Strengthening Local Voices for the Kenyan Conservancy Movement 

By Joy Juma, Portfolio Manager, Kenya


Kenya’s conservancies movement is one of Africa’s most important conservation opportunities. Over the past decade, conservancies created by individual landowners or communities have roughly doubled the area under some level of conservation management. The Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) was created in 2013 to serve as the collective voice and advocate for this diverse grassroots conservation movement.

In 2018, KWCA recognized the need to better understand its constituents at regional level, in particular the structure, governance, and capacity of the regional associations that work with conservancies in different parts of the country. This led to a joint effort with Maliasili, with support from the BAND Foundation, to undertake a review that analyzed how conservancies are developing and being supported on a regional level. The findings will help inform KWCA’s strategic direction over the next several years as it works to build a stronger and more cohesive national community conservation movement.

The review revealed the diversity of the Regional Associations that have emerged around Kenya over the past decade as conservancies have formed in different settings. These Associations are independent entities working at ecosystem level. They provide a strong link between KWCA at national level and the conservancies on the ground. If these Associations are well established and connected to the conservancies, there is cohesion and improved coordination in the different regions around the country.

Some regional associations such as Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA), are relatively mature organizations running a suite of fairly sophisticated programs, focused on areas such as anti-poaching, enterprise development, and conservancy governance frameworks. These efforts are funded by diverse sources for sizeable organizational budgets of up to several million dollars annually.

Other regional conservancy bodies, such as the Taita Taveta Wildlife Conservancies Association (TTWCA) and the Baringo County Community Conservancies Association, are in a much earlier stage of development, just beginning to clarify their core goals and strategy and put in place human and financial resources to support their members. These groups represent the next phase of conservancy development in Kenya, as the movement spreads to these areas where conservation efforts have not yet taken root, but significant interest exists at the local level to improve conservation measures, develop tourism, and learn from other regions.

These findings highlight a range of key opportunities for KWCA in the next stage of its own development, including how best to address the needs of the different Regional Associations and develop a strategy that will ensure KWCA delivers on its mandate. This process will also provide an opportunity for KWCA to critically examine its capacity and define how this can be strengthened over time through strategic partnerships. In 2019, Maliasili will partner with KWCA in the development of its new strategic plan as well as explore joint plans for the growth of some of the younger, emerging Regional Associations. We are proud to be able to contribute to this pioneering movement in Kenya that seeks to transform conservation in Kenya by putting communities and landowners who live alongside wildlife at the center of policy and practice.

These [conservancies] are the kinds of locally rooted, entrepreneurial approaches that will be needed across Africa to turn the tide on declining wildlife populations. The Mara conservancies are a reminder that where wildlife can generate sufficient economic returns for local landowners, people’s relationship with wildlife can shift from persecution to conservation.
— Daniel Sopia, MMWCA Executive Director, and Fred Nelson, ‘Local conservancies create new hope for wildlife in Kenya’s Maasai Mara’, Mongabay, March 2018.


What Makes Maliasili Unique?

- Dickson Kaelo, CEO, Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA)