The Northern Kenya region is facing rapid and profound transformations within society and the environment. The livelihoods of pastoralists and smallholder farmers are impacted by more frequent droughts, changing seasonal rainfall patterns, the spread of invasive species and the ongoing degradation of biodiversity, soil, and water resources. This is coupled with the effect of an increasing population, including immigration from other parts of Kenya because of potential job options offered by investments led by the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor Project (LAPSSET). This, in turn increases the pressure on land and natural resources, leading to competition and conflict. The space for wildlife and pastoralists to breed, graze and migrate through the landscape is diminishing. Livelihoods and the wellbeing of communities are under threat. Conflicts are on the rise, not least over how to govern “common pool resources.” And the capacity of nature to deliver vital ecosystem services is being compromised.
To maintain multi-functional semi-arid landscapes and strengthen landscape connectivity to maximize co-benefits between nature and people.
Co-design of solution and stewardship
An initial set of interlinked projects has been co-designed with multiple actors in this landscape, against the backdrop of compiled systemic knowledge. Concrete innovations are co-developed and tested on the ground for increased landscape connectivity for multiple users. In parallel, the development of a participatory and evidence-based county level spatial plan will be the process through which such landscape connections – for example, dual use corridors that are used both by wildlife and livestock – can be officially recognized and gazetted. The collaboration with the National Land Commission (NLC) of Kenya is a process through which such approaches developed at county level may be scaled.
Pilot for national inventory of fragile ecosystems
This pilot aims to develop a a spatial inventory of fragile and vital ecological assets in Kenya's semi-arid lands (Laikipia, Samburu, Baringo, Isiolo and Marsabit counties) and a natural resource co-management framework. In 2021, a multisectoral task force was established to accompany this project under the lead of the National Land Commission of Kenya, which was instrumental in co-designing the pilot. An approach was launched to collect key missing data needed for this inventory (e.g. springs, wetlands, wildlife concentration and dispersal areas, pastoral migration routes), which involved participatory mapping and the crowd-sourcing of data. The data collected will be integrated into policy processes and decision support tools. These will become an integral part of the national land administration process. Based on the knowledge generated, the task force will be able to protect the resources by law, while also developing a new natural resource co-management framework, sharing the responsibilities between local government and communities.
Dual use migration corridor
This project develops and tests the implementation of migration corridors for both wildlife and livestock, which can provide resilience to climate change and growing pressure on land due to increased mobility. The approach combines customary and formal land tenure arrangements in order to simultaneously secure human and animal mobility in an integrated manner. A process was established through a group of “champions”, comprised of trusted individuals, with a view to further strengthen trust among involved parties and developing a joint vision of how such dual corridors would look like – including their locations, their management and enforcement. Community engagement and training is ongoing and the process of demarcation and testing of the first six planned dual use corridors has been launched. The corridors are implemented through a partnership involving Save the Elephants, the Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT) and the Centre for Training and Integrated Research in ASAL Development (CETRAD).
County-level spatial planning in Laikipia county
According to the Kenyan constitution and the devolution process, counties must develop a county spatial plan as the basis for a county integrated development plan. This process was identified as a key policy window for the Wyss Academy that could promote the mainstreaming of nature conservation within economic and social development strategies. For the Hub, the key points in the process to address were the scarcity of high-quality data, the limited capacities in spatial analysis and the scarce resources available to support a solid multistakeholder process. By establishing a process with stakeholders from different government agencies and civil society organizations, and providing respective technical support, the Wyss Academy can enhance the quality, quantity and availability of baseline data. A shared online spatial database was set up in 2021, containing data from various sectors and multiple actors as a basis for evidence-based planning. By being involved in this process, we were able to include landscape connectivity aspects and proposed infrastructures (dual purpose corridors) in the plan.
More than two thirds of the Kenyan population are below 35 years old. Youth engagement is key to triggering necessary transformations towards more social and environmental justice in the field of conservation, which remains dominated by large-scale private landowners and foreign organizations pursuing global agendas – often at the cost of local communities. The Wyss Academy is supporting a local Maasai youth group that brings together members from the entire landscape. We strengthen their organizational capacities and jointly develop income-generating activities for conservation on the land that they were granted by the elders and the ecolodge that they are managing. Together, we organize community awareness events through sports and culture, and promote young female singers from their communities. This is an effective way to deliver messages on the importance of peace and the protection of their natural and cultural heritage.