Laikipia’s emergence as one of the world’s great wildlife conservation successes is not a conventional conservation story. It is instead a rare and wonderful story of hope for both people and wildlife. Without large private and communal land holdings, as well as concerted efforts by both the National and County governments, there would not be the wildlife species populations that exist in our county today.
Laikipia is widely recognised as a model for wildlife conservation on private and community land in Africa. The region’s function as a fully integrated conservation area is a fairly recent development, however, going back no further than the 1980s.
Laikipia is a classic example of how well-designed tourism investments can lead to major conservation and economic gains. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land have been set aside over the years by local communities for conservation and ecotourism developments.
Tourism development has been the main rationale for these land use decisions.
The key innovation in these areas is that tourism investments have been structured as jointly owned ventures, in the form of lodges or tented camps, between private investors and the local land-owning communities. Some of these ventures include Il Ngwesi Lodge, Tassia, Koija Star Beds and Ol Lentille.
Tourism development is at the core of the Laikipia Tourism Association (LTA) and the County Government of Laikipia’s activities. And to this end, both are committed to promote growth and development of the most innovative and successful community-run eco-tourism and conservation ventures in the landscape.
Proceeds from tourism have enabled local people to benefit directly from conservation, while having the LTA and the County Government to depend on for advisory support and for marketing and promotion.
The success of community-owned tourism and conservation enterprises such as Il Ngwesi on the communal, or group, ranches of North Laikipia has not only been instrumental in providing shareholders with much-needed supplementary incomes; it has also helped secure important wildlife dispersal corridors. The strong sense of ownership now felt by community groups has helped conserve habitats such as the remote Mukogodo Forest. Similarly, tree cover in the Ngare Ndare Forest, adjacent to the Lewa Conservancy.