Field Visit to Tharaka and Ii Ngwesi Communities

Field Visit to Tharaka and Ii Ngwesi Communities

on 12th and 13th August, 2023 Respectively.


We have organized two field visits. These field visits intend to meet two different communities; Tharaka community in Tharaka Nithi County and Il-Ngwesi community in Laikipia County. The visits to Tharaka Community and Il Ngwesi community will happen on 12th and 13th August, 2023 respectively. From the venue at the Bantu Mountain Lodge to Tharaka, it is a distance of 134 KMs (2hours and 30 minutes’ drive) and 50 KMs to Il Ngwesi Community Conservancy.

Tharaka Community

Tharaka are the Bantu speaking ethnic community living in the Eastern part of Mt. Kenya. Their language is known as Kiitharaka. The Society for Alternative Learning and Transformation (SALT) has been accompanying the community for the last ten years to assert their rights to decision-making by incorporating local citizens' assemblies, ecological responsibility, and livelihood sovereignty. The community has been recalling their clan governance system and customary laws and, with it, their ancestral responsibilities to protect their territory and cosmology. They have used ecological maps and calendars and now the life plans to critically analyse their economic and political situation and understand how they’ve come to where they are. This is the groundwork out of which a strong approach that addresses root causes energetically based on a deep understanding.

Tharaka traditional territory is also known as Nthiguru iri Njuki (The Land of the Bees). It is located between the foothills of Mount Kenya (leeward side) and River Tana, a semi-arid land which is characterized by low-land scrub and some hill-ranges. The area borders two national parks: Mount Kenya Forest National Park and Meru National Park and has significant populations of bees and water birds, some like the Madagascar Pratincole are on the IUCN Red List and are covered by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Water birds (AEWE). It is typical of the East Africa drylands; water is the most limiting resource in Tharaka with two rainy seasons netting only 500ml-750ml per year. Low rainfall limits the possibilities for rain-fed crop production where only drought resistant crops can survive. The area is a vital lifeline for dry season grazing of tens of thousands of heads of livestock and wild animals and for fishing – indeed agro-pastoralism and livestock production are the main economic mainstay. Climate change, together with ecological degradation, is resulting in the drying up of the permanent rivers, periodic floods or droughts, leading to loss of livestock and biodiversity. Communities are already experiencing extreme temperatures of 40 degrees. There have been both human-to-human and animal-to-human conflicts over dwindling water and pastures. Fishing and farming livelihoods are being severely impacted in the area and resilience to climate change is being challenged. In the face of this increased vulnerability to climate change, there have been efforts to by SALT and other organizations to increase coping capacities by augmenting existing traditional adaptation mechanisms and supplementing them with new options that are tailored to the unique local contexts. SALT has facilitated are leading to the revival of a diversity of lost and extinct seeds in the area that are more drought resistant.

The Kibuka Grand Falls dam and the iron being prospected in Kithiori in Tharaka central are emerging as national and county government flagship projects that are likely to seriously affect this community.

Il Ngwesi Community Conservancy

Il Ngwesi means the people of the wild life. In 2016 Il Ngwesi was 20 years old. Supporting both communities and wildlife, it remains the only upmarket lodge that is both owned and run by the community. Its significance cannot be overstated. Its remarkable story is told here as it enters its third decade:

Neighboring Lewa, Borana and Lekurruki, Il Ngwesi covers 16,500 hectares and is home to the Il Lakipiak Maasai – ‘people of wildlife’. Truly special, this award winning enterprise combines eco-tourism with sustainable environmental management and community development. In the mid-1990s, Il Ngwesi became the first Maasai Group Ranch in Laikipia to join Lewa on a conservation and community development journey with a vision far beyond its borders. Community elders agreed to set aside 8,675 hectares of their grazing land for conservation. In 1996 with funding from USAID through the Kenya Wildlife Service, the superb Il Ngwesi Eco-Lodge was built. From the 80 men that worked for 10 months to build the lodge, 10 were selected to be trained to run the lodge and host tourists. A team of rangers (now totaling 16) was also trained at Lewa to oversee security, and monitor and protect people and wildlife.

Il Ngwesi Lodge is unique. It is the only lodge that is purely owned and run by the community. Most of the revenue is ploughed back into the community. Constructed entirely out of local materials, the award winning Il Ngwesi Lodge is perched on the edge of the Mararoi hills close to the Ngare Ndare river in Laikipia District in Kenya, with breathtaking views towards Samburu as far as the eye can see.