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Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary is nestled inside Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy which is situated a couple of hours north of Nairobi, near Mount Kenya. Because the sanctuary is managed by the conservancy, the research team endeavoured to find out what communities surrounded the area and what projects were in place to reduce any human/wildlife conflict. Although not related just specifically to the chimpanzee sanctuary, community opinions for the conservancy as a whole (as well as particular questions directed at the chimpanzees) were sought out.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Ol Pejeta’s Misson Statement is: “The Ol Pejeta Conservancy (OPC) works to conserve wildlife, provide a sanctuary for great apes and to generate income through wildlife tourism and complementary enterprises for re-investment in conservation and community development.”

During an initial meeting, Paul Leringato, the Community Programme Manager at OPC, explained to the GPH Research Team all the different community development programmes undertaken by Ol Pejeta Conservancy. These include education, school projects, health, water projects, roads, agricultural extension and livestock improvement.

Paul was particularly interested in working with the Great Primate Handshake research team to gauge the attitudes to various projects and the conservancy in general. Paul wanted feedback to know if the end users were still happy or if new issues had arisen.

We therefore set out to uncover the communities’ expectations. Ol Pejeta wants to discourage dependency, so we want to discover what, if anything, community members can do on their own to sustain programmes.

They wanted to understand what the people know about the conservancy in general and Sweetwaters chimpanzee sanctuary in particular. Do they understand the link between wildlife and economic development. Is wildlife viewed as an asset?

Paul’s deputy Nancy Egesa and Agricultural Extension Officer Josephat Kiama assisted the team in uncovering the above, by accompanying the research team on visits to schools, farms and health centres.

In addition the Great Primate Handshake want to find out what access if any, teachers, children and other people have to computers, other technology and printed material.

We also aimed to speak to speak to staff who work at Ol Pejeta and Sweetwaters in particular, to understand their attitudes to wildlife, motivation for working there and willingness to act as ambassadors.

“What you are doing, asking questions and finding out information, is a good thing.  You are finding out what is, as opposed to what ought to be.” Isaac Kathio, Head of Humanities, Tigithi Secondary School.

Overview of Current Community Projects in Ol Pejeta:


Ol Pejeta works with several schools in the surrounding communities including Uaso Nyiro Primary, Irula Primary, Endana Secondary, Loise Girls’ Secondary and Sweetwaters Secondary. Ol Pejeta supports these schools and more in a variety of ways from funding individual needy students to building new classrooms and providing materials such as books, desks, chairs, science laboratory equipment, water tanks, toilets and fencing. Ol Pejeta is working towards enhancing the academic performance of their neighboring schools not only through the improving their facilities and sponsoring individual children but also through providing a class examination to all grade eight students in the region to compare the academic performance of each school.


Ol Pejeta provides support to several health clinics and dispensaries in the surrounding communities through providing them with funding for necessary drugs and building materials to further enhance the local clinics.

Water Projects:

Working alongside Laikipia Wildlife Forum and Safaricom Foundation the Conservancy has been able to work with local rivers and water sources to increase the strength and capacity of these sources in order to provide a greater water flow for downstream users. Ol Pejeta also supports women’s water tank initiative in helping families with water shortages through the use of roof catchment.

Agricultural Extension:

Ol Pejeta has been working with several other organizations in funding two extension officers who educate local farmers on new technologies and methods to enhance the quality and amount of crops at harvest. Two techniques that are currently being used are conservation agriculture and drip irrigation.


Working with the local government Ol Pejeta has provided road building equipment, skills and the work force to build and maintain quality roads in the surrounding communities for farmers delivering produce and for sick people to reach medical assistance quickly.

Livestock Improvement:

Ol Pejeta has offered northern communities the opportunity to earn an income from livestock sales. Ol Pejeta has bought 350 head of cattle thus far, returning USD 167,000 to pastoralist communities. Ol Pejeta also provides support to three community cattle dips.

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Contact by post: Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Private Bag, Nanyuki 10400

Tel: +254 (0) 62 32408    Email:

Conclusions from Ol Pejeta

The research team spoke to many different people, which elicited many different view points. These differences were enhanced as diverse levels of education, income work, tribal background, community location and other concerns. Access to media differed too. There is a need to match the message and the medium through which it is delivered, to the audience.

Areas covered and people talked to included:
Education: Staff and pupils at Sweetwaters Secondary School (Day school) and Tigithi Secondary School (Boarding and Day School)
Health: Marura Dispensary
Agricultural Extension: Kabanga Conservation Agriculture demonstration site and
Male Drip Irrigation
Pastoralists: Ereri Multi Cultural Village
Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary staff
Ol Pejeta staff from different departments
Nanyuki River Camel Camp staff

The vast majority of the communities and staff spoken to appreciated all the community outreach initiatives started by Ol Pejeta. Access to nearby health care, creation or improvement of school buildings, scholarships, access to water, roads to to allow access to markets, and a new agricultural method which improved crop yields even in a drought year had all greatly improved their quality of life.

At least 12 communities exist around the conservancy boundaries and a senior member of staff estimated three quarters of the staff were recruited from the local communities. Ol Pejeta has over 500 employees working on 90,000 acres.

In addition to those things already done, we asked the community about their expectations and hopes for the future. We also asked what they can do for themselves to sustain the programmes started by Ol Pejeta and spread the word further afield. Below are a few comments and suggestions of possible improvements to Ol Pejeta’s excellent community outreach.

