NRT and the conservancies work closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Police, local government authorities and others to support a community-led approach to securing the north Kenya landscape.
Each NRT member conservancy employs a team of uniformed rangers (there are 768 conservancy rangers) from the local communities, who are trained at the KWS Law Enforcement Academy in Manyani. Rangers play a vital role in monitoring endangered wildlife species, conducting anti-poaching patrols, raising conservation awareness in their local communities and acting as community wildlife ambassadors. Many conservancies are home to multiple ethnic groups, and all have equal representation in the ranger teams. Some of these rangers are also National Police Reservists - a status granted by the Kenya Police which authorises them to carry police firearms after undergoing thorough vetting by the respective County Security Committees.
NRT employs six mobile security teams who specialise in anti-poaching and stock theft across clusters of conservancies, working closely with the Kenya Police, KWS and individual conservancy rangers. These multi-ethnic teams are all recruited from within existing conservancies, which has proven to be one of their greatest strengths.
NRT's rapid response units spend up to 26 days every month in the field. They are wildlife guardians, peace-keepers, Police support and conservationists all rolled into one. Here, they talk to film maker Martin Buzora about their work and achievements.
North Kenya has a history marred with ethnic conflict and insecurity, which has hindered development, perpetuated poverty and disrupted lives for years. Now, the stakes are higher, with a growing human population competing for dwindling natural resources, a ready availability of illegal weapons and an unsteady political climate. There has never been a more critical time to support communities in the north to build peace.
NRT’s dedicated peace team works with conservancy management, local elders, warrior and youth representatives to broker peace deals and promote non-violent conflict resolution. The team bring together conflicting factions, facilitate constructive dialogue sessions, promote peaceful co-existence and encourage self-generated solutions to local grievances, all while maintaining strict political, ethnic and religious neutrality.
Over 700 women are now participating in peace-building training, while 70 peace ambassadors - in the form of former young warriors - have been recruited and trained to help prevent conflict amongst their peers.
He used to run from the law, now he runs peace programmes (and his own business).
Meet Lekopir Lksumban, Peace Ambassador from Melako Community Conservancy.
“A few years ago, I could not show my face around my home area because of the crimes I’d committed. Today, I am a peace ambassador and business man, helping other young men caught up in crime transition into making an honest living.”
For over 12 years, Lekopir made a living from banditry and cattle rustling. Caught up in relentless conflict cycles and desperate to put food on the table and pay medical bills, he saw no other way to earn money, and no way out.
“It was not a good life, and I was tired of always feeling like a target was on my back,” he says. “I would always get messages from my friend saying the Conservancy Warden was looking for me and I hid because I thought he wanted to hand me over to the police.”
But Melako Community Conservancy Warden, Robert Dokhole, did not want to arrest Lekopir. He wanted to help him turn his life around. For two years Robert tried to convince Lekopir to meet with him, until eventually Lekopir agreed.
“I was very shocked when Robert sat me down in front of the elders and local authorities and told me that they wanted to give me a chance to redeem myself,” Lekopir says. “They asked me to work with them to help rehabilitate my fellow morans engaged in cattle rustling and banditry, and that if I did so, they would allow me to re-enter society.”
Today, Lekopir is a proud peace ambassador and business owner - instrumental to peace and rehabilitation efforts in his home area of Laisamis. He has helped foil numerous cattle rustling attempts and helped several morans get out of conflict and into enterprise, through NRT Trading’s Savings and Credit Cooperative.
“I am able to get through to these young men because I have been exactly where they are.” Lekopir says “Most of them are looking for a way out, just like I was, but have nobody to help.”
Above all he feels he immense gratitude to his community for a second chance at life. “I will never forget what my community did for me, and I am just grateful to be making up for the years I lost.”