Il Ngwesi was one of the first community conservancies in Kenya. Established in 1996, on the border of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, it was a response from the local communities to the challenges posed by wildlife poaching and land degradation. This trailblazing conservancy worked closely with Lewa, who provided technical support and advice. The two maintain a close working partnership today, both independently and through NRT. The success of Il Ngwesi – in managing tourism and grasslands, and using conservation-generated revenue to support the community – inspired a succession of other community conservancies in Laikipia and Samburu. In 2004, the Northern Rangelands Trust was set up to support this growing number of conservancies.
The award-winning Il Ngwesi eco-lodge is entirely owned and operated by the community. With well-governed rangeland management, the conservancy has abundant wildlife; which attracts tourists from all over the world. In 2002, Il Ngwesi became the first community conservancy in Kenya to adopt a black rhino. Omni, as he was called, was rescued by Lewa from his blind mother, and hand reared. When he was mature, he was released into Il Ngwesi with the full backing of the community. Tragically, Omni became the victim of poaching in 2013. The devastation was felt throughout the community who had come to love him, and saw him as a symbol of extreme pride. Such was their anger, that with the support of the Kenya Wildlife Service, NRT, and Lewa and Borana Conservancies, they launched an investigation. The elders publicly announced that the offenders had 10 days in which to give themselves in, or face consequences that included curses. Sure enough, all but one of the culprits gave themselves in, and faced charges.
In late September 2016, Il Ngwesi celebrated its 20th birthday. In attendance was Kenya Wildlife Service Laikipia County Community Warden Esther Njeri, as well as the sub-county administrator, the Member of County Assembly for Mukogodo East, and the Deputy County Commissioner. This high level of government representation shows just what a pioneering symbol this community conservancy is in Laikipia County. Il Ngwesi board members (current and previous) were also present, at a colourful ceremony that included speeches, dancing and traditional roast meat. The pride that this community felt in the early days of the conservancy’s establishment is still just as strong today. The lodge is undergoing some refurbishments, and continues to attract clients from all corners of the globe, many of them repeat visitors.