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Creating Thriving Futures with the

Ngilai Community Conservancy in Northern Kenya

Samburu women in a ceremony praying for rain in Northern Kenya | Roshi Lodhia/Legado

In 2020, we began working with local Samburu community members in Ngilai to help articulate the legacy they want to see for their community and landscape.

For hundreds of years, the nomadic pastoralists of Northern Kenya have forged a relationship with their environment to create one of the most unique and stunning biocultural landscapes in the world. Known as “the butterfly people” due to their striking ornaments and attire, the people of Samburu live in a region that is also home to some of East Africa’s most iconic wildlife such as reticulated giraffes, Grevy's zebras, and African elephants.
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2022 was the sixth consecutive year of extreme drought in the Horn of Africa

However, in recent decades extreme droughts and prolonged rainy seasons caused by climate change have disrupted traditional ways of pastoral living, resulting in extreme food insecurity. Women are doubly impacted because they often have to provide for their families in addition to being responsible for a variety of tasks in the household. To compound matters, women often face significant gender marginalization that impacts their ability to participate in major businesses in the area, such as buying and selling livestock.

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Ngilai’s expansive rangelands are critical to the Samburu’s pastoralist way of life, and the forest provides essential ecological services to its residents and tens of thousands more people in the surrounding landscape.
Mayanae Lemojong tending her camels in Ngilai, Northern Kenya | Roshni Lodhia/Legado

360° Community-Led Change

Working in collaboration with Legado and our partners, people from the Nigilai Community created the Nkishon Supat e Ngilai project, which translates from Samburu to "Ngilai’s Thriving Future."

As part of this project, local community members created the Nkishon Supat e Ngilai Legacy Plan—the first ever community plan for Ngilai and a milestone for the Samburu peoples.

To create a Legacy Plan, community members articulated their vision for the future and the steps they needed to take to make this vision a reality. They also identified what they already have in place to help them realize their vision of a Thriving Future, and what they will need to help make that future come to life.

Ngilai community members articulated the priorities below for themselves and their communities. Promoting gender equity was chosen as a fundamental underpinning to all of these goals.

Ngilai Community 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 Our Rangelands

  • Remove invasive species
  • Heal gullies to reduce erosion

  • Increase involvement of women and youth in grazing planning

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

Make Water Access Equitable Across Our Conservancy

  • Support all of our villages to have the same access to safe and clean water that is close by
  • Strengthen our Water Resource Users Association with more community members to better lead on our water rights
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To express the spirit of their Thriving Future, Ngilai community members created a crest to represent their community's legacy. This crest was then shared in each village in Ngilai when seeking feedback on the community priorities established for their Legacy Plan.
Ramat Nabulaa (written at the top of the crest) is a Samburu name that reflects the four elements that are drawn in the crest to represent a Thriving Future.

UNITY:

The two hands signify the unity of everyone coming together: women, youth, and men.

NATURAL RESOURCES:

The crest features the natural resources so important to Ngilai: a tree, representing the forest; a river, representing water; and wildlife. The lion is a sign of strength. The elephant, which for the Samburu people represents much more important than ivory, shows how they value wildlife. The two Superb starlings represent the beauty of the land.

EDUCATION:

Education is represented by a book and a pen for every boy and girl in the community.

CULTURE AND LIVELIHOODS:

Culture is represented by the chains and beaded belts at the logo. Community members generate income through the sale of costumes, beaded chains, and activities that attract tourists. Livelihoods are represented by a head of a bull, which is one of the primary sources of income and highly valued by the Samburu community.

Centering Women Leaders

At Legado, we know that when we Invest in women and help them evolve into leaders, they can help entire communities overcome poverty, and lead the way to improve children’s nutrition, health, and school attendance.*
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Creating a community crest in Ngilai, Northern Kenya | Roshni Lodhia/Legado
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Khadija Lelesara, a Ngilai community member, is working toward her personal legacy goal of planting trees (photo: Roshni Lodhia/Legado)
"I was asked to be on a school committee but declined because I did not have the courage or confidence to serve as a leader. But after the Thriving Futures training, I reconsidered and am now a committee member making decisions for the school."
Khadija Lelesara, Ngilai, Kenya

*Learn more about how women’s leadership promotes transformative change from The Gates Foundation, BOMA Project (link 1 - PDF) (link 2 - PDF) and CGIAR’s Gender Impact Platform 

Creating Thriving Futures

The Nkishon Supat e Ngilai team works with 22 communities in Northern Kenya to realize the legacies they have defined. See them come to action below:
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Ngilai community members mark the official opening of the new maternity shelter, 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 Partners in Ngilai

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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.
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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.