The Northern Rangelands Trust has partnered with Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to set up the ‘Linking Livestock Markets to Wildlife Conservation’ project.

The vast majority of the people that live in the Northern rangelands earn a living from livestock, and have done for centuries. As increased populations, rapid climate change and varying economies challenge their livelihoods, the aim of this programme is to encourage resilient communities with healthy rangelands that can support both their cattle and their wildlife.

Challenges facing pastoralists in the Northern rangelands today include access to markets and natural resources. Many can herd their cattle for days to market, only to find they fetch a poor price that week. Conflict with neighboring tribes and local wildlife over good grazing and water is all too common.

The Linking Livestock to Wildlife Conservation programme established a set of criteria with which to judge NRT conservancies; the priorities being rangeland management and security. The highest performing conservancies then have the opportunity to sell their cattle to NRT at a better-than-market price. NRT holds the cattle on Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in a quarantine period, before they get fattened up for slaughter on Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

The incentives set by the criteria have a ripple effect. Better management of the rangelands – which includes strict grazing plans established by conservancy boards – means that both wildlife and livestock will benefit. More wildlife encourages tourism, which in turn diversifies the livelihoods of other members of the community. Increasing security efforts ensure both communities and wildlife live in a safer environment, which will again encourage tourism.

To date the programme has purchased over 5,000 cattle from members of eleven conservancies. The total financial returns to the roughly 2,000 individuals who have sold cattle have been KES 125m/ US$1,467,000, while the conservancies themselves have benefited from a 2.5% purchase levy totalling KES 3.1m/US$ 37,000, as well as a 5% sale levy totaling KES 3.8m/US$45,000.

During 2012 NRT sourced over 1,300 cattle from these communities for a total purchase price of KES 42.5m/$500,000. During the same period the programme sold 1,170 cattle, generating KES 51.5m /US$ 606,000.