In 2012, the Kenyan government made headlines when it set aside an area of 20,000 acres of Mutara ranch bordering Ol Pejeta for wildlife conservation and tourism enterprise. In a move that symbolised the government’s recognition of wildlife conservation as an important part of holistic land use, Ol Pejeta was contracted by the lease, Monarch Group, to spearhead conservation operations, building on its own successful conservation model.

As well as providing an opportunity to safeguard more wildlife movement corridors, and secure habitat for black rhinos when Ol Pejeta reaches its maximum carrying capacity, Mutara Conservancy is a chance for more local communities to benefit from wildlife conservation and sustainable natural resource management.

That is why Ol Pejeta has teamed up with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), The Monarch Group and the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) to apply to the Darwin Initiative Grant, which was awarded to us last month - September 2017. The 4-year Darwin Grant is “aimed at creating a secure habitat for endangered species whilst offering opportunities for sustainable livelihoods among the local communities” – a perfect match for the Mutara vision. The grant is from the Darwin Initiative, a UK government grants scheme that helps to protect biodiversity and the natural environment in developing countries.

The grant project will involve close collaboration between the project partners and local communities. It will aim to strengthen rangeland and water resource management – a frequent cause of conflict for communities and wildlife alike – and support the extension of dispersal areas for endangered wildlife in the greater Ol Pejeta Conservancy landscape. It will do all of this whilst safeguarding pastoralist livelihoods and supporting local businesses.

The project will focus on five key areas:

  • Developing a healthy rangeland able to support the grazing needs of community livestock and wildlife
  • Improving water availability for domestic use, livestock and wildlife.
  • Developing a community cattle market system to support pastoralist livelihoods and reduce livestock densities (grasslands unable to support current numbers).
  • Develop a community-based fodder production system to support small-scale farmers
  • Enhancing the protection of vulnerable and endangered species

Ol Pejeta and FFI will be called upon to provide technical support to the community development, ecological monitoring, and livestock aspects of the project – using lessons learned from our own experience, and leveraging our solid relationships with local community leaders.