Pangolin Project Hero
Supporting the Local Stewardship of

Kenya’s Nyekweri Ecosystem

Joseph Ntoto Sailepu (13 years), Enock Saningo Rotiken (9 years) and Esther Semerian Rotiken (6 years) walk to school through the Nyekweri Forest Landscape | Roshni Lodhia/Legado

In 2024, Legado launched a partnership with The Pangolin Project to support Indigenous stewardship of the larger Nyekweri ecosystem in Narok County in Southwest Kenya.

The Nyekweri ecosystem and the adjacent Maasai Mara Reserve area are a refuge for a range of wildlife that have been stewarded by the Maasai people and other Indigenous groups for centuries. Nyekweri is also a key water source for the Migori River basin. These life-sustaining forests and rangelands are also home to dozens of Africa’s most iconic wildlife, including wildebeest, lions, African elephants, zebras, and many more.
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A Maasai community member holds up a picture of a pangolin at a community workshop in the Saparingo area | Roshni Lodhia/Legado

How forests and grasslands meet at the edge of Maasai Mara Reserve

Bordering the Nyekweri forest, the rangelands of the Maasai Mara have been stewarded by the Maasi for generations. That stewardship has supported biodiversity by sequestering carbon and preserving land in wildlife hotspots—land that has been roamed by migrating herds of wildlife for thousands of years.

A forest home for giant pangolins

The dense forests of the Nyekweri are also refuge for the giant ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea), a key species for local Indigenous Peoples and for maintaining the ecosystem’s biodiversity. Because these forests include the easternmost habitat of the Congo-basin flora, Nyekweri is a key habitat for giant ground pangolins outside of the Congo.
But the connectivity of this ecosystem, on which pangolins and other wildlife depend, is at risk. More than 80% of the forests that sustain a diversity of flora and fauna have been cleared in the last 20 years to make space for agriculture and livestock grazing. Pangolins themselves are at risk of extinction from deforestation, as well as from poachers—pangolins are one of the most illegally hunted animals in the world.
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Legado is supporting The Pangolin Project to use a Thriving Futures Model in partnership with Maasi landowners. These Indigenous stewards will create a holistic plan at the landscape level that preserves the biodiversity of the forest and rangelands and furthers their well-being.

The Nyekweri Forest Landscape | Roshni Lodhia/Legado

360° Community-Led Change

Through this partnership, Legado is supporting 20,000 people to create Legacy Plans that represent their collective vision for their Thriving Future.

After completing their Legacy Plans, the community members will work together with the support of The Pangolin Project toward their community-designed solutions to preserve their forests and rangelands in tandem with supporting their health, education, governance, and culture.

TK Thriving Future Goals and Priorities

Increase Access to Health Care While Respecting Samburu Medicine

  • Construct maternity shelter integrating Samburu traditional birth practices
  • Expand solar system to increase electricity in the maternity ward of the Ngilai Clinic

Improve Schools and Schooling Access

  • Improve our classrooms and schools with desks, toilets, and more space for our children to learn

  • Increase the enrollment and retention of students—particularly female students—through mentoring groups and creating awareness about the importance of education by sharing in community forums and meetings

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A young boy walks where the Nyekweri forest meets the Maasai Mara rangelands, home to iconic wildlife such as the giraffe | Roshni Lodhia/Legado

Creating Thriving Futures

Nyekweri’s Legacy Plan will then set the template for The Pangolin Project and other partners to support Nyekweri community members as they seek to conserve and restore 10,000 hectares of forest and rangelands where people, livestock, and pangolins can thrive.

The ultimate outcome is a Thriving Future in Nyekweri: a thriving ecosystem with a thriving people within it, where community champions have the resources they need to develop solutions to community challenges.

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Legado: Supporting Communities in Conservation Efforts

In June 2024, the Bridgespan Group featured Legado’s work in Ngilai to highlight the power and potential of community-led change in Northern Kenya.

In the article, Richard Newman Lenaseyan, a resident of Ntepees village in Ngilai, explains, “Earlier, projects came dictating what the community needs, but now it’s changing. We feel in charge of identifying our needs and developing a plan.”

Read more about how community-led change is supporting Thriving Futures in Ngilai here.

5 minute read

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Ngilai community members mark the official opening of the new maternity shelter, which was envisioned, built, and completed as a Thriving Future priority | N. Leringato/Legado

Respecting Maternal Health

Community members agreed to kick off their Legacy Plan by building a maternity shelter, the first priority agreed upon as part of the vision to create their Thriving Future. The shelter enables traditional Samburu birth methods while increasing access to supplemental or emergency care.

On May 5, 2023, the maternity shelter opened with a joyful celebration with the community champions who led the work. “Despite all the challenges we faced as we constructed this shelter, with drought being the hardest, we stuck together," Purity Lekipila said.

Visit our blog to read an inspiring story of how the vision of the Ngiliai community members for a maternity shelter came to life

    Our Partner in Southwest Kenya

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    The Pangolin Project is a non-profit organization based in Kenya dedicated to securing a future for African pangolins in the landscapes where they live. It works to identify and conserve important pangolin populations in the Nyekweri forest and adjacent rangelands, raising awareness and using science to inform conservation strategies. Dedicated to collaboration, The Pangolin Project delivers all its programs in partnership with communities and wildlife rangers. It is committed to supporting protected area managers and communities to better understand the status of pangolin populations in their areas, and to develop strategies to protect them.
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    The Ngilai Community Conservancy (Ngilai Conservation Project) is a Northern Kenyan organization run by a board of 15 democratically elected members by the community every three years through community assembly as guided by Community Land Act of 2016. The conservancy works across wildlife conservation, rangelands management and community development.
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    Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) is a membership organization owned and led by the 43 community conservancies it serves in northern and coastal Kenya. NRT was established in 2004 as a shared resource to help build and develop community conservancies, which are best positioned to enhance people’s lives, build peace, and conserve the natural environment. NRT is tasked by community leaders to support indigenous communities in their own objectives to cooperatively develop locally-led governance structures that complement traditional, indigenous systems, run peace and security programmes, take the lead in natural environment management, and manage sustainable businesses linked to conservation.