With a BSc in Environment, Economics and Ecology, Sarah has long been fascinated with the challenge of balancing human needs and environmental protection.
When eco-tourism specialists Alex and Diana Hunter first visited the Sera Conservancy (a member of the Northern Rangelands Trust) in 2008, they were immediately captivated by the area.
It was very dry at the time, with not a blade of grass, or a leaf or flower in sight. Nevertheless, they were struck by its stark beauty; the red sand, white quartz rocks, kopjes, and occasional glimpses of gerenuk, elephant, jackal and giraffe.
On a return visit, after the December rains, they found an equally striking, verdant landscape – a complete contrast to what they’d fallen for, but every bit as compelling.
Alex and Diana run Insiders Africa, which has just signed a ground-breaking lease agreement with the Sera Conservancy Trust.
Under the agreement, the tourism company will develop conservation-based tourist facilities in the Conservancy, which will be handed over for community ownership at the end of the lease.
The 30-year operating lease will give Insiders Africa the flexibility and long-term security to develop a range of tourism opportunities designed to benefit the local community at Sera for generations to come.
Plans include walking safaris and a research camp for use by special interest groups and schools.
The fee structure for the lease is linked to the performance of the business, with a portion of the profits feeding back into the community.
It is hoped that this financial incentive will improve conservation efforts within the conservancy as well as improving the well-being and security of local communities.
Set in a larger landscape of approximately 300,000 hectares, Sera is seen as a critical ‘anchor’ conservancy in Kenya, linking Laikipa and Sambura community conservancies with those neighbouring Sera-Melako to the north and Biliqo-Bulesa to the east.
Pastoralist people have traditionally used the area as a seasonal watering point during droughts. The conservancy’s perennial natural springs at Kisima Hamsini are a remarkable geographical feature, supporting both resident and migratory populations of wildlife.
Kenya's striking landscape supports many vulnerable and threatened species, such as the African elephant
Sera Conservancy Trust was formed in 2001 and is a member of the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) – a community-led initiative representing politically and socially marginalised pastoralist communities in northern Kenya.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has supported NRT since its inception, and along with other institutional partners is helping to develop capacity and self-sufficiency of community conservancies in biodiversity conservation and natural resource management.
Talking about the new agreement between Insiders Africa and the Sera Conservancy Trust, Ian Craig of NRT explains, “The transition of such a remote area as Sera over a mere seven years to a point where it can host international guests is a fantastic achievement that reflects the support shown by many innovative and crucial partners including FFI, Kenya Wildlife Service, Tusk Trust and USAID.
“We are now working to reintroduce black rhino into Sera, and have recently submitted an environmental impact assessment to the Kenyan government. It is an exciting time.”