To cushion communities in the Laikipia County in central Kenya from the effects of an incipient drought, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy has come up with a Community Livestock Programme that will lend money to pastoralists using their cattle as collateral.

Through the programme, pastoralist communities give Ol Pejeta their cattle for fattening and sale. In return, Ol Pejeta provides full husbandry and a guaranteed market. Additionally, Ol Pejeta pays the owners the value of their cattle plus interest for the period the animals are kept for fattening, according to a press release issued by the conservancy.

Over time, the Community Livestock Programme aims 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 livestock.

By developing the model to empower pastoralists, Ol Pejeta hopes to address some of the most immediate challenges facing communities and wildlife in and around the Conservancy, while nurturing commercial business relations that will develop into lasting partnerships based on mutual benefit.

Mass movements of livestock and the drought have led to tension between communities, wildlife and private landowners, threatening livelihoods and the local economy.

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.

An unsustainable surge in livestock numbers over the past few years has put untold pressure on the rangelands of northern Kenya. Many are now entirely degraded and the situation has been compounded by climate change and unplanned grazing that also adversely affects the wildlife that sustains the area’s ecotourism.