What is the future for wildlife in northern Kenya?

The poaching of wildlife in northern Kenya is well documented and should not be underplayed, however, what remains largely unseen is the important part that local communities play in conserving and protecting the wildlife that they live alongside. If it is to survive at all, wildlife in northern Kenya will require support and engagement from local communities with which it shares land, thus allowing its safe passage along centuries-old migration routes across tribal lands.

This is particularly important for species such as Grevy’s zebra, and the elephant, who have large home ranges and require access to large tracts of land. Ensuring their well-being requires mobile units of multi-ethnic rangers who can respond quickly and effectively to any given situation—not just poaching—without fear of tribal conflict.

The majority of Kenya’s wildlife exists outside the network of national parks and reserves, predominantly in private and community conservancies, and on community land. Most of the northern rangelands are community owned and still host abundant wildlife. However, most local people accrue no benefit from the wildlife with which they share their land, and until now, have seen no value in protecting it, particularly at the expense of livestock.

Indeed, those communities with land suitable for conservation have had no access to the expertise, resources, or the donor agencies that are required to develop community-based conservation. Now, under the stewardship of the Northern Rangelands Trust, communities in northern Kenya have come together as a collective and are starting to see the benefits of cooexisting with wildlife.

In these remote areas, wildlife can be used alongside livestock to spread financial risk, reduce vulnerability to droughts, increase food security, and generate the capital needed to help communities improve their welfare and bring peace.

—David Chancellor

Editors’ Note: Don’t miss the work of all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Earth Awards 2015. In total, you’ll find 34 unique points of view inspired by the earth, nature and our shared surroundings. Beauty, destruction, wonder and hope—these are timely, important works that shouldn’t be missed!