A Guide To Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust

Namunyak means blessed in local Samburu language. It is blessed becaus e this rangeland makes game drives and seeing wildlife very easy. It surrounds the Mathews mountain range, a rich expanse of lush indigenous forest which hosts abundant populations of wildlife and rare plant species.

Namunyak began as two group ranches, and over 15 years, driven by the need to protect the Mathews range, has expanded to include the four neighbouring group ranches surrounding the Mathews forest. Sarara, Sapache, Ngilai West, Ngilai Central, Ngare Narok and Ndonyo Wuasin group ranches now make up the 394,000 hectare Namunyak Conservancy. It was one of the first community conservancies in northern Kenya to be established, along with IL Ngwesi.

Due to its size, Namunyak is divided up into three management units; Naluwuon, Ngilai, and Kalepo. Each unit has its own HQ, management staff, board, rangers and grazing committees, and run independently under the Namunyak Conservancy umbrella. There is an umbrella manager and an umbrella board with representation from the unit boards.

The People

Almost half of all NRT conservancies are home to Samburu, a semi-nomadic, pastoralist community closely related to the Maasai. They have a wealth of knowledge built up through decades of farming the harsh terrains of northern Kenya. But as changing times bring increased pressure on natural resources, grazing cattle has become a volatile livelihood. By joining NRT, pastoralists can combine their traditional knowledge with m

odern science to more sustainably manage their rangeland, and other members of the community have means of diversifying their income through alternative livelihoods, so as not to rely so heavily on livestock.

To give pastoralists both security and incentive, the ‘Livestock to Markets’ (LTM) programme is being rolled out in several conservancies, including Namunyak. This is an innovative approach to the marketing challenges faced by pastoralists in the region. Herders often trek cattle for days to market, only for transporters to pay poor prices for low-grade livestock. The LTM program provides an alternative market, paying fair prices, purchasing directly from the conservancies, and buying selectively to reward good conservancy performance. This market aims to incentivise conservancies to practice effective, transparent governance and sustainable natural resource management by linking local livestock owners in high performing conservancies to ready markets. So far (from 2011 up to 2014) direct purchase of livestock put  168.5 million Kenyan Shillings (approximately 1.75 million USD) in the hands of over 2,000 pastoralists.

As part of NRT’s focus on integrating ethnicities, Namunyak will be one of the 4 community conservancies to hold a sport for peace event, where members from any position of the community can compete and connect with members of the neighboring Borana and Rendille communities.

Namunyak Wildlife Conservation
Namunyak Wildlife Conservation


Namunyak surrounds the Mathews Mountain range and includes the Kitich forest; a treasure trove of rare and often uncatalogued species. It is home to the rare and beautiful De Brazza colobus monkey and the IUCN red-listed Powsyll, an endemic sub species of theCycadencephalartos tegulaneus. Namunyak serves as a critical wildlife refuge for many species and holds abundant populations of giraffe, gerenuk, leopard, African wild dog, impala lion, greater kudu and many bird species. The conservancy is particularly important for elephant as they move seasonally between the Mathews Range and the Mt. Kenya and Ngare Ndare Forest, a route they have been using for decades. Poaching for ivory in the area has been particularly bad recently, with 19 elephants shot by poachers within the first three months of 2012.

Given the scale of the problem, Namunyak is of particular focus for the ‘9.1’ anti-poaching unit. Established with the help of NRT in 2009, the team consists of 12 rangers drawn from all four conservancies in which it operates (including Melako, Sera and Biliqo-Bulesa.) All rangers were trained by a former British army officer and have also received advanced medical training, and are a vital weapon in the war on poaching. They work closely with the 61 local rangers from the Namunyak communities. Over the past three years (2012 – 2014) 9-1 and conservancy rangers have contributed to a 43% reduction in elephant poaching in NRT conservancies. This, at a time when other African countries face rising poaching levels, is a significant achievement, and one which the rangers are rightfully proud of.

Another aim for Namunyak is to continue to develop the Namunyak Community Forestry Association, and establish co management agreements with the Kenya Forest Service in order to effectively manage their precious Kitich.

Visiting Namunyak

Namunyak hosts two very successful luxury tented camps:

  • Sarara – Opened in 2005, the ten-bed Sarara is managed through an external operator, Sarara Management Limited. It has been a vitally important part of Namunyak’s conservation and community development efforts. In 2009, revenue to the conservancy from Sarara Camp totaled more than $90,600, and in 2012 this figure rose to $161,700. As with all lodges in community conservancies, 60% of this revenue are used to fund community projects (such as school bursaries or water projects) while 40% goes towards the annual operations a cost of the conservancy.
  • Kitich Camp – Kitich Camp has existed in one form or another since the 1960s, established as a rhino monitoring camp, and to support the local forest community. It was taken over by tourist operators Cheli & Peacock in 2009, and joined the Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The tourism operation employs 80% of its staff from local communities and the conservancy receives income from the operation through conservation fees charged to guests on a per person per night basis. Namunyak has the highest grossing tourism revenue of any NRT member conservancy. Tourism income totalled US$ 184,850 in 2013, and US$ 176,200 in 2014.

Recently, Kirisia Safaris, specialists in camel trekking safaris, entered the conservancy for the first time and prospects are good for continued business with them in the future.

The Future for Namunyak

With assistance from NRT and partner organizations, Namunyak aims to achieve the following in the coming years:

  • To convene, along with all other NRT community conservancies, in annual general meetings to share plans and progress
  • To take part in a livelihood baseline survey, commissioned by NRT, with a view of determining the status and priority of education, health, water, jobs, food security, infrastructure and current availability of government services
  • To continue the strengthening of wildlife security and monitoring within the conservancy
  • To sign a partnership memorandum of understanding, along with all other community conservancies, between themselves and NRT
  • To register as not-for-profit
  • To develop a conservancy management plan endorsed by the constituent community
  • Implement a conservancy constitution, with the aim of building accountability, transparency, equity and effective representation in Namunyak.
  • To take part in peace building exercises with surrounding communities
  • Train community members in effective management of existing water infrastructure
  • To establish forest management plans, and training of forest management committees
  • Location Ngilai West and Central, Sarara & Sabache Group Ranches and Ndonyo Wasin and Ngare Narok community lands, Wamba Division, Samburu East District
    Postal address PO Box 88, Wamba
    Manager Fred Njagi
    Contact E: namunyak@nrt-kenya.org T: 0723 640 550/ 0202 471 573
    Ethnicity Samburu
    Population 13,200
    Land Ownership Group ranch status but without title for Ngilai West, Sarara and Sabache, and Ndonyo Wasin and Ngare Narok areas as trust land
    Core Conservation Area 394,000 hectares
    Main Livelihood Pastoralism and tourism
    Key Wildlife Species Elephant, leopard, reticulated giraffe, buffalo, African wild dog, greater kudu, the rare De Brazza colobus monkey
    Year of Registration 1995
    Staff Employed from the Community 76
    Annual Operating Budget US$ 230,000

Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Contacts

Attraction Type:    Wildlife, Scenery & Landscapes
Category:    Wildlife Conservancy, Mountain
Region:     North Rift
Telephone:     254 64 31405
Email:     info@nrt-kenya.org
Entrance Fee:    Yes