The Milgis Trust
To sustain the wildlife, habitat and the pastoral peoples way of life in Northern Kenya
The trust came 'to be' in 2004…. Its activities at present cover an area of over 6000 square kms, within the drainage of the West and North of Lenkiyou (Matthews) Range, the Ndoto Mountains, and further North to the Chalbi desert, and Mounts Nyiru and Kulal… These ‘Islands in the desert’ are valuable ‘water towers’ for the surrounding semi desert where there is a rich variety of wildlife and nomadic peoples. Our mandate is to ‘pave the way’ for the returning elephants and other wildlife… We believe wildlife and the pastoral peoples can live peacefully together, and benefit from each other, as they have done for so long, AND further more, there should be no borders!
The Trust is run from ‘Lkanto’ hill in Ilgwe Eldome, on the confluence of the dangerous Laana Nikan (Seiya) and fast moving Parsaloi. This is the beginning of the great Milgis Lugga (known locally as Elgerei) These huge under ground rivers and many others act as life lines for both people and wildlife alike.
We have been doing walking safaris throughout these beautiful Mountains for over 35 years, using camels for back up and have got to know the area and its amazing people extremely well! We felt that it would have been absolutely irresponsible NOT to start awareness of some kind to show up what is going on! It has been extremely challenging, and very hard work, but thanks to our visitors who come walking with us we have survived!
The results have been extraordinary! The most important thing being the Elephants are able to live in peace!
CONSERVATION….. At the crux of our work is the return of the elephants into this extremely important wildlife area, after their complete disappearance north of the Milgis Lugga. That means Ndotos, Mt Nyiru, Oldonyo Mara, Kulal, Suguta Valley, elephants were gone… This was due to rampant poaching of all wildlife for 30 years starting in the 1970s, there was no protection, and nobody seemed to care.. For reasons that remain obscure, the local people joined the poaching 'band wagon', abandoning centuries of peaceful and prosperous coexistence with their landscape and the wildlife that had supported their culture, beliefs and lifestyle for so long; in fact almost wiping out the wildlife.. Not only that, but burning and cutting their forests, and generally being irresponsible, with no thought for the future. It seems a result of misunderstandings and mix up between the modern and traditional world. Our mission is to reverse this trend, and restore the area so that PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE may live in HARMONY and every one has enough to live off. Already we can credit the reduction in the number of fires to the return of the elephants!
The Milgis Trust is run by Helen Douglas-Dufresne, Pete Ilsley and our manager Moses Supukan Lesoloyia, a Samburu who has a great belief in the pastoral peoples here.. He says the Samburu ARE natural conservationists, and with our gentle encouragement, things have turned round very quickly! Digby Douglas-Dufresne joined us in 2017, young and enthusiastic, with new ideas!.. The communities are very much involved, they can see for themselves the advantages of taking the responsibility of looking after the land and wildlife. The Trust employs 30 scouts/rangers uniformed, and equipped with radios, who have 24/7 contact with the base, and under them 40 Lkiramats (informants). They are chosen by their own communities to be their representatives, the important thing here and particular to the ‘Milgis’ they live within their own people, and all work together, they are not a ‘force’ on their own.. Together they keep a very serious check on poachers and indiscriminate traders entering the area. This is vitally important especially at this terrible time of high prices being paid for Elephant tusks, Cedar posts and Sandalwood amongst other things. They walk and talk with their neighbours and nomads alike, meet people collecting firewood and water, while their livestock graze and are watered. This living together with the communities is proving a big success in expanding the conservation messages. All the scouts come together [they walk] every two months to our base at Lkanto on the Milgis lugga,( collectively 1000 kms covered) where each one has his time to speak and to bring to the management any problems in their area. All the Lkiramats come together every 3 months.
Recognizing that in order to conserve the wildlife over the long-term, the people living with it need real economic benefits… The ‘Milgis’ has many different projects. We encourage tourism of course, but it’s not enough because of the remoteness.. Working in this way means that we don’t just employ scouts and informers to preach preservation, the members of the communities which are now benefiting, automatically become ambassadors for conservation, appreciating the value of protecting the flora and fauna! In turn giving great support to our work. These include…..
