When NRT was established in 2004, its headquarters in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy were strategically placed to support the eight community conservancies in Samburu and Isiolo counties. By 2010, the number of member conservancies had more than doubled, and spread across seven counties. In 2014, communities in Turkana and West Pokot approached NRT for support in establishing conservancies. At the same time, the activity of oil companies and imminent government infrastructure projects here promised significant change to one of the poorest regions in Kenya. It was clear a regional support centre would need to be established in Turkana if NRT was to support any new conservancies here effectively.
With the support of Tullow Oil, NRT North Rift was established in 2015. It has its own governing body, but maintains the same governance structure as NRT. It has its own board and council of elders, members of which also attend NRT’s board and council meetings to ensure the link between the two is kept strong. It has a headquarters in Lokichar, and supports the six conservancies of Lokichar, Lochakula, Katilu and Kainuk (Turkana County) and Masol and Pellow in West Pokot.
The challenges in this rapidly changing, semi-arid landscape are numerous and unique. The Lamu Port–South Sudan–Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET), will involve the building of new roads, rail lines and pipelines. The project could lead to an influx of outsiders and disrupt the economies of pastoralist communities. Ecotourism – a major earner for conservancies – could also suffer. Oil discoveries will lead to a proliferation of roads and pipelines, some of which will cross conservancy land and potentially disrupt cattle and wildlife migrations. Meanwhile, the population continues to rise, placing pressure on local resources. Climate change and unpredictable weather are also likely to have an impact on the welfare of local communities and wildlife populations.
NRT North Rift is helping conservancies to understand what these potential threats and benefits mean for them, and how they can develop the resilience they need to cope with change.