The Northern Rangelands of Kenya are a spectacularly beautiful region with expansive landscapes and productive ecosystems capable of supporting an amazing array of wildlife. From herds of majestic elephants to the nearly extinct Black Rhino, the region is important not only for its wildlife but for the 26 tribes in the region that live off the land as they have done for thousands of years. Today, a multitude of threats face both the people and the animals of the Northern Rangelands. From poaching, that undermines not only the herds of elephants, but the tourist economy of the region to overgrazing, soil erosion and unpredictable weather patterns – that threaten the food and water security of the region and result in increased conflict – the challenges are robust. Despite these issues, much progress has been made in the region and there is reason for hope.
While many groups have come together to work in the Northern Rangelands on these complex issues, none have worked to systematically engage women in finding solutions for both poverty and environmental management. In October 2012, New Course began efforts in Kenya to assess the gender aspects of the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) strategy and identify opportunities to better engage women to contribute to conservation and development goals. NRT is a community-led initiative, its members represent politically and socially marginalized pastoralist communities of Northern Kenya, who are predominantly dependent on a purely livestock‐based livelihood. In fact, the people of the Northern Rangelands are among the most economically marginalized people living in Kenya.
In particular, objectives of the program were to:
- collect information to better understand the challenges facing women
- collect information to better understand the capacity of NRT
- identify opportunities for trainings to build the capacity of NRT and its members to better integrate gender into their planning and activities.
Following initial assessment, a workshop was held in partnership with the Greenbelt Movement, which brought together 16 men and 9 women community leaders from across 18 of NRT’s 19 community conservancies and 8 distinct ethnic communities in the northern rangelands area of Kenya. It was one of the first opportunities for community leaders from across the conservancies to meet, exchange their experiences and learn from each other with a particular focus on women and leadership.
The workshop culminated in an action planning session where participants identified themes and activities that were to be followed up on by themselves, their communities and their conservancies