Laikipia is physically diverse with open grasslands, basalt hills and dense forests. It is also rich in wildlife and supports many domestic herds. The land and animals are owned by a cross section of landowners and land users (including local community groups, private ranchers, pastoralists, small scale farmers and tourism ventures).
Laikipia doesn’t lie in government designated protected areas, its conservation success and natural resource management are a result of combined efforts by land owners and users. However these natural resources that the people and animals and residents depend on are increasingly under pressure. In order for the habitat to be conserved and the natural resources used sustainably there must be a financial incentive for local communities.
The Conservation Enterprise Programme, a joint initiative between Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) and African Wildlife Forum (AWF), is designed to facilitate, co-ordinate and promote the development of bio-enterprises that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, amongst rural resident and pastoral communities in Laikipia and Samburu. The programme also creates opportunities for women and the less advantaged to play a strong role in the business operations, particularly in harvesting, processing and packaging. Without compromising their other commercial opportunities, the bio-enterprises complement and integrate with traditional livelihoods activities. The collective commercialization of the bio-enterprises gives rise to community ownership and profit sharing.The programme also provides rural communities long-term assistance and advisory input, opportunities to obtain trade, finance, investment loans from ethical investment companies, together with a micro-banking facility.
By creating a direct link between the conservation of natural resources and ethically based commercial enterprise the programme will contribute towards a vibrant indigenous habitat and reverse the trend of environmental degradation in the Laikipia area.
The programme is positioned within a not for profit company, Desert Edge Bio-trading Company, which provides the platform to establish ethical partnerships with commercial entrepreneurs and assist with the tangible and viable development of individual and community owned small and medium rural businesses. Desert Edge adopts a unique approach to the way it does business: