they rely solely on good grass. The questions they had: How much weight might my bull put on if I fed him pellets in the evening on top of grazing? And would the value of this weight gain justify the cost of pellets?

The trial took place from August to October 2018, and involved four groups of bulls that grazed together during the day:

– The first were wormed, and fed pellets

– The second were not wormed, and fed pellets

– The third were not fed pellets, but were wormed

– The fourth were not fed pellets or wormed

Results showed that in the first seven weeks, the bulls that were wormed and fed pellets gained an average of 15kgs. Bulls that were fed and not wormed put on 6 kgs. Those animals that were not fed pellets, but were wormed, lost an average of 3.5kgs, while bulls that were not fed or wormed lost an average of 1.9kgs.

Interestingly, weight gain from the groups being fed started to plateau after the first seven weeks. This is likely due to their breed, which is programmed to put on fat rather than muscle (which weighs more). Data from this trial will be shared with NRT Trading, who will support with calculating weight gain value against average feed cost. There are plans to conduct a similar trial in Sera Conservancy, where NRT Trading would purchase those bulls that reached market weight at the end of it.

These trials aim to reveal the potential of the northern grasslands to support commercial beef production. Through this, there is an opportunity for pastoralists to start shifting the way they think about keeping livestock – from owning high numbers of poor or medium grade cattle to keeping fewer animals with higher genetic potential for beef production and income generation.



Pate Conservancy radio operator and marine champion

She’s a radio operator for Pate Marine Community Conservancy in Lamu, and recently returned from a trip to Madagascar supported by The Nature Conservancy. Inspired by what she learned from community-based marine conservation groups there, she’s become a driving force behind the establishment of women’s marine associations back in Pate. She hopes to encourage more women to get involved in Pate’s marine conservation efforts and explore opportunities for sustainable fisheries businesses.



How the reconciliation of two communities led to the protection of a vulnerable species, a boost in tourism, and the empowerment of women.

“In 2006, elders from the Rugus and Komolion areas of Baringo County came together to find a solution to the long lasting conflict between the Il Chamus and Pokot communities. It was out of this peace gathering that Ruko (a merger of Rugus and Komolion) Community Conservancy was formed, with support and guidance from NRT.

At just 25 years old, Rebecca Kochulem became the first manager of Ruko, and one of the first female managers of an NRT member conservancy. “For the first two years, every single day was a working day,” Rebecca recalls. “It was very important for us to include everyone in our decision-making: elders, women, young people and local authorities.”

Rose Kateiya, a radio operator at Ruko, remembers those early days too, and the important role the multi-ethnic ranger team played in promoting unity. “We had to lead by example,” she says, “working together as Il Chamus and Pokot rangers towards a common goal. It was unheard of at the time but when people from both communities saw this, they began to realise that there was no need to see each other as enemies.”

Her sentiments are echoed by conservancy warden James Cheptulel. “In my team, there are rangers from both communities,” he says. “In spite of our past differences, what matters to us now is the work that the conservancy has entrusted us with.”

12 years since its establishment, and the two formerly-warring communities have worked together to turn Ruko Conservancy into a platform for improving lives, preventing conflict, managing natural resources and promoting sustainable business. Their efforts led to the reintroduction of the endangered Rothschild giraffe in 2012 — in to a sanctuary owned and managed by the Ruko communities.

Endemic to Baringo, the giraffe had been wiped out by years of hunting and conflict. He recalls clearly the day they were giraffes arrived at the conservancy by boat. “We sang, celebrated and the elders blessed the giraffes. Everyone, whether Il Chamus or Pokot, came together to celebrate the return of the giraffe to Baringo” says James. He views this as a turning point in Ruko’s growth. “The giraffes provided a visual symbol of conservation to us. The sense of responsibility was unifying- the stakes were high and we all knew we had to keep these giraffes alive,” he states. “There was a sense that it was everybody’s job – not just the rangers or manager but everyone in the community.”

The giraffes are not only a symbol of unity, but have also provided the Ruko communities with a valuable tourism opportunity. “Before the giraffes, very few people came to Ruko,” says Rebecca Kochulem. “Today, the conservancy welcomes about 500 guests yearly, approximately 200 of whom are school children coming from as far as Nairobi.”

To increase tourism earnings, the conservancy has also started boat tours around the conservation area, raising awareness and opening up the market for local entrepreneurs and youth groups around the island to sell beaded items and other wares. Any tourism earnings received are split 60: 40 with 40% funding conservancy operations and the 60% split equally amongst the two communities in the region for healthcare and education. Since the conservancy’s inception over 300 bursaries have been provided to schoolchildren from both communities.

“We look forward to our population of giraffes growing- and welcoming more visitors. Ruko is a jewel, and it should be seen by more people.” says Rebecca.


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Northern Rangelands Trust
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