EDUCATION ……… 1... Schools... We have built and handed over to the residents and the county gov’t, an eco-friendly nursery and full primary School at Ilgwe Eldome near the Milgis base, which is heavily directed towards conservation. We have also built four eco-friendly nursery schools in Latakwen, Leiroyia, Noonchura and on Suruan (+ standard 1) at the top of the Ndoto Mountains... We help many small schools under the trees by substituting teachers’ wages. We use the schools we support to pass conservation messages through murals drawn on the walls.
2… The trust employs a dynamic ambassador for the protection of wildlife and habitat who travels to all the rather drab gov’t schools in our area, making conservation fun and interesting..
3... Education sponsor programme for the not so fortunate but clever boys and girls. Over 60 children have or are being supported through secondary schools from the area that the Milgis operates... Also over 20 students going to College and University around the country. Parents of these children reciprocate by helping the Trust in its conservation efforts. Many of these youngsters are coming back to the area as village admin, teachers etc and will continue the “Milgis” message ..
4.. Awareness.. We have a Eco film unit that travels throughout the area showing films of how it should be and talking to the communities.
HEALTH AND FAMILY PLANNING……….. We renovated the Latakwen Dispensary, which had reached a state of disrepair, and there was nowhere for people to get help except through us, now the county gov’t has taken responsibility and things have improved. We conduct mobile clinics to reach out to the people living far from Latakwen dealing with health, veterinary and family planning issues. We also try to help people who have difficult health issues that cannot be helped by the nurse by taking them to hospitals that can help. We conduct eye missions when funds allow, mainly dealing with Cataract and aiming to eradicate this dreadful and painful Trachoma problems, the nurse in Latakwen is trained to conduct TPR's.
FAMILY PLANNING is an important component of the trusts work, we feel this is PARAMOUNT if there is a future here. Our “Ramat E Losho” (preserving our society) film 2018 will show the reality of what’s happening, because of burning and over grazing etc.. and what will happen if we are NOT careful!
WATER... 1… We have a JCB back hoe tractor that is opening up pan dams for the wildlife and people in very dry areas. We have dug over 50 pan dams mainly on old elephant routes. This has been particularly helpful for the elephants on their return, as their natural dams had disappeared. The elephants themselves will maintain the pans from now. Their ability to keep pans open, and to clear thick bush is seen as a great advantage! Not only that, but traditionally the new marital home fire that never stops burning, HAS to be started with young elephant Dung! Sand dams are also part of our water programme..
2.. Where there is a need, and we feel the community has tried to look after their environment the trust has implemented solar projects for pumping water for villages and communities. Especially where wildlife can benefit as well. Water being the biggest problem in Northern Kenya. 15 communities now have well engineered solar water projects, which the trust keeps well maintained.
BEE’S/LIVESTOCK/VET PROGRAMMEs ..1. Digby’s passion is bees! In 2018 we have a new bee programme where by we have introduced good working bee hives, and a market for the honey.. in an effort to save the bees and stop the huge forest fires sometimes caused by casual bee harvesting! 2. We have an animal health worker who teaches ‘quality rather than quantity’ because the pastoralists tend to keep too many animals, as an insurance against drought and disease, forgetting the impact it has on the land. 3. We also teach them on proper use of livestock medication. 4.As a measure to avert predator conflict we vaccinate dogs, with anti rabies and deworm them so as to have healthy dogs in the manyattas(villages) to ward off carnivore attacks on their livestock. Also for the residents to live in peace with their dogs, as rabies is rife.
If by any small chance you may be interrested in funding any of the 'Milgis' projects we would be very grateful... Although I want you to know that just coming on a safari with us is great support!!!
WE THANK ALL OUR WONDERFUL SUPPORTERS!
Some of the beautiful & rare flora and fauna of Northern Kenya