Heaviest Rains in 10 years!

May and June this year have been unique in terms of rainfall and the effects of these precipitations. For those living in the area, the changes this rain has brought have been significant and wide-ranging. Looking at the graph below it is clear that from March to June 2018 (outlined by the red box) has been the highest amount of precipitation in since 2005.

Graph realised on R by Freddie Hunter.
Data from The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), designed to monitor and study tropical rainfall.
A couple of zebras enjoying the high grass.
Picture by Teneille Arnott
A European stork looking for food in the expanded watering hole.
Picture by Léonie Borel

Shompole and Olkiramatian are semi-arid rangelands in which the functioning of this ecosystem is highly influenced by rainfall patterns. The effects of the high precipitation have been wide-ranging in this rain-controlled environment.  The rain has not only increased both biodiversity and biomass, but it has also resulted in vegetation growth in areas where grass has not grown in many years. This rainwater has been absorbed into the soil producing grasses and herbs that became healthy pasture for the livestock, resulting in a lot of healthy and happy cows!

This rain has contributed significantly to improving the health of the ecosystem. Plant life supports so many parts of the ecosystem it is difficult to quantify. Green plants have higher nutrients and minerals therefore contributing to the health of herbivores in the area, which then provide food for the local carnivores. The higher precipitation has also resulted in water building up in areas that did not previously have water. These areas have become watering holes for the wildlife in the area, as you can observe in the following pictures.r_4

Unfortunately, the high precipitation has also lead to damage as it drowned some species of trees along the river, and rose higher than the bridge. This year, the floods destroyed more than 1997 or 2002, and this damage can be observed by walking around the area. The rains were so intense that some people experienced damage or loss of their land or bomas. Several other challenges arose from the heavy rains, including a disease outbreak among cattle and shoats, putting additional pressure on herd owners to buy medicine for their animals.


Training in remote sensing and GIS

Report for Workshop on Rangelands Decision Support Tools

On June 28th 2018, the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) held a 4-day workshop. This training focused on increasing the capacity of decision makers to use the Rangelands Decision Support Tools. The invited nominees from SORALO were, myself, Joel Meja Sumare, and Steiner Sempeta Kisioki. The RCMRD invited many institutions including:

  • NRT
  • KWSA
  • ACC
  • KWFS

The workshop included discussions, presentations, and practical exercises to explore the indicators for the assessment and monitoring of rangelands. The training contributed to my understanding of vegetation and water surface components of rangelands using the decision support tools of RCMRD.

The guidelines on how we introduced our work and our institution

These tools offer a way for users to select indicators of vegetation health by combining it to produce maps at different administrative and monitoring levels (such as boma mapping, water resource mapping, market survey etc.). During the training we shared information on how we collect data from the field, how we enter that data, and how we then analyze it to be used for publishing and to be shared with the community. Our discussions with the other institutions showed that we have different methods of data collection, for example we collect our data once a month, other institutions collect twice a year, and others once a year. Despite this difference we have all found similar results in reference to the water service component.

Steiner Sempeta Kisioki and myself, Joel Meja Sumare during a training session

The training has increased my capacity to create maps, to monitor vegetation and to monitor the variance of water levels according to season and month. I also learned some basic GIS skills, which have helped me improve my ability to create maps with QGIS, a program used by SORALO. I would like to have more GIS training and improve my skills in order to understand how we create maps and how they can be presented to both the community and students in a useful way.

The workshop coordinator checking the homework of the students
A group discussion on how to create maps using Rangelands Decision Support Tools

ICAN interns join SORALO


Every year SORALO welcomes student interns from the Institutional Canopy of Conservation (ICAN). Read below to find out more about them:

Hi ! My name is Léonie. I was born in France but I consider Montréal, Canada, like my home. I am currently finishing  my undergrad in International Development and Geography at McGill University. I spend few months in Kenya with the McGill University’s Canadian Field Studies in East Africa (CFSIA) program, where I fell in love with the country.  I am passionate by food security, community-based initiatives and conservation. I love traveling, looking at a sky full of stars and chapatti! This internship is an opportunity for me to put in practice what I learned at university.  Through my work with SORALO, I hope to learn more about the balance between the community needs and conservation, and traditional ecological knowledge. I believe the work SORALO is doing as a community-based conservation is essential for the conservation and communities of the South Rift.

