Opinion

Conservancies protect community lands

Conservancies protect community lands

Northern Rangelands Trust Livestock Programme Officer Patrick Ekodere (left) uses a scanner to read information from a microchip under this bull’s skin at Lewa Conservancy in Isiolo to help in tracing the animals.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Contrary to the article by columnist Kaltum Guyo, “Stop conservancies in north to protect community lands there” (DN, June 14), the community-run conservancies of northern Kenya, particularly those partnered with the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), have over the decades brought economic empowerment to local communities, increased land rights, expanded grazing areas for livestock and given greater autonomy to the custodians of the lands.

While claims abound that conservancies are grabbing land and are seeking to “expand their land portfolio”, NRT owns no land.

An umbrella organisation, it assists local community members by managing the delicate balance between wildlife, livestock and economic advancement.

It does not refuse herders to graze anywhere in community conservancies, which are established, owned and run by community members living on their ancestral lands, for their livelihoods.

Outside of the sanctuaries, no community conservancy in the north is fenced, and traditional nomadism takes place. Advising herders on sustainable grazing practices in the wake of climate change is different from the purported “locking out” of the local community.

Pastoralist communities

The article refers to the indigenous nomadic or pastoralist communities of northern Kenya as being disenfranchised. NRT is governed by a council of elders comprising all the community conservancies chairpersons from across the communities and ethnicities.

Several NRT member community conservancies have transitioned to the new community land law through NRT support and the newly elected community land committees double as a conservancy board.

The boards make independent determinations about their future, land and finances. It is they, and not NRT, who decide which projects to venture in, which ones to fund and how to implement them.

NRT’s role in this structure is to help to strengthen community governance, and not to be a governing body.

Despite many claims to the contrary, NRT strongly advocates full implementation of the Community Land Act 2016 and calls on all leaders in the national and county governments to speed up its full implementation. Land tenure in the north needs to be secured as per the Constitution, and NRT helps the communities to register land for themselves.

NRT is dedicated to empowering the communities of northern and coastal Kenya and promoting peaceful coexistence through assisting conservancies in securing their land rights.

Its rangeland restoration projects have receded hundreds of acres with perennial grass, providing a restored habitat for wildlife and a vast amount of fresh new grass.

The truth is that the community conservancy model improves lives in northern Kenya.

Tom Lalampaa, CEO, NRT. www.nrt-kenya.org