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South Rift Association of Land Owners

 
 
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Using Culture, Science, and Traditions to Protect a Landscape

Kenya’s South Rift Valley landscape is a bridge between some of East Africa’s most important wildlife areas, with the Maasai Mara to the west and Amboseli to the east. It is a landscape where, for centuries, local Maasai pastoralist communities have lived with their livestock alongside wildlife, forests, and grasslands, helping maintain a landscape of exceptional biological and cultural diversity. But today this is an increasingly threatened landscape, confronting a growing human population, a culture in transition, and land use changes that threaten both wildlife and their livestock. 

SORALO was established a decade ago as a representative organization for the communities of this landscape, to help them find solutions to these challenges. SORALO works to help these communities secure rights to the land, develop management systems to keep the landscape healthy and intact, and create economic opportunities to help people benefit from their natural resources. SORALO has become a Kenyan leader in developing innovative local conservation models that promote co-existence of people and wildlife, integrate indigenous culture and conservation, and empower communities.

 
 
 
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240,000 people 

In 16 large communal areas


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1 million hectares 

In the SORALO landscape


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1500 Giraffe 


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15,000

Wildebeest, zebra and gazelles

 
 

Securing Open Landscapes

SORALO is increasingly focused on securing intact communal rangelands and preventing fragmentation in the South Rift. As an example of this work, in the community of Naroosura, located on the edge of the Loita Forest, SORALO is leading a community-based process of resource mapping and land use planning. This has led to halting of subdivision protecting around 160,000 hectares of communal land, a key step in maintaining connectivity and the movement of livestock and wildlife across this landscape. 

SORALO’s new strategic plan (2018) focuses on scaling up land use planning across the South Rift in areas that have not yet undergone subdivision, in order to secure communal lands and address the greatest threat to this landscape. 


Conservancies and Co-existence in the South Rift

The Shompole and Olkiramatian ecosystem comprise 150,000 hectares of contiguous community land within the wider South Rift landscape. They comprise a mosaic of bushland, woodland, swamps, and open grasslands, home to around 40 lions, 4,000 zebra, and 150 elephants. Both areas were established in the early 2000s in conjunction with ecotourism ventures. 

Research recently published by SORALO demonstrates how traditional rangeland management practices, supported by the land use zones of the conservancies, supports both livestock and wildlife. This blend of traditional and more formal management systems provides a model for the wider landscape, as well as other conservancies in Kenya.

 

The Shompole and Olkiramatian ecosystem represents one of the few areas in East Africa where wildlife and livestock coexist and move unimpeded through the seasonal migrations…we demonstrate the presence of diverse and abundant wildlife populations that coexist with a productive livestock population within a community governed ecosystem.
— Source: Russell, S., P. Tyrrell, and D. Western. 2018. Seasonal interactions of pastoralists and wildlife in relation to pasture in an African savanna ecosystem. Journal of Arid Environments.
The dry season grazing area used as a ‘grass bank’ and wildlife conservancy has consistently higher biomass and taller grass than that of the wet season grazing area, designated as the ‘livestock zone’.
— Source: Russell, S., P. Tyrrell, and D. Western. 2018. Seasonal interactions of pastoralists and wildlife in relation to pasture in an African savanna ecosystem. Journal of Arid Environments.

Wildlife recoveries in the South Rift landscape

 
  Source: KWS and TAWIRI aerial census data.

Source: KWS and TAWIRI aerial census data.