Location: Shurr Community Conservancy, Torbi Division, Marsabit North District)
Postal address: c/o Northern Rangelands Trust, Private Bag, Isiolo
Manager: Ali Mohamed
Contact: shurr@nrt-kenya.org
Ethnicity: Gabbra
Population: 22,000 people
Land Ownership Community: Land
Core Conservation Area: 364,000 hectares
Main Livelihood: Pastoralism
Key Wildlife Species: Elephant, giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, gazelle, oryx, gerenuk, numerous bird species
Year of Registration: 2013
Staff Employed from the Community: 13
Annual Operating Budget: TBC

Background

Shurr Community Conservancy lies in the far north of Kenya, close to the Ethiopian border. This is a dry region, where resources are scarce, infrastructure is limited, and tensions have been high between the different ethnic communities that share this unforgiving landscape. Despite this, there is a surprising amount of fauna and flora here – including the highly endangered Grevy’s zebra. Several members of the Shurr community decided to take action back in 2008, when it became apparent that the wildlife and natural resources of the area were being depleted at an alarming rate. News of better livelihoods through community conservancies operating under the umbrella of NRT had reached them from several sources, who had travelled from Isiolo and Samburu where these institutions were well established. After holding a series of meetings, they agreed to approach NRT. 

Although still in its initial stages of development, the manager Ali Mohamed is reporting that already the level of awareness and perception amongst the community has changed. He says a sense of ownership of the land, and its resources, has been key to changing mindsets here. They look forward to their official headquarters opening soon.  

The People

The Gabbra people are nomadic pastoralists, inhabiting an area of about 40,000 square kilometres in the arid lowlands of northern Kenya. With an exception of the elevated areas, Gabbraland receives an average of 150-200mm of rainfall per year. It is due to this aridity that they lead a nomadic life, constantly moving in search of water and grazing for their camels, cattle, sheep and goats. Livelihoods here are centred on livestock, primarily camels, which are used for transportation, milk and meat. The Gabbra still operate traditional institutions responsible for supporting the social structures of the community, and upholding traditional laws. Gabbra houses are made from woven sisal mats, sticks and camel hides and are portable. Whole villages can be packed up, loaded onto a camel train, and moved to follow better pastures and rain.

Ecosystem

Shurr is made up of dry grassland and bushy savannah with pockets of acacia growth, covering rocky lava-terrain. Between the wildlife-rich Marsabit Mountain, which rises out of the desert, and Shurr lies the much smaller Jaldesa Community Conservancy. Shurr is therefor an important extension of this wildlife corridor, and a buffer zone. 

While poaching remains an ever-present threat, the communities knowledge and understanding of its social and economic destruction is growing. The rangers have been recruited from the local community, and are responsible for patrolling, monitoring wildlife trends and engaging the community  in conservation awareness and sustainable natural resource management.

Visiting Shurr

Being a relatively new NRT conservancy, the communities in Shurr are concentrating on improving security operations, infrastructure development and sustainably managing their precious natural resources. As such, there are no tourism operations in the area yet. However, this Conservancy holds great promise, with enthusiastic management and community engagement.

The Future of Shurr

With assistance from NRT and partner organisations, Shurr 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 register as not-for-profit
  • To develop a conservancy management plan endorsed by the constituent community in Shurr 
  • To take part in peace building exercises with surrounding communities 
  • Tourism development and development of other revenue generating enterprises to build the self-sufficiency of the conservancy and generate funding to support community development priorities (such as education and health)