“What Future Laikipia?”

There has never been a more vital time to ask this question than now.

We are faced with a rampant demand for natural resources to support our livestock and agriculture sectors. Consumption of these resources in Laikipia is far from sustainable, and we seem to race willy-nilly towards the destruction of our county and its natural resources.

The violent invasion of our County by armed herders is unprecedented. Never before have we had to carry guns in order to negotiate access to grass and water. These resources were always the subject of negotiations, agreements, and contracts. Why has this system broken down?  More than 30 Kenyans have died as a result of this year’s dry season conflicts.

Never before have we seen such unbridled use of water resources. Our friends and neighbours use our water without a concern for those who will suffer downstream. And with more than 90% of our county’s water supply coming from rivers, unregulated upstream users are also forcing our downstream residents to suffer. Many families are now suffering without water, or from water-borne diseases that result from the pollution of the little water that remains.

Elephants, forced out of their safer and more traditional feeding grounds, now raid the granaries and trading centres of our smallholder members in Marmanet, Shamanek, and Rumuruti Forests. More than 50 elephants roam the territory at night with impunity, and only two KWS rangers are assigned to deal with these giant marauders. Residents are terrified to go out to defend their crops. All efforts to dissuade the elephants have failed.

Do we really care so little for our brothers and sisters in this County?

We face a crisis of leadership, and a crisis of unity in this landscape. Our present leaders seem hell-bent on ignoring the very foundation of our livelihoods – the soil, the rangelands, the water, the forests, and the wildlife. Instead, they chase votes and manipulate citizen expectations. They provide very little in the way of solutions or resources.

But, in an unprecedented move, the institutions of the Mpala Research Centre, the Northern Rangelands Trust, and the Laikipia Wildlife Forum have come together to bring the best of science, research, and information to guide development of the next County’s Integrated Development Plan.

New CIDPs are due at the end of this year, and these three institutions are offering to help facilitate and inform decision making for the most significant tool that guides County development and expenditure over the next five years. Our county development decisions must be based on the sustainable use of natural resources.

The same information service will be extended to Baringo, Samburu, and Isiolo Counties in an effort to bring about an integrated approach to the management of ALL our natural resources.

And that can’t be a bad thing.

Drought Declared a National Disaster, What’s Next?

This year’s unwanted combination of drought, illegal livestock movements, armed conflict, political manoeuvrings, and unnecessary violence against property and wildlife has hit us hard.

We needed a focused effort to rebuild community and to strengthen neighbourhoods.

In February, good news arrived. The County NDMA office received news that they will receive Ksh 11.626 million to support fundamental livelihood issues associated with the drought. Programmes in water, health, livestock and education are all receiving a share of the nation’s drought emergency funding. About Ksh 1.6 million is designated for livestock.

Immediate drought management assistance will be provided to pastoralist families with breeding livestock. More than 8 of our leading ranches and conservancies have agreed to participate in a scheme that will host breeding stock through the emergency drought period. They will help breeding stock survive with the help of grazing, water and food supplements for these cows. The effort is implemented through the participating ranches, and assisted by LWF.

The drought relief scheme is simple. Each group ranch grazing committee selects breeding stock from each family for the programme. This selection is approved by the group ranch Chairs, and local authorities. These cows then form the basis of a “breeding herd”.  Selection of cows must be fair and equitable and the ranchers and group ranches agree on the number of livestock that enter the ranch. The cows are protected, fed, and monitored with the help of the rancher, his staff and the grazing committees. Food supplements are delivered with the help of NDMA to each ranch, and the same team monitors the food supplement rations.  The scheme attempts to accommodate each group ranch and their primary breeding stock.

This simple programme is designed to help get us through the worst of the drought, build bridges in neighbourhoods that are stressed, and to ensure the best of our cows survive.

About the effort

In October last year, the NDMA and LWF hosted an all-day workshop in Nanyuki to sketch out the makings of a drought management plan that would have:

  1. Helped with a buy-out of livestock before their condition started to deteriorate.
  2. A steers fattening program between group and private ranches.
  3. A livestock supplemental feeding programme aimed at maintaining breeding stock.
  4. Emergency veterinary services, especially for those livestock forced to seek pasture at mountainous altitudes.
  5. Water conservation and management activities designed to keep our rivers flowing.

Laikipians did their part. They prepared detailed plans with the County Government through the able assistance of the local NDMA Office. Budgets and action plans were submitted to Nairobi and …… “kimia”.  Silence was not the answer we expected or wanted to hear as we prepared for the worst.

In the meantime, ADC, AFC, and KMC were given the lion’s share of a Ksh 3.15 billion budget prepared by the State Department of Livestock. The money was to be used to implement livestock emergency interventions between February and April 2017 in 24 Counties.

More than 51,000 cows and 16,000 sheep and goats were to be bought and turned into tinned meat. ADC was to add another 13,800 cows for off take, and AFC another 8000. We don’t know what’s happened to the fattening, off-take and purchasing schemes that were expected, but for many livestock owners, they have yet to see these buyers. No assistance was received in this regard in Laikipia. Any fattening, buy-up or sale schemes are solely coming from private ranches working with their neighbours.

While we lost time and the advantage of a well-planned drought response effort months in advance, we are now starting to receive much needed support.

This project illustrates what is best about Laikipians. The project was designed by the people, for the people. We know what we’re good at, and it’s living this way, listening to each other, supporting neighbours in their time of need, that we can say – in a few month, and perhaps forever that, “ A friend in need is a friend indeed”.

Now we just need our government to follow-through.

Empowering WRUAs is the way to go!

Over the last 2 weeks, WRUAs, WRMA and MKEWP have entered into formal agreements to restore and sustain rivers flowing within the Upper Ewaso Ng’iro North Basin. This is a culmination of a month long consultation process that included the private and public sectors. Focus was on the implementation of a strategy to mitigate the water crisis that has been affecting the basin since the beginning of this year.

The agreement signed by 14 WRUA chairpersons and WRMA describes a framework for collaboration and provides details of a partnership arrangement between the parties with clear mandates and responsibilities. WRUAs are responsible for:

  • Awareness campaigns at the sub-catchment level,
  • Preparing and implementing river water rationing programmes and,
  • Promoting compliance among its members and work towards conflict resolution.

WRMA on the other hand is providing WRUAs with technical support in developing the rationing programs, enforcement support to increase compliance and water flow monitoring.  4 WRUA clusters (Timau, Nanyuki, Naromoru and Ewaso Ng’iro North) have been established for joint monitoring and evaluation of WRUAs in the same sub catchment, and also WRUA to WRUA mentorship.  

This intervention has resulted in increased water flows for almost all the rivers at the end of February.

However this increase in water flow has been observed mostly on the upper and middle zones of the rivers, which before this effort, were experiencing, almost zero flows. Illegal water abstraction is the biggest problem in the middle zones of the Basin. WRMA has prohibited this and is working with WRUAs to enforce this regulation. However, this is still a challenge especially due to the expansive coverage of river networks within the sub basin.

Increasing climate change pressures, growth in human and livestock population and other factors inherent to water management and conservation are forcing inevitable change in the way we manage our natural resources. Severe water shortages and drought are occurring more frequently, more intensely with the majority of devastating effects taking a toll on local communities and wildlife.

Many of us are asking; what can we do? The answer is a lot! We can begin by learning more about our WRUAs and supporting them so that they can carry out the work that they have been mandated to do.

WRUAs are established under the Water Act as grass root structures to manage sub-catchments with or on behalf of WRMA. Their mandates include:

  1. Surveillance along the river on illegal abstraction, damage on plantations and pollution into the river.
  2. Conflict Management and Resolution on competing water needs among different users    by:
    1. Helping WRMA issue abstraction permits by putting their approval/comments on the suitability of water applications.
    2. Regulating abstraction, particularly in times of drought to ensure that the available water is shared equally.
    3. Ensuring environmental flows are always maintained.

More effort is needed to restore the river flows especially in the Timau and Naromoru sub-catchment. This can only be done if stakeholders continue to work with their WRUAs and if the County Government strengthens its support for the WRUAs and partnership with the Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership (MKEWP). Also continuous river water rationing is needed to ensure the rivers are flowing until the situation normalises.

The Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership supports this effort. With support from the International Finance Corporation, our KSH are being matched by the IFC.  Other supporting partners include the Mount Kenya Growers Group, National Drought Management Authority, and Laikipia County Government.

Obey your WRUA water rationing rules. Consider your water use carefully. And most of all, consider the impacts of your actions on your downstream neighbours. Don’t cut off their water supply!

British Army Leadership Meets with Community and Commerce Reps

In a well-timed move, LWF recently organised a meeting that brought together the British Training Unit Kenya, popularly known as BATUK, and representatives from community group ranches, Laikipia County Chamber of Commerce, Laikipia Tourism Association (LTA), Laikipia Association of Conservation Educators (LACE) and rangeland officers from LWF with the aim of demystifying BATUK’s work in Kenya, in Laikipia and current engagement with local communities.

Also high on the agenda was the search of viable projects that BATUK can support, with the help and guidance of LWF. This is the first time a meeting of this nature has been held with BATUK, and is part of the development a strategic plan for BATUK and its stakeholders in the greater Laikipia area.

BATUK plays an important role in the rural economy of Laikipia. These benefits however are largely unknown and not accurately quantified.

BATUK wishes to retain a long-term working model for British military training in Kenya and to improve upon the method by which they deliver support and assistance to the area as part of their operations. A strategic plan that identifies the how, what and why of BATUK assistance to this landscape would go a long way to both educating stakeholder groups and encouraging joint commitments of human, material and financial resources to common goals.

So what are the most frequently asked questions of BATUK? Here’s what emerged from the meeting.

  1. SecurityCan BATUK provide security training?

BATUK cannot provide firearms training or specific military or tactical training.

However they can provide training in certain areas where there are transferable skills. These could potentially include:

  •         Incident Management
  •         Communications
  •         Map Reading
  •         1st Aid
  1. EmploymentCan BATUK give special consideration / allocate a quota of jobs by location or tribe?

BATUK uses an open, fair and accountable selection process. The selection is made based on relevant knowledge, skills and experience.  BATUK will not give special consideration for full-time jobs based on location or tribe.

Currently jobs are advertised through the Labour Office. This will shortly expand to electronic dissemination via Facebook and the BATUK Website (once established).

  1. CommunicationsWhat is the best way of communicating with BATUK on local engagement?

Communications should be raised to the BATUK Community Engagement officer (Maj. Mike White) on MSSTBATUK@gmail.com.  Alternatively communications can be made via the Laikipia Wildlife Forum.

  1. Education Can BATUK sponsor scholarships for students?

There are many students who would benefit from scholarship opportunities to offer them a chance of receiving education funding and BATUK is investigating a scholarship programme for implementation.

  1. ContractsHow do Laikipian businesses access BATUK contracting opportunities?

BATUK adopts an open and transparent procurement process.  Now that the DCA has been ratified, giving BATUK longer term certainty, BATUK is trying to increase its local sourcing. The key issues for BATUK are ensuring local businesses can provide:

  •         Quality of service
  •         Value for Money
  •         Volume

BATUK is advertising its requirements as widely as possible and is already engaged with the Nanyuki Economic Forum on this issue with plans of meeting the Laikipia Chamber of Commerce to discuss inclusion further.

  1. WaterCan BATUK help water storage initiatives?

BATUK takes water conservation projects very seriously. They recently successfully installed a water harvesting system for Kinamba dispensary. During the meeting, the Mount Kenya/Ewaso Water Partnership identified areas where BATUK could assist the water storage in Laikipia – through Dams, Water Pans and the WASH Sanitation programme. A follow up meeting between MKEWP and BATUK has been scheduled and we will be keeping you informed of what emerges.

  1. Veterinarian ServicesCan BATUK assist with veterinarian services?

BATUK acknowledges the importance of livestock in Kenya. BATUK does not have any integral vets on staff. However they are trying to incorporate the provision of veterinarian services as part of the Ex SERPENT health outreach programme.

