A very concise summary of the Conservancy movement surrounding the Masai Mara. A good read on the background, including Olare Orok where Mara Plains is located.
Over the past few years, Kenya has given itself a make-over as a global travel and tourist destination of choice.
But rarely has this change been driven largely by communities living within leading tourist attraction sites.
But a 300-kilometre drive from Nairobi will take you to not only Kenya’s popular tourist attraction – the Maasai Mara – but to a new gem that looks set to define the new path that Kenya’s tourism industry will take.
Hundreds of families in a remote Narok village have signed over their land to a group of investors to be used to set up a new conservancy, joining a growing list of other households who have given up their land, although at a fee.
Together these 502 families have leased 20,600 hectares of land outside the Maasai Mara to establish Mara Naboisho Conservancy which stands for “coming together” in the local Maasai language.
The new conservancy is the most recent in the Mara as local communities look for opportunities to gain from the tourism sector.
“Mara Naboisho Conservancy demonstrates an equitable and sustainable partnership between Maasai landowners, tourism investors and conservation interests,” said Dr Lars Lindkvist of Basecamp Foundation.
Dr Lindkvists says that the move is an opportunity to innovate for the benefit of communities, the environment and the economy in terms of tourism attractions.
Creation of conservancies is seen as the future of establishing a new and unique approach to community driven conservation, providing employment to the local community and sustainable development.
The community signed a 15 year lease agreement with tourism partners who have committed to invest into the conservancy.
These partners include Basecamp Explorer that has been running a lodge in the area for years, Gamewatchers Safaris & Porini Camps, Kicheche mara Camp, African Encounter and Rekero Camp.
Project manager, Basecamp Foundation, Dickson ole Kaelo says the move will assure the community of a regular income from the tourism sector through land rents paid every month.
Mr ole Kaelo, who hails from the local group ranch, worked with the community for close to five years to establish the conservancy after being approached by the leaders.
“It was a community approach for us to explore the option with the community willing to surrender land in order to earn from it. We can reconcile community and conservation through tourism,” he said during the unveiling of the conservancy last week.
The landowners formed a company, Naiboisho Landholding Ltd with whom they signed their leases.
Mara Naboisho Conservancy Ltd is the management company that is co-owned by the landowners, tourism partners and Basecamp.
Every month the management company expects to pay a total of $45,000 (Sh3.6 million) to the landowners for land rates with an average eight per cent increment annually.
Landowners who find camps built on their parcel will also earn an extra income.
Six camps are expected to be put up with at least 114 beds.
Living in the periphery of the famous Maasai Mara National Reserve, one of the leading tourist attractions in Kenya, local communities have earned little.
Their land is part of the larger Mara ecosystem boasting migration corridors for animals from Loita Hills thus the conservancies in the area have wildlife to attract visitors.
The subdivision of the land outside the reserve from 2005 led to local families building villages and turning to farming in the small parcels of land.
Naboisho Conservancy is part of the Koiyaki Lemek group ranch that was formed in 1995 and has about 138,700 hectares of land with over 3,000 members.
The group ranch already boasts Olare Orok, Motorogi and Mara North conservancies neighbouring each other.
Olare Orok was the first conservancy in the area established in 2006.
Due to scepticism of the model by the local communities land owners only signed a five year lease with its success the community is now signing longer leases with partners.
The conservancy, which lies to the West of Naboisho, brought together 154 land owners.
Other conservancies in the area include Olkine, OlChorro Oirua and Enonkishu.
The management of these conservancies have laid out clear structures on development in the area opting for a few camps with limited number of beds to reduce footprint in the area.
Upon development of the conservancy the families mainly move to other parts of the group ranch.
Also stipulated is controlled grazing where local communities are allowed to heard a number of cattle per family in grazing blocs within the conservancies, especially during drought.
Following the rains this year most of the conservancies in the area have began “grass banks” by haying grass to be distributed during extreme drought conditions in the area.
The groups also have community liaison officers who work closely with the management company to ensure the needs of the local people are met.
Outside of Maasai Mara other group ranches have been following the model to put up similar conservancies in other parts of the country.
Amboseli already has two conservancies outside of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) – run National Park.
The model is also being looked at in the Northern Rangelands Trust, a partnership between Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the government as well as private and community conservation.
This organisation has been working to ensure the conservation, management and sustainable use of the area within the Trust area.
Information from All Africa – http://allafrica.com