Community Conservancy model of conservation and income generation for local people

Ol Kinyei Conservancy
Published: 09 May 2018
Last edited: 02 October 2020
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In late 1970’s, Kenya started witnessing rapid degradation of the community lands bordering the national parks and reserves.  Besides threat to wildlife, this degradation was also a threat to community livelihoods as it led to more poverty and ecological marginalisation. The founding of Ol Kinyei Conservancy was motivated by desire to stem this degradation and the need to conserve wildlife and habitats by partnering with the communities living on those lands and provide them with real and sustainable benefits from wildlife and wilderness areas.  This was the founding principle of Porini model, of protecting indigenous resources to generate income. In this model, you have a low-density ecotourism venture/s whose income goes towards the community as incentive to preserve ecosystem health. It is now widely accepted as a conservation solution beneficial to people and environment and is being used in several other places around Maasai Mara and rest of Kenya.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Grassland ecosystems
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Indigenous people
Local actors
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Changes in socio-cultural context
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 13: Safeguarding genetic diversity
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
(I)NDC Submission


OL KINYEI CONSERVANCY, Narok, Kenya | Eselenkei Group Ranch, Amboseli, Kenya
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The solution addresses challenges of environmental degradation which leads to destruction of habitats and loss of biodiversity manifested by massive decline in wildlife populations. This is especially so for large faunal species that require wide ranging areas. The social challenges include lack of benefits from community lands bordering protected areas and the associated poverty caused by frequent human wildlife conflict as both people and animals compete for scarce resources.

This causes the land owners to subdivide and fence their lands making them economically unviable and also unsuitable for conservation which is a loss to both communities, wildlife and environment. The main economic challenge is poverty as formal conservation models do not allow communities to earn direct income from wildlife and national parks which are property of the national and local governments, yet the lands bordering national parks are naturally better suited for wildlife than agriculture.


The communities are primary beneficiaries as they get direct and guaranteed income. The government gets less pressure to provide land for conservation and income to people. The wildlife and ecosystem also get a boost through increased space

How do the building blocks interact?

  1. Identify critical wildlife dispersal areas being degraded by fencing, unsustainable farming and other impacts. This is done by stakeholders and researchers
  2. Engage land owners to select and lease land for a conservancy at an annually appreciating rent per acre. This is done by private sector investors and communities
  3. Enter in lease partnerships with land owners and liaise with relevant government departments to ensure the leases are legal and registered. This is done by communities and investors
  4. Collect data on land use changes and cultural dynamics to guide development of lease terms and conditions. This is done by researchers
  5. Implement monitoring and study projects to establish the ecosystem changes in terms of habitat recovery and buildup in populations and movement patterns of wildlife. This is done by researchers in collaboration with conservancy management
  6. Use lease guarantees to set up ecotourism projects that generate income to offset the cost of conservancy lease and running costs. This is the bottom line that ensures success of the model as it supports all the other activities. This is done by private sector investors


The cardinal appeal of this solution is that it is not dependent on donor funding but rather on a self-propelling and mutually beneficial partnership between a private tourism activity and the community who voluntarily set aside a portion of their land for a wildlife conservancy that benefits them. The conservancy allows rehabilitation of land that was previously degraded and creates room for regeneration of wildlife populations including large mammals, which are highly endangered in most of their ranges. The buildup of wildlife in areas outside government national parks supports national efforts to conserve wildlife without putting any land use and economic pressure on the national government because of its sustainability. The communities earn guaranteed income from lease, without subjecting their land to subdivision, fragmentation, fencing and varying land uses including cultivation and de-forestation which would be inimical to conservation. Besides direct income from lease, the land owners benefit from direct and indirect employment that is generated from the ecotourism and conservancy management activities. The model also gives opportunity for educated people from the communities to spearhead environmental education and start community programs that will endear the conservancy to the people and further widen positive impacts of conservation



Ol Kinyei Conservancy

In December 2016, the Chairman of Gamewatchers Safaris and founder of Ol Kinyei Conservancy, Jake Grieves-Cook received the following update from the lead researcher at the Mara Lion Project:

"Something that I am very keen to highlight is the fact that we have found there to be a higher lion density in all conservancies combined as compared to the National Reserve. I find this quite remarkable given that (in ecological terms) the conservancies are relatively new. Naboisho, Ol Kinyei and OMC are all critical lion areas. OMC has the highest density of any of the protected areas, which is largely a product of the river density and favorable habitats. Ol Kinyei has the second highest density of lions of any protected area and is also a real "hotspot" of lions. While Naboisho has a lower density of lions, it still has very good lion numbers. I assume that many tourists still think of the Maasai Mara Reserve first when considering their holiday, but papers such as this will surely help in opening their eyes to the spectacular wildlife of the conservancies. I fully appreciate the huge undertaking of all those involved in the conservancies and hope this provides some positive news, the lions certainly flourish within them"

This was immensely inspiring, that Ol Kinyei is now said to be among the areas with highest densities of lion in Kenya, whereas their population is in decline in most other parts of Africa.

This shows how important habitat is for large mammals and is sure evidence of the importance of the conservancy model and how it is saving land for animals while generating income for communities.

The underlying message here is that urbanisation and changing land use happening in many places across Kenya, and resulting in loss of habitat for wildlife and a big decrease in numbers of wild animals can be profitably controlled. Instead of former rangeland becoming heavily settled or fenced and taken over by unviable farming, setting aside land as Conservancies is one way to provide more wildlife habitat and to give wild animals a space where they can live, using income from tourism to pay for conservation. Wildlife numbers have actually increased significantly in the conservancies which have developed in areas such as around Amboseli, the Mara and in Laikipia and they are providing a safe haven for many species, especially for the big cats, elephants and rhinos. Quite inspiring, for nature and people



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Daniel Njaga

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Ol Kinyei Conservancy
Ol Kinyei Conservancy