|Location||Biliqo and Bulesa, Merti Division, Isiolo District|
|Postal address||c/o Northern Rangelands Trust, Private Bag, Isiolo|
|Land ownership||Community Land|
|Total area||364,000 hectares|
|Key wildlife species||Giraffe, leopard, waterbuck, lesser kudu, greater kudu, hippo, ostrich, buffalo and lion|
|Year of registration||2007|
|Staff employed from the community||24|
|Annual operating budget||US$ 79,000|
Biliqo-Bulesa is one of the largest conservancies within NRT, so it is no surprise that nomadic pastoralists from several ethnic backgrounds converge across this vast rangeland in search for the best grazing. Historically however, this had been a devastating point of tension for the Borana, Rendille and Samburu tribes people. Access to illegal firearms fuelled large scale cattle rustling and made poaching all too easy. Much of the wildlife was wiped out, and those species that fled were reluctant to return. It got so bad that elephants needing to pass through the rangeland were said to do so only at night, and on the run.
The neighbouring community conservancies of Sera and Melako were also heavily affected by the insecurity and poaching in the area, and strongly urged the communities within Biliqo-Bulesa to come to a unified solution. They served as examples of the benefits that could come with joining the NRT umbrella, which most importantly included an emphasis on peace. Biliqo-Bulesa registered as a community conservancy in 2007, and continues to work closely with Sera and Melako.
NRT’s main focus in Biliqo-Bulesa has been to bring together the different neighbouring tribes for peace meetings and discussions on how best to manage their rangeland together. In September 2009, two years after the conservancy initially joined NRT, one of these inter-tribal peace meetings ended catastrophically, when 15 people were killed in the Kom area. It was a devastating step backwards, but persistent efforts to broker a settlement between the warring tribes has meant that in recent years there have been far fewer incidents like this, and none on the same scale. A range of measures – better security, meetings between the elders of different tribes and conservancies, new grazing agreements, the presence of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) at Kom, the Kom peace marathon – have not only helped to ease tensions, but also to reduce poaching, cattle rustling and banditry.
As with many communities living in arid lands, access to water is a key issue. By being part of NRT, conservancies can apply for funding for community projects, which is exactly what the residents of Dima-ado in Biliqo-Bulesa did in order to install a water pumping system. This now means that the women don’t have to make the 20km trip to get water, and the outbreaks of diseases like typhoid and cholera have reduced. Being so remote, and out of mobile phone signal range, disease outbreak in areas like Dima-ado are serious, and to help quickly inform authorities on health situations, NRT and the Conservancy have provided VHF radios to certain members of the community, as well as Conservancy rangers.
Biliqo-Bulesa is also part of NRT’s ‘Linking Livestock Markets to Wildlife Conservation’ Programme. The concept is simple – conservancies are judged using a set of criteria, which look at how well the conservancy is being managed to benefit both wildlife and communities. NRT will buy cattle from the best performing conservancies, which it then sells on to slaughter. So far (from 2006 up to 2012) more than 5,000 cattle have been bought from the 11 participating conservancies, So far (from 2006 up to 2012) more than 5,000 cattle have been bought from the 11 participating conservancies, making over 125 million Kenyan Shillings (approximately 1.4 million USD) for 2,000 pastoralists. Communities from Biliqo-Bulesa have sold over 700 cattle to NRT in this way, making them the second biggest contributor to cattle sales overall.
Under the NRT Trading programme, 16 women’s groups in Biliqo-Bulesa have now been trained in business, leadership, accounting, and marketing skills. This makes them eligible to take part in the micro-credit scheme, which will enable them to set up small businesses.
Biliqo-Bulesa forms an important corridor for wildlife from Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves, and from Sera Conservancy. With such a prominent history of poaching, Biliqo-Bulesa is now part of the range covered by the anti-poaching unit ‘9-1’, which was established with the help of NRT in 2009. Working with Melako, Namunyak and Sera too, the 9-1 consists of 12 rangers drawn from all four conservancies, and all ethnic groups within them. This diversity has proved one of the teams’ greatest strengths, as they are not only able to gain trust and intelligence from all communities, but they are more effectively able to raise awareness within those communities too. The rangers were trained by a former British army officer and have also received advanced medical training. They work closely with the 22 conservancy rangers in Biliqo-Bulesa.
The conservancy aims to implement NRT’s grazing management program in 2013, which involves land use planning and integrating new ways of grazing. Bunched herding of cattle and designated grazing blocks are proving to help rehabilitate the rangeland, benefiting both the livestock and the wildlife that graze the same plains, and ensuring the sustainability of the natural resources.
The only legal hunting allowed in Kenya is game bird shooting, and Biliqo-Bulesa is registered as a game bird shooting block which covers 364,000 hectares of truly wild African bush. Game bird shooting is carefully managed to ensure it is sustainable, with the conservancy carrying out monitoring of bird species and establishment of quotas which are strictly enforced by the community. The most important game-bird shooting site is Kuroo hot springs which attract tens of thousands of sandgrouse during the dry season. Hunting fees currently provide the only income for the conservancy, however the community is keen to encourage future tourism by setting up campsites. If you are interested in game bird shooting or camping, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Future for Biliqo-Bulesa
With assistance from NRT and partner organizations, Biliqo Bulesa aims to achieve the following in the coming years:
- To convene, along with all other NRT community conservancies, in annual general meetings to share plans and progress
- To take part in a livelihood baseline survey, commissioned by NRT, with a view of determining the status and priority of education, health, water, jobs, food security, infrastructure and current availability of government services
- To continue the strengthening of wildlife security and monitoring within the conservancy
- To sign a partnership memorandum of understanding, along with all other community conservancies, between themselves and NRT.
- To register as a not-for-profit company
- To develop a conservancy management plan endorsed by the constituent community
- Implement a conservancy constitution, with the aim of building accountability, transparency, equity and effective representation in Biliqo-Bulesa
- To take part in peace building exercises with surrounding communities
- Tourism development and development of other revenue generating enterprises to build the self-sufficiency of the conservancy and generate funding to support community development priorities (such as education and health)