From South Africa to Turkey – NRT Staff Venture Further Afield to Learn, Share and Grow.

In October 2015, the Ruko Conservancy manager represented NRT at the UN Convention in Turkey, while managers from Sera, Nasuulu and the acting CEO of NRT-Coast visited South Africa as part of EarthWatch Skill Network.

Adorned in traditional beads of red, white, black and green, Rebecca Kochulem stood up to address the audience at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s 12th session of the Conference of Parties. She was a long way from Ruko Community Conservancy, on the shores of Lake Baringo in Kenya’s Rift Valley. She was in fact, in Akara, Turkey – the first time she has ever stepped foot outside Kenya. But Rebecca is no stranger to being out of her comfort zone. As manager of the Ruko Community Conservancy, she is among just a handful of women in decision-making roles in the NRT conservancy family

NRT was among 11 other organisations in Africa invited and sponsored to go to Turkey by the UNDP Equator Initiative. NRT won the Equator Prize for Sustainable Land Management in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2014. Rebecca was nominated to attend the Conference of Parties on behalf of NRT, where the Equator Initiative hosted multiple events focused on local and indigenous solutions to combat desertification. The Conference took place from the 12th to 23rd October 2015.

“The conference provided an opportunity for everyone there, decision makers from 195 member states, to identify and implement solutions for sustainable land management, avoid environmental crisis and improve the livelihoods of most vulnerable communities.” Says Rebecca.

Land use was high on the agenda. “Land is now playing a far greater role in climate change and is recognized as the missing piece in climate negotiations’’ said Ms. Monuque Barbut, CEO of the UNCCD. The potential of well-managed agriculture, land and soils to reduce greenhouse emissions and store carbon was discussed, with inconsistencies in land policy, access to land and gender disparities being some of the major challenges identified by guests, that affect sustainable land use in their home countries.

Rebecca and other Sub-Saharan Africa sustainable land management winners were able to share their practical experiences, and lessons learnt at their various sites. “Making connections, learning from peers, and building enduring and mutually beneficial relationships can be a powerful way to combat land degradation and desertification” says Rebecca. “Knowledge exchanges can serve as a tool to build capacities, and can help address the triple environmental threat of desertification, biodiversity loss and climate change.”

While Rebecca was in Turkey, the managers of Sera and Nasuulu Community Conservancies were in South Africa for business planning training, with Issa Gedi, acting CEO for NRT-Coast. They had been invited and sponsored by EarthWatch Skill Network, an institution based in UK that provides residential training to conservation managers in Africa.

The training brought together leaders from the business world with managers from IUCN protected areas and UNESCO world heritage sites, with the aim of having the business leaders mentor the managers. The mentorship program will continue for 12 month period.

“I felt the training was helpful and will be so vital to the conservancies that are currently working on their management plans, where components of the business skills will provide extra synergy.” Said Issa.

“I felt a lot of the other Africa-based organisations were amazed with the good work our teams are doing, but we learned a few areas in which we can improve. Standardising operations policies for example. It was a great learning experience and we are committed to apply what is of high value to our conservation progress.”