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 ‘Livestock to Markets’ programme. The LTM programme is an innovative approach to the marketing challenges faced by pastoralists in the region. Herders often trek cattle for days to market, only for transporters to pay poor prices for low-grade livestock. The LTM program provides an alternative market, paying fair prices, purchasing directly from the conservancies, and buying selectively to reward good conservancy performance. This market aims to incentivise conservancies to practice effective, transparent governance and sustainable natural resource management by linking local livestock owners in high performing conservancies to ready markets. So far (from 2011 up to 2014) direct purchase of livestock put 168.5 million Kenyan Shillings (approximately 1.75 million USD) in the hands of over 2,000 pastoralists.
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.
With a breathtaking landscape, Kuroo hot springs, and increasing numbers of wildlife, tourism prospects here are high. The community is keen to encourage future tourism by setting up campsites, if you are interested in camping here contact email@example.com.
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
- Implement a conservancy constitution, with the aim of building accountability, transparency, equity and effective representation in Biliqo-Bulesa
- To register as not-for-profit
- 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)
- To develop a conservancy management plan endorsed by the constituent community