  • Wildlife inside the park is regarded as an asset and people generally make the connection between animals and Ol Pejeta’s community outreach programme.
  • The perimeter fence has greatly reduced the incidence of crop raiding and today when incidences do occur, they get reported to Ol Pejeta.
  • There are still some incidences of human wildlife contact, especially in the North where the fence has gaps to allow for some migration. Wild animals outside the park are regarded as a bad thing. There have been a few incidences in the North where elephants have attacked livestock, people and crops.
  • The demonstration of conservation agriculture techniques has been a big success. Despite rainfall having fallen by nearly ¾ in the last 2 years, farmers using conservation agriculture have increased the food available. This has allowed farmers to sell the surplus, eat better, produce more crops for less effort and have more time for other activities.
  • Only 15 of the 25 farmers on the plot area we had visited had converted to conservation agriculture at this point in time. Some we waiting to see if it definitely will be successful year after year, while others had yet to be convinced. However other farmers from outside the demonstration farm, were copying it. Sustainability was being achieved by farmers teaching themselves.
  • With the drip irrigation pilot, less water was being used to water the vegetables, with more crops being produced for less effort. 6 farmers could produce vegetables using the water normally used by 1 farmer. 85 were originally shown the technique, but there were only 40 remaining when they realised free tanks and tubes were not being distributed. However those that had stayed were very committed and were teaching others. In future groups of farmers can club together to buy large tanks, supporting up to 100 farmers, and can pay Ol Pejeta back over a couple of years.
  • Several staff suggested trees should be planted within the conservancy, to replace the ones eaten by elephants and giraffes. The areas most in need of new trees should be identified and fenced to exclude elephants and giraffes for about 5 years.
  • It was also suggested that trees could be planted within the chimp enclosure to give the chimpanzees access to natural vegetation.
  • Dispensaries have made health provision accessible and affordable. The registered nurse who was covering at Marura Village Dispensary suggested the building of a maternity room to enable mothers to give birth there, rather than travel to the town. The dispensary was being proactive in raising money and talking to patients about disease prevention. He wanted to take on a role of coordinating community projects, and spread the message by talking to school children about conservation, whilst dispensing worming tablets on school visits.
  • Access to water is extremely important for all communities, but especially for those in the north, with many livestock.
  • In the north near the Ereri, a water pipe had been installed and a nursery school built. Livestock were being allowed to graze inside the conservancy due to the drought, but this is not sustainable in the long term. Pastoralists are being educated to have less animals to reduce the grazing pressure. They requested more access to water, and also a primary school to be built.
  • Those children who have visited Ol Pejeta or Sweetwaters know more than those who have just heard about the conservancy.
  • Those children who have a family member who work there, have a greater knowledge of Ol Pejeta.
  • Teachers have to be proactive to get access to trips to Ol Pejeta. In one school there was a lack of communication within the teaching staff, with not all of them knowing about how to obtain visits.
  • A subsidised bus is available but given the wide catchment area, a school group is lucky to visit once a year. The price of schools hiring their own transport, providing lunch and entrance fees mean that many schools groups do not apply to visit Ol Pejeta and the sanctuary.
  • Donated books or computers does not necessarily imply the pupils or even the teachers have access to them. Bookcases to store the books and a general willing of the staff to share the books with the pupils in classes and prep time is needed. Likewise sufficient power and numbers of computers are needed for the staff and pupils to have access to them.
  • Websites are suitable for the international market to encourage visitors to come to Kenya. Likewise rich Kenyans and expats have internet access and money to visit the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
  • The Ereri multicultural village relies for tourism for its income, so the Chairman of Ereri multicultural village also wanted an internet presence to promote dancing to potential tourists, selling beadwork and traditional dress. This could either be on Ol Pejeta’s main site or possibly their own website could be created.
  • Mobile phone access is becoming relatively widespread. However it is mainly used for speaking and text, and rarely for accessing the internet.
  • TV access is far from universal, but some of the staff had seen the Ol Pejeta advert on the communal television in staff quarters.
  • Radio access is virtually universal. There are some items on conservation, but more are needed especially in local languages.
  • Newspaper are only accessible by those who live in the town.
  • Wall paintings of conservation are an excellent way of spreading the conservation message. This also reaches those who can not read. UNDP and GEF have painted various shop walls with tree planting motifs. (NGOs do a lot of work in funding conservation and other work in Kenya.) Similar paintings could be used for wildlife conservation.
  • Many people suggested using churches to spread the conservation message. For instance the local Catholic Church is tree planting and many different denominations allow the congregation to suggest topics for meetings.
  • Barazas (open meetings) called by the Chief and Assistant Chief were regularly suggested as an excellent way to spread the messages.
  • Politicians, such as MPs and councillors, can be utilised to talk about afforestation and improvements in agriculture. The Local MP was very proactive in this area.
  • Agricultural shows are another way to reach people with posters and leaflets.
  • There is a local sanctuary and education centre called the William Holden centre who work with local children and groups and links could be established with this.
  • It is arguable that more could be done to promote Sweetwaters inside Serena Tented Camp, including postcards of chimpanzees.

Overall Ol Pejeta and Sweetwaters have done an excellent job in the community and the above are only minor suggestions for possible improvements.