Ian Craig

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2013


This profile was prepared when Ian Craig was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
All too often, the response by governments, philanthropists, and organizations advocating for the protection of animals has been to build barriers between dwindling wildlife populations and their human neighbors. Today conservation areas, national parks, and private reserves of this variety dot the globe but the challenges that led to their creation still exist. Poachers still scale the barriers, neighboring villagers often clash with errant animals, migratory routes are severed by human developments, and poverty persists on both sides of the fence. However, there are some bright spots on this map, clustered together just north of the equator on Africa’s eastern hip. In Kenya, local communities, government agencies, and global funders have embraced a new development model that can truly claim to be conserving natural resources and biodiversity while promoting human peace and prosperity. Under the banner of the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), 19 conservancies that together cover more than 5 million acres are home to 212,000 people and rebounding numbers of endangered rhinos, elephants, and antelope. Created by Ian, these conservancies are being established on communally-held lands governed by democratically elected management teams and—with help from NRT—are attracting expertise, funds, and worldwide recognition.
Through the NRT these communities have a voice; having realized that wildlife protection and conservation is linked to their own prosperity, members of these community conservancies now actively protect the area’s natural resources. Furthermore, these communities now have visibility on account of NRT’s governance and accountability structures. Local governments, development agencies, and entrepreneurs can link with their democratically elected leaders and enter relationships that benefit the whole community.
Creating cohesive, autonomous communities that link their prosperity to that of the environment is key to the NRT’s success. The NRT helps transform communities into advocates of conservation, and also addresses the root cause of so much human and animal conflict: a lack of peace and prosperity among the human communities that cohabit on this land. This is also a critical component in the spread of this model. For example, in 2012, leaders of four neighboring tribes—the Borana, Samburu, Somali, and Turkana—began the lengthy, difficult process of bringing about peace by starting a conservancy together. Several hundred people were killed over the last 10 years as a result of clashes over land ownership, grazing, and water rights. Ian notes that “the conservancy was specifically established by these communities to create peace.” Today, elected representatives from each tribe govern the Nasuulu Community Conservancy, a 34,900 hectare area that is home to 6,000 pastoralists who are now joined together in “conserving wildlife, transforming lives, and bringing peace,” the mantra of the NRT family of community conservancies.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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