Tribal leaders and community land managers are working together to conserve more than 2 million acres of communal lands.
Ian Craig discusses the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy's history and The Nature Conservancy's role in securing Lewa's future.
We work with communities and with established local conservation partners such as the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Northern Rangelands Trust.
Eastern and southern Africa’s grasslands and savannas have been shaped over millions of years by volcanoes, seasonal droughts and fires, millions of grazing animals, and human activities.
The acacia-studded savannas of Kenya still harbor an abundance of large mammals found nowhere else on Earth.
The semi-nomadic Maasai people have lived in East Africa for hundreds of years. In traditional Maasai society, a man’s wealth is measured by the number of cattle he owns and tilling land for crops is considered a crime against nature.
The population of Africa is growing rapidly. As new communities and fences spring up, people find themselves in conflict with wildlife when elephants trample farmers’ fields — obliterating a year’s harvest in a single night — and lions prey on precious livestock.
Numerous national parks, reserves and game-controlled areas in Kenya incorporate an impressive amount of grassland habitat. But a lack of staffing, resources and management expertise leaves protected areas vulnerable to poachers, unregulated tourism and other threats.
Key Partners, New Concepts
In Kenya's northern rangelands, we are using our collaborative approach to support the development of conservation agreements with local communities and landowners. Working with established local conservation partners such as the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Northern Rangelands Trust, we are focusing on landscapes that are large, that remain mostly intact, and that support large mammal migrations and rare species.
Saving the Last Great Migratory Routes
Securing wildlife corridors and providing income to families that rely on the land are ways to achieve the larger goal of protecting millions of acres of grasslands and savannas in Africa.
Credited with bringing the endangered black rhino back from the brink of extinction and serving as a sanctuary for an additional 70 large-mammal species, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a catalyst for community-based conservation on the dry savannas of northern Kenya. Lewa is strategically located along an elephant corridor connecting the upland forests of Mt. Kenya and lower-elevation rangelands to the north.
Lewa Milele (Swahili for “Lewa Forever”) describes a strategic partnership between Lewa and The Nature Conservancy to secure 62,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat and sustain nearly 30 years of community-based conservation success. Drawing from nearly 60 years of experience in conservation real estate, The Nature Conservancy has helped Lewa engineer an innovative, cost-effective plan to secure its land and hold it in trust for the benefit of wildlife and future generations.
But when it comes to protecting Africa’s great migration routes, private lands are only part of the puzzle. In the communally owned rangelands to the north of Lewa, people banded together to create the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) to shepherd the growth of community conservation on their own lands. Governed by a council of local elders, NRT promotes regional security, improves livelihoods and enhances wildlife conservation.
Currently, 27 groups have formed “community wildlife conservancies” (protected areas on communally held lands), benefiting more than 300,000 people and protecting almost 6 million acres of land. The Nature Conservancy has partnered with NRT to facilitate its rapid expansion and move this historic endeavor to the next level.
Cultivating Hope for the Future
Together with dedicated conservation partners, national governments, and with your support, we aim to protect over 10 million acres of private and communal lands in northern Kenya. In the process, we will cultivate hope and opportunity with the people who live in these places where the land moves on forever.