Loisaba Beadwork Women gather to do beadwork in a village outside of the Loisaba Conservancy. © Ami Vitale

Stories in Africa

Dispatch from Loisaba Conservancy

Conservation and Respect for Communities

"By taking on the FPIC process, TNC has been extremely sensitive to the lifestyle and needs of local communities, which in my view would make them feel even more invested in the conservation process." - Ms. Soipan Tuya

Girls at Ewaso Primary School in Ewaso, Laikipia County, Northern Kenya.
School's Out Girls at Ewaso Primary School in Ewaso, Laikipia County, Northern Kenya. © Ami Vitale

Loisaba Ranch in Northern Kenya has provided benefits to neighboring communities for more than 18 years, including jobs from ecotourism, scholarships for area children, and access to grass for livestock that are the foundation of local economies.

When The Nature Conservancy teamed up with local partners, including Space for Giants, to transfer the ranch from a private seller into the holding of a newly established Kenyan community trust – called Loisaba Conservancy – we brought together representatives of local communities to talk about the future of the property.

While the ranch was privately held, much of the neighboring land is owned communally by the people who live on it. Out of respect for these neighbors, we conducted a “free, prior and informed consent” process (called FPIC) as set forth by the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.

In a daylong summit prior to completion of the transaction, we explained the transfer, the new conservation status and steps that will be taken to ensure that long-standing community benefits will continue, and in fact, will grow as ecotourism operations and other enterprises are scaled up. We listened to the concerns and hopes of the people whose lives are intertwined with the fate of Loisaba, and these messages will continue to inform how Loisaba is managed.

TNC hired Ms. Soipan Tuya, a Nairobi-based attorney who specializes in land tenure and gender equity, to conduct the FPIC process, facilitate the summit and create a report with recommendations.

Nature.org talked with Ms. Tuya about her experience with this project.

Nature.org: How did you begin the FPIC process?

Tuya: I was invited by The Nature Conservancy to take on this assignment, so I first did research on these communities and their historical background. I had to select opinion-shapers from the four neighboring communities, and to make sure that everyone was well represented, including women, youth, the elderly and local administration members.

Nature.org: What did you learn during your preparations?

Tuya: We had a number of interviews before the big community meeting to learn the history of the ranch, legal status, and the history of the relationship between Loisaba and community members. One of the critical elements of the FPIC process is getting very clear information to the beneficiaries because any misinformation will ruin the process. We agreed on how we were going to engage the entire community in the forum.

Nature.org: Describe the community meeting.

Tuya: The major meeting was on the Loisaba Conservancy premises, and I served as the facilitator to ensure that everyone participated. Loisaba’s manager – Tom Silvester – explained the reason why we were engaging in the FPIC process: because Loisaba was changing ownership. The FPIC process was happening so that these community members could be included as stakeholders. This is so important because over time you cannot delink conservation from people’s livelihoods — people must be at the center of conservation for there to be success.

Then we really set out to get feedback from the community. Each community chose a representative to speak on their behalf, and the main questions for them were: “How do you feel about Loisaba and your current relationship?” and “What do you envision as your place in the new arrangement with Loisaba and The Nature Conservancy?”

Nature.org: What were the outcomes?

Tuya: We got encouraging feedback. The communities appreciated that this is private property but they also appreciated the fact that they were being brought on board with the new arrangement with TNC and that they were being recognized. I saw that appreciation. We discussed their expectations in terms of the new management arrangement and they expect a lot of corporate responsibility on the part of Loisaba.

This could include providing health facilities, education assistance and grazing rights. These things were not new; Loisaba has been providing assistance to communities in terms of healthcare, education and grazing for many years.

There were communities who had not been closely linked to Loisaba in the past who said that they would like to be closer. They understand their important role in conservation. Seeing the ways in which conservation will provide benefits to them enables TNC and Loisaba to really bring the communities into the process.

By taking on the FPIC process, TNC has been extremely sensitive to the lifestyle and needs of local communities, which in my view would make them feel even more invested in the conservation process.

Nature.org: Have you done this a lot? Is it common for NGOs in Kenya to go through the FPIC process?

Tuya: Certainly not. I come from Narok, and we have done a few, but none has been as pronounced as what I did at Loisaba. This assignment was very exciting for me because this is exactly what needs to be done when dealing with Indigenous People’s lands or territories.

Many NGOs aren’t doing this yet. If you come in with a grand plan and don’t involve the communities you get backlash and legal battles that can compromise a good idea that would have been mutually beneficial.

What TNC has done should be documented and shared with other conservation organizations. If there are challenges to come, TNC will be better prepared by understanding the communities and they have community members as key allies. TNC has laid out a good process for other conservation organizations to follow.


About FPIC

The principles of “free, prior and informed consent” were first formally laid out by the 1989 International Labour Organisation’s Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (ILO 169). Articles 6, 7, and 9 of ILO 169 establish that consent must be acquired before indigenous communities are relocated or before development is undertaken on their land. The FPIC concept was strongly reinforced by the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which outlined a host of scenarios in which FPIC should become the standard “best practice” for negotiations between indigenous peoples and any other entity.