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Visit to Kenyan Community Conservancies

In May 2008 a small group from northern Mursiland spent two weeks visiting the Melako, Sera, Namunyak and Kalama Community Conservancies in Kenya. They learnt about the management, benefits and challenges of these conservancies, and had discussions with members of the Maasai, Rendille and Samburu communities which are actively involved in them.


17th May 2008 – Drove from Nairobi to Nanyuki.

18th May 2008 – Drove from Nanyuki to Marsabit.

19th May 2008 – Drove from Marsabit to Moyale. Picked up Mursi group from Moyale and took them to Moyale Catholic Mission for accommodation.

20th May 2008 – Travelled from Moyale to Marsabit and camped at Marsabit National Park. Met with the other team from Nairobi.

21st May 2008 – At MELAKO community conservancy, the team was met by Mr. Tom Ole Salegei , manager Northern Range Land Trust, (NRT) Mr. Edward, Manager of Melako community conservancy, Mr. Jonathan Galuwaha, Treasurer, and Mr. Kolima, Asst. Chief,  Koya sub location. The manager, elders, women and school children were interviewed. (MeLaKo stands for Merile, Laisamis and Koya group ranches).

  • The team was taken on a village visit, during which most of the questions from the Mursi revolved around the many similarities between them and the Rendile. It was traced down to history, which indicates that Rendile ancestors moved up Lake Turkana and settled where the Mursi live today.
  • Questions from Mursi relating to marriage procedures, cultural practices, similar activities like tobacco chewing, playing Horoi, tattooing, beading, clothing, tools and house building.

22nd May 2008 – At MELAKO - morning discussion.

  • The role of NRT in the provision of expertise, good governance, fund raising, livestock marketing, entrepreneurship activities and guidance on management.
  • The idea to establish MELAKO was brought about by persistent conflicts between Rendile and Borana over grazing land.
  • The establishment of the conservancy block was difficult since the community believed that their grazing land was being sold out. It took two years of community mobilization.


  • Locally hired scouts monitor wildlife using GPS.
  • Board members are appointed from the three group ranches to oversee the general running of the conservancy block.
  • Tough rules to deal with cattle rustlers.
  • Revenue is generated from bird shooting, which earned approximately Ksh. 1 million last year. It is shared in a ratio of 4:6 – 6 goes to community projects while 4 goes to running the conservancy.


  • Locals found watering their livestock from side wells at a dry river bed explained to the many benefits they are getting from the conservation, like money for water projects, school fees, building of schools and improved security.
  • We also found a group of women undergoing training in micro-finance and entrepreneurship under the sponsorship of NRT. The Mursi were entertained with Rendile traditional songs by the women.

The Mursi asked the following questions: What do you think of the park? Do the families get a share of the park money? Do they receive vetenary medicines from the park? How has the grazing changed with the introduction of conservancy? Did they hunt before and why? All the people interviewed were positive, and are pleased by the establishment of the conservation block. The Mursi were impressed and said they would mobilize their communities to establish the same in their home area. The same evening, the  team traveled to SERA community conservancy and visited a local Samburu village.

23rd May 2008 – At SERA community conservancy. (SeRa stands for Serolevi and Rasusia group ranches). The team was met by Mr. Shadrack Lolosoli, conservationist. The team visited a site called 50 springs, which is an area characterized by a shallow aquifer with multiple shallow wells. The manager was absent. This is a fully community owned set up, started by the two group ranches with no  government input apart from the provision of a permit. It was started in 2002. It covers 33000 ha of land and has employed armed scouts with radio communication equipments and GPS equipment.

The conservancy receives donations from US AID, US fish and wildlife and FFI. 60 village representatives were appointed, who then chose 12 board members, and a grazing committee of 12 members. All resources received from the conservancy is shared equally between the two group ranches.

The community did not accept the idea for a long period, Livestock theft. Low level of awareness,  high community expectations and donor pressure.


