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Laikipia Looks to the Future

By Lizzie Odegaard

October 2017

Every WhatsApp message, email, and phone call, that I received from my friends in Kenya delivered more dire news. The drought that had descended on Laikipia in January, brought the pure devastation of starvation and disease. Nature was rearing its unsympathetic head; wildlife died by the many thousands and people’s livelihoods were lost. The suffering knew no bounds. And still, rain refused to fall, leaving the earth frail and brittle, hard and unyielding.

A year after my last visit, and after months of unrest, disquiet, and animosity between strangers and neighbors, I returned to a country full of promise.

Having arrived on an encouragingly full, and very smooth and comfortable, KQ flight, I was welcomed enthusiastically at the airport by Jimmy. He spoke of his country’s resilience and an eagerness to move forward and to put the past behind them. As we drove up-country through the early morning light, I was struck by how clean and tidy everything looked. I noted that the many reminders of the new plastic carrier bag ban in Kenya, and the efforts of the new Nairobi governor, were clearly having an effect.

The dawn mist soon gave way to bright sunshine and blue skies, expanses of endless cerulean that I’ve seen nowhere else in the world. The red ochre murram was familiarly caked and dusty, and beyond that, stretching to the horizon, was The Bush. Varied grasses waving lazily in the breeze, dotted with acacias, standing proud and sentry- like, and crisscrossed here and there with fences denoting separation for one crop or another.

And we journeyed on, the bush colored by the vibrant flowers of aloe veras standing out against the undulating green landscape. The wildlife started to appear before us. Zebras and elephants, giraffes and impala. They were all so familiar, and yet it was always a treat to see them, especially knowing how tumultuous the past nine months had been. My ever-present thought, as the kilometers ticked by, was of the resilience of nature, and of people.

When I arrive at my destination, Mugie, I am greeted by the sight of lush and verdant bush, populations of elephants that are more robust than ever, and at the Mugie Conservancy we have a new litter of seven young lion cubs.

Mugie Ranch is working tirelessly to develop innovative strategies to engage the neighboring communities in thinking towards the future.

Mugie has formed a new business plan that revolves around the opportunity for pastoralists to invest directly in sustainable farming of livestock or crops. Through wildlife and land conservation, the creation of a wildlife corridor, and protection of many species of endangered game, Mugie is striving to rehabilitate the surrounding range lands.

A revitalized focus on community outreach projects has brought about a collaboration between the Mugie school, Mugie clinic, and The Moyo Foundation. In January, we will be piloting regular community education sessions, committed to furthering access to healthcare, empowering community members to take control of their well-being, and expanding the health services offered by the clinic.

Both the camp and lodge located on Mugie practice eco-friendly tourism and take every measure to act for the betterment of the earth. The luxury tented camp blends into its natural surrounds, and with an emphasis on sustainability it brings solar technology, and conservation into a homey and welcoming environment. Mutamaiyo House, sits on the ridge toward the northwest of Mugie with sweeping views over the animal conservancy, allowing its guests to relish in the peaceful luxury that it offers.

I am proud of, and humbled by, the example that Kenya is setting, of a resilient country working to rebuild and looking to the future.