Westgate Community Conservancy
A model towards enrichment of local pastoral communities
West Gate forms part of the patchwork of community conservancy land in the heart of the northern rangeland area. Most NRT conservancies are home to a number of endangered Grevy’s zebra, which is only found in the north of Kenya and parts of Somalia. Herds of up to 500 can be seen scattered across the rugged plains of West Gate, as they use this corridor to get from Mpus Kutuk, Nasuulu, Samburu and Kalama to the vast northern territories of Namunyak and Sera. West Gate conservancy was initiated by the owners of Ngutuk Ongiron Group Ranch, who realized the importance of conserving the Grevy’s zebra, as well as a sustainable rangeland for the Samburu and their livestock. Today, West Gate stands as one of the most successful NRT conservancies, and is frequently visited by other communities who want to see community conservation in action.
West Gate also works closely with Ewaso Lions, a community based organisation who work to conserve lions and other large carnivores. Their flagship programme, Warrior Watch, trains Samburu warriors in conflict mitigation, basic data collection and the ecology of their area, so that they may build on their traditional protection role in their community by mitigating lion-human conflict in their area more effectively. Although the main role of the programme is to increase community engagement in conservation, the warriors also collect important data on wildlife presence, and assist West Gate conservancy rangers in security operations and wildlife monitoring.
Sasaab is a luxury 18 bed tented camp nestled on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. It opened in 2007 and offers guests a truly wild slice of Africa, giving them an opportunity to get close to wildlife and learn a bit about the vivid and proud Samburu culture. 60% of the revenue generated from the lodge goes into community projects such as school bursaries, water pumps and infrastructure, while 40% goes towards the annual operating costs of the conservancy.
This Destination in pictures
Where to find Westgate Community Conservancy
The Westgate Ecosystem
Thorny acacia scrubland is the archetypal image of Kenya’s northern rangelands. West Gate includes vast expanses of this rugged terrain with rocky outcrops dotted throughout. It also encompasses a part of the great Ewaso Nyiro River, Kenya’s third largest water course, which provides a vital and consistent lifeline to the communities and wildlife along its banks. Grevy’s zebra use West Gate as a safe and well watered passageway between the surrounding conservancies, which makes it an important area for the conservation and monitoring of the species.
West Gate was the first conservancy in NRT to trial the grazing and rangeland management programs, which involves land use planning and integrating new ways of grazing. The first phase involved 200 head of cattle owned by 20 pastoralists, on 1,200 hectares of land designated by the grazing committee. Cattle were bunched tightly together, then moved together to the next area so that the ground could rest. The conservancy also conducted a perennial grass reseeding programme and began eradicating the invasive Acacia reficiens species. This led to such an improvement in rangeland condition that the conservancy was able to increase the number of cattle in the area to 500 head, belonging to over 102 families, the following season. Furthermore, there was an obvious difference in the condition of the cows which had been involved in the grazing programme, and those who had not. The ones that had, fetched a better price at market than their age-mates who had been grazed traditionally, often selling for around 7,000 Kenyan shillings (US$83) more. Oryx, Grevy’s zebra and other wild herbivores started to return to these areas they had previously shunned for lack of forage too.