Location: Marsabit Central District, formally Gadamoji division of Marsabit
Postal address: P.O Box 413-60500 Marsabit
Manager: Barako Golicha
Contact: E: Jaldesa@nrt-kenya.org
Ethnicity: Borana
Population: 20,000 people
Land Ownership: Community Land
Core Conservation Area: Jaldesa, Dirib, Sagante and Qilta areas
Main Livelihood: Pastoralism
Key Wildlife Species: Elephant, Grevy’s zebra, buffalo, giraffe, leopard, antelope species
Year of Registration: 2013
Staff Employed from the Community: 13
Annual Operating Budget: TBC

Background

Jaldesa is one of the three new Marsabit community conservancies formed together at the end of 2013. It sits between Songa and Shurr Community Conservancies, and Marsabit National Reserve, in the far north of Kenya, close to the Ethiopian border. Historically, ethnic tensions in this arid and harsh region have been high, as competition over natural resources for livestock – a lifeline for many communities here – remained consistently fierce.

Inspiration to become part of the Northern Rangelands Trust came in early 2013, when 12 representatives from the Marsabit communities visited established NRT community conservancies in Samburu county. They saw first hand how livelihoods were benefitting from wildlife conservation, greener grasslands and healthier cattle. They relayed what they had seen to their constituent communities, and invited discussion in various community forums. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and in May 2013 the first Jaldesa Community Conservancy rangers were recruited from the local communities, and began their training.

Although it is still early days for Jaldesa, manager Barako Golicha reports a marked decrease in insecurity incidents such as camel and cattle theft, and illegal poaching. He also remarks that relations with their neighbours are better than they ever have been, due to increased dialogue and cooperation, and shared goals.  

The People

While the fusion of traditional culture with western practices is evident throughout most of Kenya now, this is one of the last areas where ancient tribal traditions are still upheld. The semi-nomadic Borana people are pastoralists who originated from Ethiopia, but are said to have settled in northern Kenya in the early 16th century. The culture and traditions of the Borana community in Jaldesa Conservancy remain strong, and there are several ancient and sacred sites here. One of such site is Qubi Dibayu, now protected and managed by a local women’s group. Mt. Marsabit borders the western boundary of Jaldesa, and better rainfall here means communities are able to grow maize, beans, wheat,  sorghum, teff, and cow peas. 

Inter-ethnic tensions between the Borana, Gabbra and Rendille communities in this area have often lead to deadly clashes in the past. As such, the three Marsabit conservancies of Songa, Shurr and Jaldesa have agreed to conduct an annual, joint, sports for peace event, to promote peace and dialogue between pastoralists. A similar initiative in Biliqo-Bulesa Community Conservancy produced the highly successful annual Kom Peace Marathon, that has brought rival neighbours together who, by their own admittance, would never have been shaking hands with one another a few years ago. Conflict resolution and peace building will be a major focus for Jaldesa over the coming years.

Ecosystem

Jaldesa Conservancy is characterised by its diverse landscape. With the humid Mt. Marsabit to the west giving way to dry grassland plains in the east, and a natural crater in the north. Jaldesa’s position between Marsabit National Reserve and Songa and Shurr Community Conservancies makes it a critical wildlife corridor for animals migrating to the mountain in the dry season, notably the endangered Grevy’s zebra. 

Farming along the riverine ecosystem, uphill destruction of trees within Marsabit forest and increased numbers of livestock has led to the degradation of rangeland in Jaldesa, affecting both grasslands and canopy cover. However, it is hoped that through awareness initiatives, the communities of Jaldesa are beginning to learn about the practicalities of integrating livestock and wildlife for mutual benefit, and about better natural resource management. 

The conservancy rangers will be key to upholding grazing and natural resource management laws within the conservancy. Already, their patrols and presence has reduced poaching incidents here. A Conservancy Headquarters, expected to be completed in 2016, will allow the rangers to carry out their duties more comfortably and effectively.

Visiting Jaldesa

Being a relatively new NRT conservancy, the communities in Jaldesa are concentrating on improving security operations, infrastructure development and sustainably managing their precious natural resources. As such, there are no tourism operations in the area yet. However, this Conservancy holds great promise, with fascinating ancient tribal sites and breathtaking natural land forms, so there is no reason communities here could not conduct effective tourism operations in the future.

The Future

With assistance from NRT and partner organisations, Jaldesa aims to achieve the following in the coming years:

Conduct regular board, finance, staff and grazing meetings

  • To complete construction of new headquarters at Kubi Boji and set up another ranger outpost at Kubi Qallo
  • Purchase more ranger security equipment 
  • To develop, implement and enforcement of grazing by-laws
  • To purchase field equipment (binoculars, rack sacks and sleeping bags) for rangers to assist in establishing ranger-based monitoring of wildlife (CoMMS)
  • Establish routine anti-poaching ranger patrols 
  • Establish anti-poaching campaigns 
  • To convene, along with all other NRT community conservancies, in annual general meetings to share plans and progress 
  • To conduct leadership training for relevant staff 
  • 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 Jaldesa 
  • 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 (education and health)