Science Helps Partners and Communities Shape Future

“The Nature Conservancy is listening to and working with local communities and local organizations in priority places and helping to make a difference.” —Matt Brown, Conservation Director

By Matt Brown

Around the world, The Nature Conservancy is known for its scientific and technical expertise. Applying these attributes to our work in Africa is a key part of our strategy in achieving our conservation goals and improving livelihoods of those with whom we work. No project site better illustrates this thinking than our work with Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya.

Recently, 60 community members, staff and government officials who are all part of NRT gathered for three days under yellow fever acacia trees to map out the future of the organization.

NRT staff had conducted an intensive SWOT (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats) analysis of NRT by interviewing wildlife conservancy members. This information helped identify where NRT has come from and where it needs to go and guided discussions during the three-day workshop, which was focused on revising NRT’s mission statement and setting strategic goals for the organization.

So why are these planning events important?
  • Our partners request technical support and know we have the science and experience to support it.
  • We fill critical information gaps and help our partners move to bigger, more successful outcomes.
  • We leverage our planning expertise (process and people) from TNC offices across the organization.
  • The outcomes of this work will help both NRT and Lewa chart their goals and collaborate with each other, sharing the resources required to achieve these goals and to save time and funds.

Workshop participants identified seven strategic goals for NRT over the next five years:

  1. Sustain Strong Security and Effective Wildlife Management
  2. Improve Natural Resource Management
  3. Increase Peace and Conflict Resolution
  4. Enhance Socio-Economic Development
  5. Secure Credible Governance
  6. Establish Sustainable Conservancies
  7. Strategically Manage NRT Growth

Sharing resources from other corners of TNC, Terri Schulz (Colorado) and Ryan Luster (California) organized and facilitated a Conservation Action Planning workshop for Lewa and its partners. The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy had never done a workshop of this kind, and their new CEO, Mike Watson, requested TNC’s support to think about the bigger picture. 

The discussions focused on conservation targets and threats to those targets, along with developing strategies to address threats on Lewa and in neighboring communities. The group recognized that most of the threats facing Lewa are related to issues much bigger than Lewa, including, but not limited to, the expansion of Isiolo (a nearby city), a resort planned for the area and its potential impact on elephant corridors, rhino and elephant poaching, and impacts on water supply and quality around Mount Kenya due to activities by large commercial farmers.

Diverse Partners in Conservation

CAP workshop participants included officials from Northern Rangelands Trust, neighboring Borana Conservancy, county and district governments, Kenya Wildlife Service, and elders from neighboring Samburu community conservancies.

Participation from such a diverse group of partners highlighted the tremendous good will and respect Lewa has earned as a leader in conservation and community development in northern Kenya.  Working with these key partners will be crucial for Lewa to realize the goals set forth in the Lewa CAP. 

Increasing the ability of our partners to build on their core expertise, involve local communities and collaborate with one another toward a similar set of outcomes are foundations of our work. Through these types of technical workshops, The Nature Conservancy is listening to and working with local communities and local organizations in priority places and helping to make a difference. 

For me, the experience is always rewarding, and it’s immensely gratifying to turn TNC’s deep pool of talented staff across the organization toward pursuing our ambitious goals in Africa.


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