Meibae means “liked“ in Samburu, yet until recently the area hasn’t had many positive aspects to offer wildlife, tourists, or indeed its own communities. Its history is plagued with high levels of poaching, cattle rustling, habitat degradation due to poor management, and high profile levels of road banditry on the Wamba/ Maralaal highway. The insecurity affected the neighboring community conservancies of West Gate and Namunyak too, who encouraged the communities in Meibae to start looking for solutions. As a critical wildlife corridor and prime habitat for the endangered Grevy’s zebra, increasing the security in Meibae was also of high importance to the Kenya Wildlife Service, who strongly backed their bid to join NRT. Meibae was registered in 2006 and continues to work closely with Namunyak, West Gate and the KWS.
Almost half of all NRT conservancies are home to Samburu, a pastoralist community closely related to the Maasai. The Samburu have a wealth of knowledge built up through decades of farming the harsh terrains of northern Kenya, but as changing times bring increased pressure on natural resources, grazing cattle has become a volatile livelihood. By joining NRT, pastoralists can combine their traditional knowledge with modern science to more sustainably manage their rangeland, and other members of the community have means of diversifying their income through alternative livelihoods, so as not to rely so heavily on livestock.
To give pastoralists both security and incentive, the ‘Linking Livestock Markets to Wildlife Conservation’ Programme is being rolled out in several conservancies, including Meibae. 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.
Meibae borders the Ewaso Nyiro River, Kenya’s third largest water course, which provides a vital water source for communities and wildlife alike. A constant water supply and rich grazing has made the rangeland a favorite with many wildlife species, including elephant, gazelle, impala, gerenuk, greater kudu, eland, ostrich, lion, cheetah, leopard, African wild dog, and a number of birds. Meibae also provides an extension of safe grazing land for the endangered Grevy’s zebra, with 22 community rangers on daily patrols. The rangers not only provide security for wildlife, but are also key in monitoring and collecting data on species trends and movements. Meibae conservation activities are continually engaging surrounding communities on the value of wildlife and conservation, as well as addressing human-wildlife conflict issues.
The conservancy will also implement NRT’s grazing management program, 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.
Given its young history, the primary focus in Meibae has been establishing and training community rangers and setting up governance structures. With the conservancy’s abundant wildlife and incredible landscape, there is great potential for tourism activities here, and it won’t be long before this becomes the next priority for the community.
The Future for Meibae
With assistance from NRT and partner organizations, Meibae 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 take part in peace building exercises with surrounding communities
- To explore tourism development opportunities