Location: Laisamis, Merille and Koiya, Marsabit South District (formerly part of Marsabit District)
Postal address: c/o Northern Rangelands Trust, Private Bag, Isiolo
Manager: Mohammed Lesanjir
Contact: E: Melako@nrt-kenya.org T: 0711 329 999
Ethnicity: Rendille
Population: 23,800
Land Ownership: Community Land
Core Conservation Area: 387,000 hectares
Main Livelihood: Pastoralism
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$ 94,500


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 conservancy has received strong support from Zoos Victoria in Australia.

The People

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. Melako is part of NRT’s ‘GrazingWorks’ programme, a business line of NRT Trading. This 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 GrazingWorks programme 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.

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 neighbours. 

Under NRT Trading's BeadWorks business, 6 women’s groups in Biliqo-Bulesa have now been trained in beadcraft, leadership, accounting, and marketing skills. The BeadWORKS programme helps to diversify family income and reduce reliance on livestock. It also empowers women to become business owners, breadwinners and agents for change in their communities.


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.

Visiting Melako

Sirikoi Lodge has been hugely supportive of Melako, bringing  guests here to experience the wilderness and learn more about NRT’s work. Visitors pay a conservancy fee which provides valuable revenue for the community. Sirikoi is looking to expand their involvement with NRT in the future, a prospect many communities in the northern conservancies look forward to. Melako is keen to encourage future tourism by setting up campsites. If you are interested in camping here call the AdventureWORKS hotline on +254 (0) 701 295 357 or email tourism@nrt-kenya.org. 

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 not-for-profit 
  • 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
  • To develop a conservancy management plan endorsed by the constituent community in Melako