|Location||Laisamis, Merille and Koiya, Marsabit South District (formerly part of Marsabit District)|
|Postal address||c/o Northern Rangelands Trust, Private Bag, Isiolo|
|Land ownership||Community Land|
|Total area||387,000 hectares|
|Main livelihood||Pastoralism and revenue from game bird shooting|
|Key wildlife species||Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, sand grouse, Beisa oryx|
|Year of registration||2004|
|Staff employed from the community||24|
|Annual operating budget||US$ 116,000|
The northernmost conservancy in the NRT family, Melako is a vast expanse of arid bushland that stretches towards the Ethiopian and Somali border. Rainfall is rare, as are permanent settlements and solid infrastructure, yet the Rendille community have been grazing this rangeland for decades. Registering with NRT in 2004, the conservancy’s main focus has been on sustainably managing their rangeland to ensure both their livestock and wildlife can continue to benefit, as well as improving security and relations with neighboring tribes.
The Rendille are semi nomadic pastoralists, whose livestock consists of both cattle and camels. Because of their location, they have arguably remained one of the communities most uninfluenced by Westernization, and still uphold many of their ancient beliefs and traditions.
The registration of Melako as a NRT conservancy has given pastoralists access to modern methods of sustainable grazing that they can combine with their traditional practices to tackle drought and help rehabilitate their rangeland. It also means they can participate in the 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) a total of 4, 531 cattle have been bought from the 11 participating conservancies, making over 103 million Kenyan Shillings (approximately 1.2 million USD) across 1, 852 households. Communities from Melako have sold over 400 cattle in this way.
One of the most important criteria for the programme is security, and community rangers are on daily patrol in Melako. As with many tribes in Kenya, conflict over natural resources is a large part of Rendille history. Integrating with other communities is therefore vital in maintaining security, and Melako will be one of the four community conservancies to hold an annual sport for peace event, where members from any position of the community can compete and connect with their neighbors.
Reducing the reliance on livestock is another objective of NRT. Six women’s groups in Melako are involved in the production and sale of handicrafts through NRT Trading, and have had training in product development, basic accounting, pricing structures and leadership skills, to enable them to take their businesses as far as they dream. Through the support of ICEP, a micro-credit programme, these women have access to micro-loans to develop their ventures, and set up viable alternative sources of income for their families.
Melako hosts an estimated population of 200 rare Grevy’s zebra, representing approximately 9% of the global population. The Beisa oryx can also be found here, and is the subject of a species recovery project in the area. With such precious inhabitants, the anti-poaching unit ‘9.1’ is a regular and welcome presence. Established with the help of NRT in 2009, 9.1 also works with the neighboring community conservancies of Biliqo-Bulesa, Namunyak and Sera. It 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.
The only legal hunting allowed in Kenya is game bird shooting, and Melako is registered as a game bird shooting block. 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. A hunting operation in conjunction with a private tourism operator and the Kenya Wildlife Service provides valuable revenue for the conservancy, through a shooting fee and conservation fee. The conservancy is keen to encourage future tourism by setting up campsites. If you are interested in game bird shooting or camping, contact email@example.com.
Plans are underway to develop campsites for hunters and increase revenue.
The Future for Melako
With assistance from NRT and partner organizations, Melako 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 Non for Profit company
- Implement a conservancy constitution, with the aim of building accountability, transparency, equity and effective representation in Sera
- To take part in peace building exercises with surrounding communities
- Explore additional tourism development opportunities
- For members of the community to be trained in effectively managing their existing water infrastructure