ABOUT THE PROJECT
Marsabit is a county of approximately 70,691 km2 in the far north of Kenya, bordering Ethiopia. It has a unique landscape mixing arid desert and beautiful forest clustering extinct volcanic craters. As such, it is home to a wide diversity of wildlife and was previously known for its particularly large elephants – big tuskers.
The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) is an umbrella organisation established in 2004 whose mission is to establish resilient community conservancies that transform lives, secure peace and conserve natural resources in northern Kenya. The NRT currently supports 33 community conservancies in 9 counties, home to 300,000 people of 16 different ethnic groups.
In 2013 the NRT pioneered the establishment of 3 conservancies in Marsabit – Shurr, Songa and Jaldesa. The aim of these conservancies was to build peace and sustainable enterprise, implement natural resource management plans and carry out a wide range of conservation activities.
Ethnic groups in these conservancies include Rendille, Borana and Gabbra. Together, the three conservancies cover 5.810km2 and are home to approximately 25,000 people. Around 80% of the population are nomadic pastoralists – moving their villages to find new pasture for their livestock.
92% of the population live below the poverty line.
Communities here have not traditionally placed value on formal education. The county has the lowest literacy rates in Kenya with only 22% and 27% of the population that can read and write respectively.
This problem of illteracy is mostly due to cultural practices and extreme poverty. It is exacerbated by a lack of proper infrastructure in schools in terms of classrooms, toilets and perimeter fencing. The majority of the schools are more than 5km from the community, making access for students and teachers challenging. This has resulted in understaffing, high student teacher ratios and poor quality teaching.
The cradle of mankind
In the centre of the county, Mount Marsabit rises, an extinct volcano and three crater lakes forming an oasis in the desert. The mountain acts as an important natural water tower for Kenya: the montane forests collect freshwater and provide for the communities below. Marsabit National Reserve and Marsabit National Park have been established as protected areas around Mount Marsabit. These forests are a critical wildlife habitat and haven for species including rhino, lions, kudu, Grevy’s Zebra and a diversity of birdlife.
Mount Marsabit was once the home to some of Kenya’s largest bull elephants, including several with ivory weighing over 100lbs. In 1987, Kenya’s most famous tusker, Ahmed, was given special protection by Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, reflecting the importance and high level of national pride in the elephants of Marsabit.
It is estimated that there are between 100 and 150 elephants remaining on the mountain today, and it is a vital link between ancient elephant migration trails. Marsabit, like many areas, has been affected by rampant elephant poaching. Simultaneous habitat loss in the area has only intensified pressure on the Marsabit elephant populations.
As community conservancies in Samburu and Isiolo counties continue to raise awareness and provide protection for elephants, ancient migration routes are once again opening up and providing safe corridors for elephants in northern Kenya. It is vital that the conservancies around Marsabit are supported to do the same.
Education bringing about conservation
WHAT WE AIM TO DO
The Marsabit Project aims to support conservation and education initiatives for communities residing around Mount Marsabit Forest. We believe that the communities should derive sustainable socioeconomic benefits from wildlife and rangeland conservation. The project presents an opportunity to leverage improvements in education, in order to increase community support for conservation and sustainable natural resource management.
Locally recruited conservancy rangers have begun to work more closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service and NRT’s mobile anti-poaching units to carry out security and wildlife monitoring patrols. Close coordination and information sharing between the three teams will ensure the most effective protection for elephants moving in and out of Marsabit.
It is hoped that this will dramatically reduce the illegal killing of elephants in the area, and offer the community better support in cases of human / wildlife conflict.
Tusk is a dynamic and pioneering organisation with over 25 years of experience initiating and funding conservation, community development and environmental education programmes across Africa. Tusk has, with its partners, been at the forefront of promoting and funding community driven conservaton programmes.
Its holistic approach recognises that the long-term future for wildlife is dependent on education and sustainable development. The Marsabit Project falls into the welcoming arms of Tusk.