  • Employment of locals.
  • Improved security due to provision of two vehicles, armed scouts and radio communication equipments.
  • Monetary benefits from tourism and a lodge.
  • A good relationship with the Kenya Wildlife Services.
  • Reduced poaching and conflict..

The Mursi asked how the people who had been living in the conservation area agreed to move out of it. The answer was that it took two years of ‘sensitization’ before they realized that the establishment of the conservancy  would be to their own benefit.

23rd May 2008 – travelled to Namunyak community conservancy.

24th May 2008 – at West Gate community conservancy.
The team was met by Mr. Daniel Letuya, Manager, Mr. Sammy Lekelnui,  Vice chairman, Mr. Jackson Letuiye, Board member, and Mr. Latisi Letur, Chairman of the Grazing Committee.
The Samburu, who own the project and the entire land, consist of 9 clans.
They depend on pastoralism and tourism on community land, commonly called a group ranch
All species of wild life are present in this conservancy.
The idea was borrowed from Samburu national reserve owned by Samburu county council.
To a larger extent, the conservancy relies on donations through NRT or from direct donations.
The conservancy also generates its own revenue through hiring out  the lodges to private investors.
The income generated is managed by the community and is used to pay school fees (bursaries), construction of schools, construction of water projects and other community projects. Currently, 4 primary schools and 9 nursery schools are benefiting from the conservancy.
The conservancy was set up in year 2004

The West Gate Community Conservancy is made up of two group ranches called Ngutuk and Ong’irong.
The whole conservancy area is 32000 ha. 880 ha is the core area reserved for wild life. 700 ha. is a buffer zone for grazing only while the rest is divided into grazing blocks where the community are allowed to build.
If one transgresses into core area without permission from the grazing committee, a fine of one goat for a first offense, two goats for a second offense and one cow for a third offense is applied.

The Mursi asked questions relating to land ownership, grazing land management, the Kenya government involvement and the ancestral origin of the Mursi, Samburu and Rendile communities.

25th May 2008 – at Kalama community conservancy. The team was met by Peter Lonte, Conservancy Manager and Mr. John Lamaramba, Chairman of the grazing committee.
The Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) noticed a decrease in wild life within this area and  started a community conservancy to check this.
The communities were resistant at first, fearing a replica of the nearby Samburu National Reserve where they are not allowed to graze or even pass through.
The area was hitherto a battle ground between Rendile, Borana and Samburu and was not conducive for grazing or tourism.
It took 2 years of community mobilization with donations from KWS and LEWA among others to persuade the community of the importance of establishing the conservancy.
The conservancy covers 32000 ha. with 8000 ha. reserved as a core area.
Kalama community conservancy is 6 years old.


  • The area is under two group ranches. It is divided into four blocks from which the board members are appointed. The area chief, area councilor and Samburu National Reserve representative are bona fide members. The grazing land committee is chosen from the board members,
  • A camp site was opened one year ago to raise funds, and a private investor is currently building a lodge that will be leased or hired out. The conservancy also diversifies its economic base by investing in small entrepreneurships.
  • Penalties for grazing in the core area is Ksh. 100 per cow.


  • One of the locals, who originally rejected the idea, explained how he was taken on an exchange tour to other successful conservations.
  • 500 people have benefited from the conservancy through employment. There is a vehicle available to the community for use during emergencies. Scouts, on a monthly  payroll, patrol the entire area, using radio communication,  and the conserved pasture land saves the livestock during drought.


  • Community suspicions over the management of funds.
  • Donor pressure.
  • Pressure from community members over suspicions of electoral positions and individual benefits going to board members.
  • Community fights over the little funds availed to them for projects.

The MURSI explained that the government had leased part of Mursi territory to a private safari operation and allowed tourists to shoot wildlife. This generated an argument between the Mursi and the government that is not yet solved . They had come to Kenya to learn how to solve this problem.

Compiled by Geoffrey K. Gichuki
Tel. 0721624220
Email: [email protected]

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