Laikipia is physically diverse with open grasslands, basalt hills and dense forests. It is also rich in wildlife and supports many domestic herds. The land and animals are owned by a cross section of landowners and land users (including local community groups, private ranchers, pastoralists, small scale farmers and tourism ventures).
National Resources as a commercial product
Laikipia doesn’t lie in government designated protected areas, its conservation success and natural resource management are a result of combined efforts by land owners and users. However these natural resources that the people and animals and residents depend on are increasingly under pressure. In order for the habitat to be conserved and the natural resources used sustainably there must be a financial incentive for local communities.
The Conservation Enterprise Programme, a joint initiative between Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) and African Wildlife Forum (AWF), is designed to facilitate, co-ordinate and promote the development of bio-enterprises that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, amongst rural resident and pastoral communities in Laikipia and Samburu. The programme also creates opportunities for women and the less advantaged to play a strong role in the business operations, particularly in harvesting, processing and packaging. Without compromising their other commercial opportunities, the bio-enterprises complement and integrate with traditional livelihoods activities. The collective commercialization of the bio-enterprises gives rise to community ownership and profit sharing.The programme also provides rural communities long-term assistance and advisory input, opportunities to obtain trade, finance, investment loans from ethical investment companies, together with a micro-banking facility.
- Developing a range of 5-7 selected bio-enterprises (see below for products)
- Building capacity of value chains,
- Developing innovative and creative product design
- Establishing long term development commercial relationships
- Bio-products under development:
- Honey, beeswax and apitherapy products
- Nutraceuticals and body-care products
- Essential oil and cold pressed tree seed oils
By creating a direct link between the conservation of natural resources and ethically based commercial enterprise the programme will contribute towards a vibrant indigenous habitat and reverse the trend of environmental degradation in the Laikipia area.
The programme is positioned within a not for profit company, Desert Edge Bio-trading Company, which provides the platform to establish ethical partnerships with commercial entrepreneurs and assist with the tangible and viable development of individual and community owned small and medium rural businesses. Desert Edge adopts a unique approach to the way it does business:
- Ethical Trade: It supports ethical trade by buying raw and semi-processed plant materials from its member-producers and by processing, marketing and selling the semi processed and processed materials and packed products. The profits are used to give a minimum price guarantee to producers and for providing them with a 10% profit share of product sales sent direct to their micro-bank account. A percentage of the profits will be used to expand the operations.
- Equitable Share Basis: A percentage of the shares have been set-aside for small-scale producer members to purchase after a certain period of time, once Desert Edge has achieved sufficient business to generate the necessary cash flow and profit.
- Service Provision: Desert Edge has charitable status, hence the bio-enterprise development programme operates within the company as a service provision unit during the programme term. It is expected that at the end of the programme term Desert Edge will have gained capacity to provide internally funded professional services to its bio-enterprise members.