Nasuulu’s “Whole”-in-One


Resson Kantai Duff, Projects Officer

Date Published

All the troops are gathered over the hill to the South of STE, in Nasuulu conservancy. This time, it is for a joyous and momentous occasion. Finally, the conservancy is breaking ground on its headquarters.

Three years ago this landscape was fraught with conflict. Four tribes that traditionally do not get along were fighting for supremacy, spilling both the blood of their fellow men and of the elephants and other wildlife that roamed there. Poaching was so rife that every elephant that crossed into the conservancy from the safety of the parks was in immediate danger.

This triggered the start of STE’s Emergency Response to the Poaching Crisis sponsored by the Liz Clairborne Art Ortenberg Foundation (LCAOF). While STE put men on the ground to train and equip scouts, we also collaborated with NRT on a higher level, helping to ensure that, where governance was concerned, each community got fair representation on the Board of Elders. The conservancy would have equal numbers of transparently chosen members: Boranas, Turkana, Samburu and Somalis. The same formula would be applied in choosing the community game scouts who secure the conservancy from banditry and poaching.

The sun is strong as we walk to the site of the new headquarters.  All four tribes are sitting together in their various social strata: the cackling women in their colourful dresses on one side, the young men donning beautiful morani regalia on the other and the old men and dignitaries on another.

The dances present a chance to outdo each other in a much more joyous way than the way of the clenched fist. With skirts flying in the wind, each tribe takes to the stage. The Samburus leap and hurl their necks and feathered heads in the most beautiful peacock-like display. The Boranas clap and move their arms; short jumps revealing great dexterity in their red and gold swirling dresses. Somali women surprise with their excited expressive hand movement beneath black garb, while the Turkana men stamp and kick dust in the air, joined by their scout representatives in uniform.

The Borana Dancers

The Somali Dancers

The Turkana Dancers

As the dust dies down and each dignitary speaks, it is clear that a time of peace has descended on the conservancy, and they get advice on how best to collectively govern their people, land and wildlife. So far the gun of the poacher has been stunned to silence here for months; the communities have taken charge of their landscape. In 2012, we lost 26 elephants in this region to poaching; in 2013 only 2 elephants elephant were reported killed in these bounds.

Watch a short video of the ceremony here

Figure 1: STE collects all the data for dead elephants in the region under our Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants program. As seen from the maps, only 2 elephants were killed in the region south of the reserve in 2013 – Nasuulu – compared to 26 in 2012 and 12 in 2011, because of increased community conservation, collaboration and policing in the region.

We hear important speeches from the Nasuulu Board Chairman Omar Gabra, the Conservancy Manager Isaiah Ekiru, elder Mzee James Lemaina as well as speeches from Iain Craig of NRT, Jonah Western of LCAOF and Iain Douglas-Hamilton of STE. David Daballen, STE’s ambassador, translates all the speeches so that everyone present can understand.

David Daballen, STE (right) and Tom Lalampaa, NRT (left) Speak to the crowd

The occasion ends in exhilaration at the new journey, and the work of building a headquarters, a place where each “quarter” of this conservancy can come and air its grievances and hopes, begins in earnest.

Chairman of STE Fritz Vollrath celebrates with Nasuulu Chairman Omar Gabra