Location: Trust land of the communities of Serolevi and Losesia under Wamba Division, Samburu East District
Postal address: c/o Northern Rangelands Trust, Private Bag, Isiolo
Manager: Reuben Lendira
Contact: E: sera@nrt-kenya.org T: 0720 201 433
Ethnicity: Samburu, Rendille, Borana
Population: 16,000
Land Ownership: Community land, but with Losesia community under the process of registration for group ranch status
Core Conservation Area: 345,000 hectares
Main Livelihood: Pastoralism and tourism
Key Wildlife Species: Black rhino, elephant, wild dog, lion, gerenuk, Beisa oryx, buffalo, reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra
Year of Registration: 2001
Staff Employed from the Community: 36
Annual Operating Budget: $118,000

Background

Sera forms part of the large rangeland mass that also encompasses Biliqo-Belesa,Namunyak and Melako. Samburu communities formed the conservancy with the aim of linking the three rival ethnic groups that live in the area; the Samburu, Borana and Rendille. All communities are primarily pastoralists, with a bloody history of ethnic conflict. It was agreed that by the community conservancies that working together, securing pace and sustainable rangelands would be more easily achieved. Such was the progress of the communities, that in May 2015, the Sera Rhino Sanctuary was established. Sera became the first community conservancy in East Africa to own and operate a sanctuary dedicated to the conservation of the critically endangered black rhino. 

The People

Almost half of all NRT member conservancies are home to Samburu, a semi nomadic, pastoralist community closely related to the Maasai. They have a wealth of knowledge built up through decades of farming the harsh terrains of northern Kenya. But as changing times bring increased pressure on natural resources, grazing cattle has become a volatile livelihood. By joining NRT, pastoralists can combine their traditional knowledge with modern science to more sustainably manage their rangeland, and other members of the community have means of diversifying their income through alternative livelihoods, so as not to rely so heavily on livestock. 

The ‘Beef Works’ programme (NRT Trading) is an innovative approach to the marketing challenges faced by pastoralists in the region. Herders often trek cattle for days to market, only for transporters to pay poor prices for low-grade livestock. The Beef Works programme provides an alternative market, paying fair prices, purchasing directly from the conservancies, and buying selectively to reward good conservancy performance. This market aims to incentivise conservancies to practice effective, transparent governance and sustainable natural resource management by linking local livestock owners in high performing conservancies to ready markets. So far (from 2011 up to 2014) direct purchase of livestock put  168.5 million Kenyan Shillings (approximately 1.75 million USD) in the hands of over 2,000 pastoralists. 

Reducing the reliance on livestock is another objective for Sera. Under the NRT Trading Bead Works programme, 236 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

Surrounded by protected land, Sera benefits from abundant wildlife that roam between the rangelands. As with most of the NRT conservancies, Sera plays its part in hosting important populations of the endangered Grevy’s zebra, as well as many other precious species. The hard work and dedication of the communities in Sera has resulted in their conservancy serving as a fantastic example that improved security and better rangeland management can indeed bring back the wildlife.  The number of sightings of elephant here rose from 3000 in 2006 to over 11,000 in 2011; an increase of 366%, and during the same period, sightings Grevy’s zebra rose from less than 250 to over 2000.

In May 2015, the Kenya Wildlife Service, NRT and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy partnered to move 20 black rhino into the new Sera Rhino Sanctuary. The move saw the critically endangered animal reintroduced to Samburu ranges 25 years since the last individual was poached in the area. The rhino were translocated from Nairobi and Nakuru National Parks, as well as Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. The Sanctuary demonstrates the Government of Kenya’s confidence in the local community, and materialises the promise to support community-based conservation initiatives as provided for by the new Wildlife Act, 2013. Read the Phase 1 Report here

The mobile anti-poaching squad, known as 9-1, will play a huge part in supporting the efforts of the Sera Rhino Sanctuary Rangers. Sera, Biliqo Belesa, Namunyak and Melako make up the territory covered by 9.1, a team of 12 members who represent all the communities in the conservancies they cover. Funded by NRT, the squad was trained by an ex British Army officer in conflict and combat management and advanced first aid, and are all armed. They work closely with the 33 local rangers in Sera; who are hugely supported by Zoos South Australia with funding for field equipment, training and operations. 

To ensure the balance is kept between livestock grazing and wildlife grazing, vegetation surveys have been carried out in Sera that measure the impact of livestock on the grasslands. A management plan will then be drafted and endorsed, and a joint security program between the Sera Conservancy Trust, Rendille and Borana communities will be established.

Visiting

The Sera Guest House (formerly Kauro Bandas) is currently up for tenure. It sits on the edge of the Kauro lugga in the heart of the Conservancy, set in the midst of a vast expanse of true African wilderness. The cottage overlooks a water hole where wildlife frequently come to drink, and the lugga provides an excellent sandy spot for a campfire under the night stars. Special campsites are available in the Conservancy too, for those who want a more rugged experience. Conservancy fees and night rates charged to guests go towards the running of the conservancy, as well as community projects. For more information on staying in Sera, contact the conservancy manager (details listed above). 

The Future

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

  • Implement a conservancy constitution, with the aim of building accountability, transparency, equity and effective representation in Sera
  • Support tourism development within the conservation area, through the creation of a more permanent tourism facility, as well as the drafting of a tourism plan
  • Draft, endorse and enforce community grazing bylaws in the conservation area
  • To sign a partnership memorandum of understanding, along with all other community conservancies, between themselves and NRT
  • 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 take part in peace building exercises with surrounding communities