Warriors on Tour - Grassroots lessons on... grass!

Ltungai Community Conservancy sits on the edge of the Great Rift Valley. The impressive natural landscapes of this area - including grasslands, bush thickets, semi-permanent rivers, hills and rock formations – have the potential to host abundant wildlife, and provide a stunning backdrop for ecotourism activities. Ltungai is also a strategic wildlife corridor for wildlife moving between the Karisia Forest and Mugie Ranch.

Ltungai views

Ltungai views

The Ltungai communities are primarily pastoralists. Since establishment in 2004, the conservancy’s main focus areas have been peace, and rangeland management – both of which have been highly challenging. Ltungai has an elected grazing committee, made up of 12 members drawn from the three communities within the conservancy area. The chairperson of the grazing committee also sits on the Ltungai Board.

The grazing committee develops and implements grazing management plans with the support of NRT. But these plans fail if there is insecurity, and disengaged youth. In 2016, Ltungai introduced a moran (young warrior) engagement programme with the support of NRT, USAID, TNC and the Samburu County Government. They wanted to equip young men with relevant skills and knowledge on rangeland management issues, and in October 2016 sought support for an exposure tour to Kalama and Westgate community conservancies, who have well established rangeland management programmes.

In Kalama, the grazing chairman Mr. Benson Lelukai talked through the evolution of their grazing management. It got off to a challenging start, he said, as the Kalama pastoralists were convinced this was not going to benefit their livestock. Indeed, most thought this was a ploy to steal their land. With support from NRT, they established an overall grazing management committee, with an additional 4 sub-committees to settle village-level disputes. They arranged exposure tours similar to the one his audience were experiencing, and invested in economically empowering young morans, and preaching peace. Creating a stable environment for people, livestock and wildlife, Benson said, is the making of a successful conservancy. These conditions have nurtured a diverse economy for Kalama, which now generates income from tourism (Saruni lodge and camping), airstrip landing fees, and the NRT GrazingWORKS business among others.

Visiting a site recently cleared of acacia

Visiting a site recently cleared of acacia

The Ltungai team visited Kalama’s bunched grazing sites, as well as areas where the community has cleared the invasive Acacia reficiens. Comparing sites where the acacia had been cleared, to where it was still abundant, it was obvious to the moran what a positive affect this had on grass growth.

Young warriors in Sasaab Lodge 

Young warriors in Sasaab Lodge 

If the morans needed convincing as to the potential benefit of high-end tourism, it came in the form of Sasaab Lodge in Westgate Conservancy. Sasaab invited the morans for a tour of the property – most of them had never seen anything like it. There is no reason, stressed the Chief Warden of Westgate, that they couldn’t attract similar investment in Ltungai, if they focused on sustainable rangeland management and building peace with their neighbours.  

Ltungai Conservancy manager Moses Kinapu says the exposure tour has achieved everything it set out to - inspiring the young men to engage in their conservancy, for a brighter future.