Location: Rugus, Lake Baringo, Baringo District Komolion, East Pokot District
Postal address: c/o Northern Rangelands Trust, Private Bag, Isiolo
Manager: Rebeca Kochulem
Contact: E: ruko@nrt-kenya.org T: 0717 730 341
Ethnicity: Njemps and Pokot
Population: 4,200
Land Ownership: Community Land
Core Conservation Area: 16,400 hectares
Main Livelihood: Pastoralism and tourism
Key Wildlife Species: Buffalo, impala, hippo and translocated Rothschild giraffe
Year of Registration: 2006
Staff Employed from the Community: 16
Annual Operating Budget: US$ 56,500

Background

Hugging the eastern shore of Lake Baringo is NRT’s most westerly conservancy, and the only one in Baringo district. Lake Baringo itself is a popular tourist destination, teaming with wildlife and great places to stay. But years of ethnic conflict and environmental degradation have resulted in Ruko Community Conservancy being somewhere tourists pass through, rather than stay. Yet with more careful management and unity, Ruko is slowly realizing its potential to rehabilitate the land, bring back the wildlife, sustain traditional values and attract its share of tourists in the area.

The People

Thought to be related to the Samburu and the Masai, the Njemps are pastoralists and fishermen. They navigate the rich waters with canoes made out of a local reed called ambatch, held together with sisal rope. 

The Pokot on the other hand are pastoralists and cultivators. Their wealth is measured by cattle, and like the Masai, milk and blood form a core part of their diet. With such a huge importance placed on cattle within both tribes, competition for resources has led to clashes between the two for decades. 

14 rangers, employed from both the Pokot and the Njemps community, were trained with funding from NRT and generous support from the Kenya Wildlife service, at the Manyani Training School in the famous Tsavo National Park. Passing with flying colours, the team emerged with knowledge in discipline, field craft, wildlife law and wildlife monitoring. They play a huge part not only in wildlife conservation but in easing ethnic tensions in the area. 

Reducing the reliance on natural resources is an important objective for Ruko. Under NRT Trading's Bead Works programme, 280 women in the Conservancy can now sell beaded products to a worldwide market, and also have access to business, leadership, accounting, and marketing training. Not only does this give their families an alternative income, but it also empowers women to become decision makers and business owners. Their training makes them eligible to take part in the micro-credit scheme, which will enable them to set up small enterprises.

Ecosystem

Once home to numerous species of herbivore, Ruko’s wildlife population has suffered a massive decline in the last 70 years due to extensive poaching for meat. One of the most significant species that suffered was the Rothschild’s giraffe, the most endangered sub species of giraffe in the world. With only 670 individuals remaining in isolated parts of Kenya and Uganda, conservation of these gentle giants has become a priority. 

Since joining NRT in 2006, the Ruko communities have worked hard to improve security and the environment, which lead to plans being put in place to reintroduce several Rothschild’s giraffe to their former rangeland.  8 healthy individuals were captured from Soysambu Conservancy in February 2012, and made the journey by truck and boat to an island in Lake Baringo which fell under the Ruko community conservancy. 8 giraffe’s on a specially adapted boat caused great excitement within the communities and the local press, and was great exposure for Ruko. The project was a collaboration between NRT, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Tusk Trust, the Born Free Foundation and Samatian Island Lodge in Lake Baringo. 

Given the success of the relocation, it is hoped that more species, including impala and zebra, from other community conservancies can be translocated to Ruko in order to supplement existing populations.

Visiting

Lake Baringo is a popular destination for resident and international tourists in Kenya and houses luxury and self-catered facilities. Although there are no lodges in the conservancy itself, Ruko collects fees on a per person per day basis from guests staying in accommodation nearby, that come to hike, visit cultural sites and go on game drives. Samatian Island Lodge is an important supporter of Ruko, and if the conservancy continues to improve security operations, infrastructure development and wildlife monitoring, there is no reason it couldn’t host a successful lodge itself.

The Future

With assistance from NRT and partner organizations, Ruko aims to achieve the following in the coming years:

  • To convene, along with all other NRT community conservancies, in annual general meetings to share plans and progress
  • To take part in a livelihood baseline survey, commissioned by NRT, with a view of determining the status and priority of education, health, water, jobs, food security, infrastructure and current availability of government services
  • To continue the strengthening of wildlife security and monitoring within the conservancy
  • To sign a partnership memorandum of understanding, along with all other community conservancies, between themselves and NRT
  • To implement a conservancy constitution, with the aim of building accountability, transparency, equity and effective representation in Ruko
  • To register as not-for-profit 
  • To take part in peace building exercises with surrounding communities
  • To develop a conservancy management plan endorsed by the constituent community