      8. EnvironmentWhat does BATUK do to protect the environment from its training activities? Here are some of the ways

  • BATUK does not cut any new tracks during their activities.
  • BATUK only conducts track remediation with the written approval of the County Government
  • All BATUK’s vehicles are emissions tested and use drip trays to prevent pollution contamination of the environment.
  • BATUK repairs any damage done during training.
  • BATUK has a recycling programme to reduce waste.
  • BATUK has instigated a water conservation programme across it base and accommodation locations and that includes a hosepipe ban and a car wash ban.
  1. Community Engagement ProjectsCan BATUK help with schools/water/roads?

BATUK can use its spare military capability to conduct Community Engagement activities – and is keen to do so.

Funding has to be requested for each task.

Requests for assistance should be sent to the BATUK Community Engagement (CE) officer (Maj. Mike White) MSSTBATUK@gmail.com.  Alternatively communications can be made via Laikipia Wildlife Forum.

BATUK does not have the capacity to undertake every CE request received.  Projects will be considered and prioritised to determine which tasks BATUK can undertake and when.

  1. TrainingDoes BATUK train on group ranches?

BATUK is scheduled to train on the Ole Naishu and Lolldaiga areas in the near future. There are lots of cattle in these areas that may interfere with the Training Exercise. BATUK requested assistance from the Group Ranch Chairman surrounding Ole Naishu and Lolldaiga and LWF will facilitate meetings with the Chumvi and Makurian communities.

Communities and various stakeholders will have the opportunity to meet with BATUK every 3 months going forward. LWF has been asked to serve as intermediary and  will keep you updated.

“When I see a rhino, I see human life”


Rianto Lokoran is a National Police reservist (NPR) and ranger at Borana Conservancy in Laikipia County. Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) had the privilege of interviewing him at the local primary school in his home town of Ethi. Rianto has been a ranger at the conservancy for the last 9 years. He has moved up the ranks and now has a supervisory role as head NPR. He is part of the anti-poaching unit; the armed unit that protects rhinos on Borana and is in charge of deployment of rangers into the field each day. 95% of the employees at Borana conservancy are from the local communities surrounding the conservancy. For Rianto, he not only supports his family but also supports the community. We caught up with him to find out just what makes being a ranger so special.

Why did you decide to become a ranger?
“My passion for wildlife. I grew up herding cattle in Ngare Ndare forest. It was my time in the forest where I learned and fell in love with all the plants and wildlife. To be a good ranger, you must have and show a true passion for wildlife. I have that passion. I also want to protect wildlife for current and future generations and the only way I know how to do this is by being a ranger.”

What is the recruitment process and how do you recommend others to become a ranger?

“Borana conservancy will put out an advertisement for rangers from the local community. It is up to your community’s council of elders to select 2 individuals from each community. These individuals are interviewed and selected based on their answers and the following characteristics: hardworking, trustworthy, come from the local communities and passion and love of wildlife. A higher education and computer skills are a plus, but not mandatory. I recommend others to work hard for such a career.”

What is the most challenging task as a ranger?

“When you have intel (intelligence) on poaching and know that there is a possible attack on Borana, but you don’t know where they will attack or who they are. There have been issues where poachers may even threaten you personally or threaten your family. This is exceptionally challenging.”

What is most rewarding about being a ranger?

“When people, especially the community, recognises your hard work and effort. When I bring home 10kg of flour, I have to share it with my bigger family, the community. I can’t save all that flour for my own family. My family taught me the importance of sharing with everyone around you. I, through my job, not only support my family of 5, but my neighbours and my community.”

What is your opinion on rhinos and rhino conservation?

“When I see a rhino, I see human life. For me, the existence of rhinos allows me to put something on the table for my family. These rhinos employ me. Because of these rhinos, I have a job, and because of that job, I am able to purchase the basic needs for my family and community. Also, I care about these animals. They are iconic species and I can see them surviving for future generations because of conservation work.


What else would like the community to know about you or your job?

“I am part of the community. Even if I am a ranger/NPR, don’t take me as a different person. I am still part of all of you.”

Some more personal facts about Rianto
Favourite animal: Lion
Favourite food: Ugali and meat
Hobbies: tending to his cows, sheep, donkeys, goats and farm. Spending time with his family.
Family: Married with three daughters, aged 11, 6 and 8 months.