OL PEJETA STEPS UP IN TIME OF DROUGHT
Livestock Programme Offers Solution to Laikipia Pastoralists
and Private Conservancy in the Face of Drought
As a looming drought threatens livelihoods and wildlife in Laikipia, communities are taking advantage of Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s Community Livestock Programme. The scheme sees pastoralists act as lenders using the capital that is their cattle, while reducing pressure on degraded land, helping to insulate families against the impacts of climate change and drought and assisting to manage the range in an environmentally sustainable fashion.
The recent rains failed even to dampen the dust in some areas of Laikipia County. Mass movements of livestock and an impending drought have led to tension between communities, wildlife and private landowners, threatening livelihoods and the local economy. In response to this and after many years of trial, Ol Pejeta Conservancy has established the Community Livestock Programme, a commercial business venture, in partnership with local pastoralists.
Ol Pejeta is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, and hosts a high density of predators. Fully integrated with its wildlife conservation work, Ol Pejeta runs a successful beef business, which sees profits reinvested into community programmes such as health and education, and conservation programmes. The Conservancy uses livestock grazing as a grassland management tool, and boasts an onsite abattoir facility.
An unsustainable surge in stock numbers over the past few years has put untold pressure on the rangelands of northern Kenya; many are now entirely degraded as a result. This is compounded by climate change and unplanned grazing. The rangeland degradation results in poor quality livestock, and perpetuates a poverty cycle for pastoral families who often know no other alternatives. At the same time, the wildlife that sustains the area’s ecotourism suffers too.
Through the Community Livestock Programme, pastoralist communities provide Ol Pejeta with cattle for fattening and sale. In return, Ol Pejeta provides full husbandry and a guaranteed market. Additionally, Ol Pejeta pays the owners for the value of their cattle on arrival, plus interest at the current bank deposit rate for the period the animals are kept for fattening. Thus pastoralist communities are provided with a zero risk investment option to assist them in the productive and sustainable management of their cattle.
Over time the Community Livestock Programme hopes to contribute to an overall reduction in stock numbers in the landscape, whilst providing a long-term solution to degraded grasslands for people and wildlife. In 2016, Ol Pejeta also launched a breed improvement initiative with local farmers, delivering artificial insemination at affordable prices to reinforce the long-term message that fewer high value cattle are better than thousands of poor quality cattle.
By developing this model to empower pastoralists, Ol Pejeta hopes to address some of the most immediate challenges facing communities and wildlife in and around the Conservancy, at the same time as nurturing commercial business relations that will develop into lasting partnerships based on mutual benefit.