What started out in the 1980s as a 5,000 acre rhino sanctuary on the Craig family cattle ranch has now become one of Kenya’s most successful private wildlife conservancies and a model for community based conservation worldwide. For many years the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy operated on land set aside by the Craig family- almost 40,000 acres, with an additional 8,000 acres owned by others and 14,000 acres of national forest. The Craig family granted Lewa the right to manage this land for conservation, but only temporarily. Without owning the land that it had worked so hard to protect and steward, Lewa was in a vulnerable position and the organization’s existence – and the wildlife and communities it stewarded - were under threat.
Given the complexity and importance of the situation, Lewa and its US partner Lewa USA knew they would in turn need a partner with experience in land conservation transactions. To protect its critical conservation investment, Lewa entered into a strategic collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest conservation non-profit. The three organizations engineered an innovative plan, now known as Lewa Milele (Swahili for “Lewa Forever”), for Lewa to acquire its core reserve and hold it in trust for the benefit of wildlife and future generations of Kenyans. Along with the primary goal to secure and protect the 62,000 acres of critical habitat, the plan also included a component to establish and fund a “conservation endowment” to protect Lewa from declines in the economy and otherwise decreased income from tourism and philanthropy.
Lewa and its partners crafted a promising arrangement and the Craig family generously agreed to sell their property at a significant discount from fair market value and to accept payment over time. With an amazing outpouring of support from donors, Lewa acquired 32,000 acres of its core reserve in December 2011. At that time, the Craig family transferred the majority of their ownership rights to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Members of the Craig family continue to live on Lewa today, retaining some of their ownership rights and continuing to offer a positive influence on conservation and community development in northern Kenya.
With the first phase of the land transaction completed, Lewa and its partners are focused on securing the additional funds needed to finalize the remaining land purchase, as well as to fund the “conservation endowment” that will keep this influential organization running for years to come.
For more than three decades the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy has worked to protect Kenya’s iconic wildlife while helping build the capacity of local communities and guarantee a critical source of economic opportunity, which in turn supports cultural stability in the region. If you would like to join Lewa in this conservation vision and help secure Lewa’s commitment to conservation and communities in perpetuity, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org