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Established by Jochen Zeitz in 2005, the 50,000 acres of African wilderness that make up the Segera Ranch and Retreat, proves that luxury can be sustainable. It’s here that the Zeitz Foundation, The Long Run and the 4C’s were pioneered. What was previously overgrazed land, struggling to support the surrounding communities and wildlife, is now thriving; Segera has been a catalyst for positive change. These days elephant, lion, buffalo and eland as well as the endangered Grevy’s zebra, patas monkey and African wild dog, roam freely.
Segera believes that conservation should benefit local communities and the environment. Alongside establishing the Conservation Unit Programme with the Laikipia Wildlife Forum to train rangers in conservation issues, Segera runs a 20-acre agriculture plot at one of the local primary schools — to demonstrate best practice in sustainable farming and provide a valuable food resource. Citizen Science is also utilised at the ranch, with programs like the Resource Use Assessments to empower local elders to take control of the issues that concern them, rather than relying on external experts.
Segera only opened its gates to the public in 2013, mostly to showcase the conservation work being carried out. The retreat is as much about hands on experience, as it is about recharging batteries. Guests can pick up a spade to plant indigenous trees, join a patas monkey foot patrol and help track animals; or they can simply spend days marvelling at views of Mount Kenya and the plains of the Laikipia Plateau. Contemporary African art from The Zeitz Collection is casually scattered around the ranch, offering a once-in-a-lifetime cultural safari in the most extraordinary setting.
Segera joined The Long Run in 2011 and committed to a holistic balance of the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.
As a one of the founding Long Run Destinations, Segera is truly committed to conservation. This is evidenced by the numerous conservation-oriented activities that it spearheads. Key amongst these is the establishment of the Conservation Unit Programme. Under this programme, and following a rigorous selection process a dedicated conservation team – the Conservation Unit Rangers (CURs) – was recruited. The CURs receive continuous specialised training from partner organisations such as the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) to equip them with adequate skills to carry out their duties, which span invasive species control as well as habitat monitoring. As a result of this along with intensive habitat restoration efforts Segera has recorded three new births in the Grevy’s zebra and patas monkey species.
Segera believes that conservation should be of benefit both to local communities and the environment. As such it has set up a 20-acre fenced Conservation Agriculture plot in Uaso Nyiro – one of the local primary schools – as a demonstration of best practice in sustainable farming. So far, one acre of maize has been planted, with an assortment of vegetables thriving in a greenhouse also located on the plot. Not only does this address food scarcity amongst neighbouring communities, but also educates them on how to effectively utilise the minimal annual rainfall that the area receives.
At the centre of Segera’s interactions with neighbouring communities is the ‘Citizen Science’ approach. This is a conceptual approach that seeks to bridge the gap between modern scientific advancements and locally available technologies, thus empowering local communities to take charge of the issues that concern them – as opposed to relying on scientific assessments from outside experts. It focuses on strengthening and developing the capacities and resilience of communities through the process of adaptive management where they experiment, learn and take decisions within the constraints under which they work.
On Segera, this is achieved through Resource Use Assessments. These assessments include information from the elders on the environmental resources the land used to have, how these resources declined over time, a plan to rejuvenate them and how available resources can be leveraged to better the situation.
Segera’s commitment to improving the livelihoods of neighbouring communities doesn’t end there. It is also actively engaged in improving access to education and rehabilitating learning facilities. It has established a bursary scheme which has so far had a total of 12 beneficiaries from both Endana and Uaso Nyiro Primary Schools. Segera is dedicated to seeing this bursary scheme grow and plans to give out 40 bursaries annually from 2014. It has also enhanced the quality of education in the area by rehabilitating learning facilities and teachers’ quarters. As a show of this commitment, it sought the assistance of Guernsey Overseas Aid in the renovation of Endana Primary School where over a period of half a year the school was transformed from a compound of dilapidated wooden structures into one of modern concrete classroom blocks.
Culture is a key component to all of Segera’s activities. It highly respects local traditions and wherever possible enhances and works to preserve them. Leveraging theatre as a platform for intercultural exchange and a light-hearted way to address serious issues, Segera has been working with Resource Africa UK (RAUK) under the Community-based Climate Change Adaptation Programme (CCCAP) theatre initiative. This initiative builds upon the oral traditions already present in the communities around Segera with the added elements of stage and costume design as well as script writing. Segera’s staff members often attend local gatherings and perform skits addressing pertinent issues such as climate change and human-wildlife conflict. In this way, communities are educated in a language they understand on the impact of climate change on their lives and the importance of conserving the environment.
In order to preserve traditional knowledge for posterity, Segera in conjunction with neighbouring traditional healers is producing a book that documents a number of traditional medicinal plants. It has also set up a small garden of these medicinal plants along with an informative display indicating the names and usage of these plants.
Segera takes every opportunity to showcase local culture and ensures it gives all its guests – which have included journalists of note from both national and international media organisations – a respectful taste of authentic local culture through field trips to neighbouring villages. These trips have resulted in riveting news pieces and documentaries focused on local communities and their culture.
Aside from its upcoming tourism facility, Segera is keen to establish income streams for neighbouring communities. It has been instrumental in setting up a number of women’s groups to produce hand-made accessories for which it in turn provides a ready market. One of the more notable achievements has been connecting the SATUBO women’s group with Vivienne Westwood during her visit to Segera under the International Trade Centre’s Ethical Fashion Project. The group has now joined other local Kenyan communities in the production of Vivienne’s line of African-inspired accessories and bags.