LWF and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are working together to promote the unity and conservation of Laikipia’s landscapes for both people and wildlife.
Born out of the LWF mission to conserve wildlife and ecosystem integrity and to improve the lives of its people, LWF and TNC share a set of values for conservation of the land and water upon which life depends.
The partnership will help LWF with its new strategic and business plans, and with development of a conservation land trust. LWF and TNC agreed last year to equally share the costs in this effort, with USAID underwriting LWF’s investment.
Founded in the United States in the 1950s, The Nature Conservancy is one of the world’s largest conservation non-profits. TNC works collaboratively with local communities, landowners, governments, and others to promote the conservation and sustainable use of lands, waters and oceans. They take a non-partisan, non-confrontational approach to finding solutions that work for everyone. With support from its one million members, TNC has helped to protect some 120 million acres worldwide.
LWF is 24 years old, and supported by some 6000 members. It has helped to conserve over 6200 acres across Laikipia, including many of the private conservancies and community conservancies such as Naibunga, Il Ngwesi, and Lekkuruki.
Kent Wommack, TNC’s Senior Strategist for International Programs, is working with LWF in Nanyuki over the next several months. Kent is one of TNC’s most experienced field leaders, having helped initiate or manage TNC’s programs in Maine, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. We sat down with Kent to talk about this partnership with LWF.
LWF: You have worked in conservation for over 30 years. What lessons have you learned?
Kent: Years ago, many people thought the key to protecting wildlife was simply to establish parks and other protected areas – to provide safe sanctuaries for wildlife apart from human communities. While protected areas can be useful, the real need today is to find ways for people and wildlife to co-exist on the landscape, because generally what is good for one is good for the other.
The key to successful conservation is to recognize that people are very much a part of the landscape, and that people and wildlife in fact need the same things – clean water, healthy productive land that grows food, open space to move around, peace and security.
LWF: Tell us about TNC’s work in Africa.
Kent: We work in a half dozen countries in Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Gabon. Here in northern Kenya, we have been very involved with protection of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and the Loisaba ranch. TNC does not own either of these properties, but instead has helped set them up as conservancies, owned by local Trusts and managed by their own independent boards.
We have also helped support the Northern Rangelands Trust, which has grown considerably over the last few years. The NRT model is based on a belief that pastoralists must be full partners in managing rangelands, and that the benefits from good management should flow to local communities, so everyone is rewarded for their efforts to conserve open space and wildlife habitat.
LWF: Why is TNC investing so strongly in this partnership with LWF?
Kent: Laikipia is one of Kenya’s most intact landscapes, and is home to an extraordinary array of wildlife and endangered species. It is also a growing destination for eco-tourism and environmental education, which generates local jobs and revenue.
Keeping this landscape open and unfragmented will benefit people, livestock and wildlife for years to come, but it requires hard work and collaboration between many interests – county government, pastoralists, landowners and more. LWF is widely respected in its ability to bring these parties together to identify common interests, provide good science, craft new solutions and secure funding to protect Laikipia’s landscape.
LWF: What are the major challenges facing Laikipia?
Kent: Scientific studies show, and pastoralists confirm, that northern Kenya’s grasslands have been seriously degraded over time. Less grass means less food for both native wildlife, livestock and people too. Illegal invasions by pastoralists heightens conflict across the region. Helping local residents and landowners protect and sustainably manage their resources will make Laikipia stronger and more secure.
LWF: What can be done to protect Laikipia’s intact landscape?
Kent: Landowners – whether private ranchers, conservancies or group ranches – are critically important partners. Most are deeply committed to being good neighbours by generating employment, revenue and food, as well as protecting wildlife. We must find ways to encourage and support these activities for the good of the whole region.
Among other ideas, we are exploring the creation of a land trust for Laikipia that could hold “conservation easements” on key parcels, thereby ensuring their long term protection by restricting uses that might damage the land’s productivity for grazing and wildlife.
LWF: Any last thoughts?
Kent: I am looking forward to working with LWF over the next few months. This is a very important organization with great potential for shaping a bright future for Laikipia’s people and wildlife.