Location: Ngilai West and Central, Sarara & Sabache Group Ranches and Ndonyo Wasin and Ngare Narok community lands, Samburu East District
Postal address: PO Box 88, Wamba
Manager: Tom Letiwa
Contact: E: namunyak@nrt-kenya.org
Ethnicity: Samburu
Population: 13,200
Land Ownership: Group ranch status but without title for Ngilai West, Sarara and Sabache, and Ndonyo Wasin and Ngare Narok areas as trust land
Core Conservation Area: 394,000 hectares
Main Livelihood: Pastoralism and tourism
Key Wildlife Species: Elephant, leopard, reticulated giraffe, buffalo, African wild dog, greater kudu, the rare De Brazza colobus monkey
Year of Registration: 1995
Staff Employed from the Community: 76
Annual Operating Budget: US$ 230,000

Background 

Namunyak means “blessed“ in Samburu, and an aerial view of this rangeland makes it easy to see why the name came to mind. It surrounds the Mathews mountain range, a rich expanse of lush indigenous forest which hosts abundant populations of wildlife and rare plant species. Namunyak began as two group ranches, and over 15 years, driven by the need to protect the Mathews range, has expanded to include the four neighbouring group ranches surrounding the Mathews forest. Sarara, Sapache, Ngilai West, Ngilai Central, Ngare Narok and Ndonyo Wuasin group ranches now make up the 394,000 hectare Namunyak Conservancy. It was one of the first community conservancies in northern Kenya to be established, along with Il Ngwesi. 

Due to its size, Namunyak is divided up into three management units; Naluwuon, Ngilai, and Kalepo (see the map). Each unit has its own HQ, management staff, board, rangers and grazing committees, and run independently under the Namunyak Conservancy umbrella. There is an umbrella manager and an umbrella board with representation from the unit boards. In 2015, support from the French Development Agency (AFD) and USAID enabled Namunyak to open the Ngilai HQ, and launch a Community Forest Association. Read more.

The People

Almost half of all NRT conservancies are home to Samburu, a semi-nomadic, pastoralist community closely related to the Maasai. They 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. 

As part of NRT’s focus on integrating ethnicities, Namunyak will be one of the 4 community conservancies to hold a sport for peace event, where members from any position of the community can compete and connect with members of the neighboring Borana and Rendille communities.

Ecosystem

Namunyak surrounds the Mathews Mountain range and includes the Kitich forest; a treasure trove of rare and often uncatalogued species. It is home to the De Brazza colobus monkey and the IUCN red-listed Powsyll, an endemic sub species of the Cycadencephalartos tegulaneus. Namunyak serves as a critical wildlife refuge for many species and holds abundant populations of giraffe, gerenuk, leopard, African wild dog, impala lion, greater kudu and many bird species. The conservancy is particularly important for elephant as they move seasonally between the Mathews Range and the Mt. Kenya and Ngare Ndare Forest, a route they have been using for decades. 

Download the Assessment of the Primates, Large Mammals and Birds of the Mathews Range Forest Reserve. Also available to download - the 2010 Mathews Forest bird list.

Given the scale of the Conservancy, and the high concentration of elephants, Namunyak is of particular focus for the ‘9.1’ anti-poaching unit. Established with the help of NRT in 2009, the team consists of 12 rangers drawn from all four conservancies in which it operates (including Melako, Sera and Biliqo-Bulesa.) All rangers were trained by a former British army officer and have also received advanced medical training, and are a vital weapon in the war on poaching. They work closely with the 61 local rangers from the Namunyak communities. Between 2012 and 2014, 9-1 and conservancy rangers contributed to a 43% reduction in elephant poaching in NRT conservancies. This, at a time when other African countries face rising poaching levels, is a significant achievement, and one which the rangers are rightfully proud of. 

Visiting Namunyak

Namunyak hosts two very successful luxury tented camps:

Sarara – Opened in 2005, the ten-bed Sarara is managed through an external operator, Sarara Management Limited. It has been a vitally important part of Namunyak’s conservation and community development efforts. In 2009, revenue to the conservancy from Sarara Camp totaled more than $90,600, and in 2012 this figure rose to $161,700. As with all lodges in community conservancies, 60% of this revenue are used to fund community projects (such as school bursaries or water projects) while 40% goes towards the annual operations a cost of the conservancy. 
Kitich Camp – Kitich Camp has existed in one form or another since the 1960s, established as a rhino monitoring camp, and to support the local forest community. It was taken over by tourist operators Cheli & Peacock in 2009, and joined the Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust. 

The tourism operation employs 80% of its staff from local communities and the conservancy receives income from the operation through conservation fees charged to guests on a per person per night basis. Namunyak has the highest grossing tourism revenue of any NRT member conservancy. Tourism income totalled US$ 184,850 in 2013, and US$ 176,200 in 2014. 

Recently, Kirisia Safaris, specialists in camel trekking safaris, entered the conservancy for the first time and prospects are good for continued business with them in the future.

The Future for Namunyak

With assistance from NRT and partner organizations, Namunyak 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 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 Namunyak. 
  • To take part in peace building exercises with surrounding communities 
  • Train community members in effective management of existing water infrastructure 
  • To establish forest management plans, and training of forest management committees