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By Salad Malicha



Biliqo meeting was convened in the wake of uproar, hue and complaints from some segment of the community for amicable solutions. Though the meeting was heavily clipped with emotions and political undertone.

Charri Community

Wildlife conservation is big business in Kenya. The tourism sector, which is mostly wildlife-based, is regularly among the top three contributors to the country’s GDP. As a result, the Kenyan government and the western media are more than eager to focus on the positive aspects of conservation.

There are undocumented myths, untruths and fictions about northern rangelands and, by extension, pastoralism do not contribute considerably to the country’s GDP, the state limited its investments in this region (Northern Kenya) and sector. By doing so, it placed itself on the side of conservationists against local communities who depend on pastoralism to survive. Conservation has been devolved to the Counties pursuant to the provision of Article 63 of the Constitution 2010 and actualised through Community Land Act, 2016.

Unsurprisingly, the conflict between white settlers and the pastoralist communities has attracted a lot of attention from various stakeholders, environmentalists, activists, media, professionals, civil society and political leaders.

Currently, the Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT) is the main driver for the establishment of wildlife conservancies not only in Northern Kenya but in the entire Kenya.

Wildlife conservationists perceive pastoralism as a poor land use method with little economic value, which is detrimental to wildlife.

Pastoralists, on the other hand, see wildlife conservation as a large-scale pastoral “land grab”. And as conservationists claim more and more land for “wildlife protection”, Kenyan pastoralists, who had been the true protectors of wildlife for centuries, are swiftly losing their livelihoods.

In Isiolo county, there is an ongoing battle between white settler conservationists from the Northern Rangelands Trust and pastoralist communities in Biliqo/Bulesa (Charri) occupying parts of the northern rangelands.

In the past year, dozens of people have been killed or injured as a ravaging drought hit the pastoral communities and increased tensions between the two groups. It is against this ugly backdrop that brainstorming session was organised by PPG/DCLI consortium to bring together both protagonists and antagonists on the community based conservancy financed by the NRT.


Discussions on wildlife conservation and pastoralism in Kenya are always cast in Manichean terms; wildlife conservancy is “good” and pastoralism is “bad”. This framing is rooted in Kenya’s colonial legacy, which the post-colonial African government not only inherited, but also enhanced.

Kenya’s first post-independence development plan, published in 1965, shaped the country’s negative perception of pastoralism. The plan divided the country into low and high potential regions, stating that high potential regions – regions expected to contribute significantly to the country’s GDP – would receive more investment. This was captured in Sessional Paper No.10 of 1965.



In East African dry lands, including Kenya’s Isiolo County, pastoral livestock herders share the landscape and its resources with wildlife, presenting challenges for both people and wildlife. The purpose of this article is to identify the benefits and burdens of wildlife and wildlife conservation for local Borana communities, across seasons.

Wildlife and its habitat has been the subject of dispute and friction in Africa, but many countries implement “community-based” approaches today which is the very conservation model employed by NRT.

This is of interest because human-wildlife conflict is a major concern of wildlife conservation worldwide. In Kenya, conservation is an important contributor to the national economy, but it also contributes to conflicts – and may contribute to benefits – at the local community level. Wildlife conservancies, community based efforts at natural resource conservation, have become major players in Kenya’s dry lands and are an important mechanism of bringing conservation to local communities.

Community-Based Conservation (CBC) which is considered a neo-liberal term was implemented, the central point of contention shifted from land to benefits, and local people changed their attitudes from distrustful and exclusive, to receptive and passive, to more active. This is the approach used by Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT).

At glance, Community-Based Conservation (CBC) seems like a brilliant idea. Combining the needs of the ecosystem with the needs of the communities living in them appears to be a win-win scenario infused with political, economic and social benefits.

In Isiolo County, community conservancies adopted by Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) work to protect wildlife and provide local people with increased income and security. The Charri forum was conducted to explore the relationships between wildlife and communities, and communities and conservancies. I further combed to find evidence that most burdens of wildlife are experienced by Borana communities in the dry season, a time of resource limitation.

Many Borana pastoralists expressed that they suffered several wildlife related losses, such as loss of human and livestock lives. These losses were, for most people, uncompensated, which presented hardship and is viewed as a cost of wildlife conservation.

When most people think of conservancies they think of wildlife conservation. Though this is certainly a key objective, conservancies are about much more than wildlife. They serve various economical, ecological and social roles in the community and the nation at large.

After a heated brainstorming, an official report will be returned to the communities who participated in the forum hoping to bring increased understanding, communication and collaboration to both conservancies and local communities.

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The forum was facilitated by subject experts to discuss the potentials, opportunities and concerns of the conservancies in the community lands. It was sponsored and organised by the Pastoralist Parliamentary Group (PPG) and Dry lands Learning and Capacity Building Initiative for Improved policy and practice in the Horn of Africa (DLCI) through their Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer Jarso Mokku who was non- partisan (notwithstanding his personal opinion).

The invited participants include the political leaders; Members of the Parliament; MPs, and Senators, Office of the Governor, the members of County Assembly (the Speaker, MCAs), Sub County administrators from both national and County governments from the Merti District, Members of the Northern Rangelands Trust -NRT Board, LEWA Conservancy, Board of the community Biliko-Bulesa Conservancy, key traditional Elders and few Civil Society Organisations working on Land and Peace in Isiolo County.


The invitation letter was quite vague marred with lots of missing links;
(a) There was no clear communication in the invitation letter as is conventionally expected;
(b) The venue was arbitrarily changed without proper notice in advance (The initial letter indicated Camp Simpire at Gotu and then later relocated to Bisan Biliqo trading centre.;
(c) There was no clear logistics for traveling for those invited except the elected leaders;
(d) There was no arrangement in terms lodging (a place to put up) which should have been indicated in the letter
(e) No mentioning of out of pocket allowances in the invitation letter for those who came from far flung areas.
(f) Most of those (Professionals) invited were unable to attend owing to the opaque manner and lack of clarity from the organisers.

Be that as it may, the meeting began on a wrong footing where it was initially restricted only those invited which made mammoth crowd to be locked and their entry supervised by security officers and chiefs. It was at this juncture that Senator Dullo and elected leaders read a riot acts that this is a pertinent matter that touches on an entire community and therefore it should be made open to all.

Earlier, the organisers of the forum invited 30 people (both proponents and opponents) from Bulesa Location which constitute (Bulesa town, Godha and Awarsitu) and another 30 from Biliqo location which encompasses Bisan Biliqo, Dhima Adho and Biliqo Marara though the meeting was made open to the public after instant intervention by the elected leaders. Security was completely tight.

Following leader’s intervention, the meeting was made public for all and sundry. In addition to communities living in Charri and Cherrab, the forum organisers and the security officials, the following leaders were present during the meeting.


1. Hon. Fatuma Dullo- Isiolo Senator/Deputy Majority Leader
2. Hon. Hassan Odha- Isiolo North MP
3. Hon. Rehema Dida- Isiolo W/Rep
4. Hon. Abshiro Halakhe- Nominated Senator
5. Hon. Hussein Golicha- Speaker, Isiolo County Assembly
6. Hon. Ali Dima- MCA Charri Ward
7. Hon. Yarrow Wario- MCA Burat Ward
8. Hon. Abdi Halakhe- Nominated MCA
9. Ahmed Galgalo- County Secretary- Representing the Governor
10. John Ondego- County Commissioner
11. Isiolo County DCIO
12. Senior intelligence Officer from Headquarters
12. KWS Representative


Pastoralists Parliamentary Group (PPG) is a national/local civil society organization which solely constitute of parliamentarians whose memberships are 106 in number drawn from pastoral-nomadic areas. It was established in 1998.

Objective: To be a critical parliamentary force that ensures security, unity and prosperity for pastoralists communities in Kenya. To provide political leadership in the development and implementation of policies and legislation that achieve pastoralism full potential.


√ Advocacy
√ Women empowerment
√ Organizational development
√ Research

Location of interventions: Isiolo, Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Lamu, Kajiado, Narok, Samburu, Baringo, West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet, Laikipia.

Communities covered: Borana, Rendille, Gabra, Somali, Dasanach, El Molo, Masaai, Orma, Wardei, Dorobo, Sakuye, Samburu, Turkana, Pokot, Kalenjin.

Networks / partners: East Africa Parliamentary Network, Women Caucus, Africa Parliamentary Group

PPG was the main sponsor of the Biliqo/Bulesa forum on community conservancy by Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) through Dry lands Learning and Capacity Building Initiative (DCLI). The forum was purposely organised to bring two warring factions who are proponents and opponents of Biliqo-Bulesa Conservancy divisive matter which is governed by NRT.

The Dry lands Learning and Capacity Building Initiative for improved policy and practice in the Horn of Africa (DLCI) is a knowledge management and advocacy resource organisation registered in Kenya. Previously known as REGLAP (the Regional Learning and Advocacy programme), it supports collaborative learning and documentation on dry lands development and advocacy for improved policy and practice. DLCI currently focuses its capacity building support in Kenya but draws from and disseminates findings to other countries with substantial dry lands in the Horn of Africa.

Vision: People in the dry lands of the Horn of Africa are empowered and equitably represented in resilience and development policy and practice.
Mission : To promote evidence-based policy and practice amongst dry land stakeholders.

In PART II, I will cover fears and concerns raised by the communities (proponents and opponents), NRT’s submissions, Elected leaders proposals and way forward.

About Whispers from the North

Whispers from the North is an online platform that appreciates the ecological, cultural and socio-economic diversities of Northern Kenya. We also acknowledge that the lives of the communities of northern Kenya has been shaped by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors which have led to complex challenge that calls for a multifaceted approach.

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