One of the greatest challenges in conservation is balancing the needs of people with those of the wildlife that share the same natural resources. In north Kenya, grass is a precious commodity – a lifeline to a pastoralist population and wide variety of wildlife species. As a changing climate makes rains more unpredictable, managing north Kenya’s grasslands sustainably has never been more critical. That is why NRT West partnered with Loisaba and Ol Pejeta conservancies to engage 70 warriors (morans) in a one-day workshop, aimed at raising awareness of the importance of conservation and grazing management. The workshop held on Ol Pejeta, included morans from the neighbouring community conservancies of Kirimon, Naibunga and Oldonyiro.
Ol Pejeta has operated a successful livestock programme for many years, and is a key partner in the NRT-Trading LivestockWORKS business - offering final fattening and slaughter for cattle bought at community conservancy markets. Ol Pejeta's model integrates cattle and wildlife for the benefit of the grassland, and this was the highlight of the itinerary for the morans.
Meeting with Mr. Joseph Mathenge, Assistant Livestock Manager of Ol Pejeta, they were shown first hand how well planned grazing is key to healthier cows. Walking through the herds, many remarked on how much fatter and healthier these animals were in comparison to their local cattle. Some of the morans even identified some of their own cows, sold to NRT Trading months ago as part of the LivestockWORKS business.
Joseph explained that a balanced interaction between wildlife and local communities not only benefits cattle, but it is also important for strengthening the conservation capacity of conservancies and influencing local attitudes towards conservation.
The morans also met Ol Pejeta’s Livestock Manager; Richard van Aart. He encouraged the morans to involve themselves either directly or indirectly in ecotourism businesses, and said this didn't have to cost them their cattle. He asked that they share their experiences from the trip with their peers back home, and be the agents of change for local conservation culture.
The morans enjoyed a game driver later in the day, where they visited the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary — home to chimpanzees rescued from the illegal pet trade. Chimpanzees are not native to Kenya, so it was the first time any of the morans had encountered the great ape. They also had the chance to meet Baraka, a tame blind black rhino, and see Ol Pejeta’s award-winning herd of Ankole cattle, a long-horned breed indigenous to Uganda. At sun down, they shared ‘nyama chemsha’ - boiled meat - and returned to their conservancies saying they felt inspired and empowered.