Jambo, my name is Teneille but most people call me Ten for short! I was born and raised in Montreal Canada and I am pursuing an undergraduate degree at McGill University. I major in International Development with a double minor in Anthropology and History. I love travelling, meeting new people, and spending time outdoors (especially when it involves mountains)! I am very grateful for the opportunity to come to Kenya and learn from the Shompole and Olkiramarian communities as well as the researchers at Lale’enok. I value that SORALO acknowledges the importance of using both traditional ecological knowledge and scientific research as a means to understanding the surrounding environment. Over my next few months here I hope to explore the complexities of conservation from both social and ecological perspectives. I am fascinated by the coexistence of wildlife and humans in this area and I am eager to learn more!

In the past month we have spent at the Lale’enok Resource Center, we have worked on numerous projects and have realized that our duties as interns are diverse and can change at any time! So far, we have been working on projects related to SORALO’s Cultural Leadership pillar. Currently we are finishing a Herbarium composed of the plants in the area and a description which includes both the Maasai and Latin names. Additionally, we are working alongside the brilliant Joel Njonjo to finish a clan book that will be used by the surrounding schools. This book will contain information about each of the Maasai clans, their totem animals and folktales. It is filled with illustrations made by the students of various schools in the Olkiramatian and Shompole area. Lastly, we have compiled and simplified various Kenyan Law Acts that may be relevant to the communities. In our remaining time here, we hope to finish as many projects as possible and continue to learn from the community members!


SORALO has a new Theory of Change in how to help communities protect their wildlife. So do the communities of Shompole and Olkiramatian. Will they be the same?

SORALO is pleased to be one of the case study regions for testing new tools and methods for better engagement with local communities in the fight against wildlife crime. This is through the IUCN-led Communities as the First Line of Defence against Illegal Wildlife Trade initiative (FLoD).  Over seven days in November, selected members from Olkiramatian and Shompole communities gathered daily at Lale’enok to partake in focus group discussions led by the team from IUCN ESARO and IUCN’s Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist group who are pioneering a new approach to understanding their proposed Theory of Change (TOC) framework in the context of the voices and opinions of the communities who live alongside wildlife.

The FLoD team are now developing a case study that will capture all the interesting insights and perspectives revealed during the focus group discussions. This includes highlighting the TOC from the community perspective and then comparing that with SORALO’s own TOC, which will enable SORALO to better plan and design future programmes. The team hopes to be back in early 2018 to provide feedback to the communities on the findings and results of this work.

Thank you very much to Leo Niskanen, Holly Dublin and their team for such an informative and engaging week together and we look forward to what comes next.

11.11.2017 SORALO ToC (4)

Our latest publication is out!

Seasonal movements of wildlife and livestock_Global Ecology and Conservation

Title: Seasonal movements of wildlife and livestock in a heterogenous pastoral landscape: Implications for coexistence and community based conservation.

Authors: Peter Tyrrell, Samantha Russell and David Western.

Abstract: Rangelands across the world are home to millions of pastoral people and vast wildlife populations, which create a complex landscape for conservation. Community based conservation has been used to promote human-wildlife coexistence on pastoral lands, protecting wildlife outside of official protected areas. With the spread of community based conservation within the rangelands there is a need for more information on successful management practices. This study provides an example of this in the South Rift, Kenya, where seasonal movements of pastoralists aid coexistence. We used Density Surface Modelling (DSM), a novel tool for conservation managers in the rangelands, to predict wildlife and livestock abundance across the landscape and seasons. Wildlife grazers, zebra (Equus burchelli) and wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), follow expected metabolic patterns, feeding on short grass outside the conservation area in the wet season, before returning to the taller-lower quality grazing in the conservation areas during the drought. Browsing wildlife, impala (Aepyceros melampus) and Grant’s gazelle (Nanger granti), move from open grassland and bushland areas into thicker, denser browse as the seasons progress towards the drought. Livestock, both shoats (Ovis aries, and Capra aegagrus hircus) and cattle (Bos indicus), are managed by community grazing committees, who enforce a grazing plan that creates spatialetemporal separation between wildlife and livestock. They exploit the high-quality grazing in the livestock area during the wet season while conserving pasture in the conservation area, which is utilized only as forage is depleted. This ensures that wildlife has access to a diverse resource base across all seasons and potentially reduces competition, allowing for a diverse and abundant wildlife community to coexist with livestock. This highlights the importance of the presence and maintenance of spatial and temporal heterogeneity of forage resources, through livestock management, for community based conservation. We encourage more community based conservation initiatives in pastoral landscapes to incorporate livestock management into planning.

Students from Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute come to Lale’enok!

On 20th November 2017 SORALO had the pleasure of hosting 31 students of KWSTI Department of wildlife management diploma students and their lecturer Deputy principal Roselyn Onyuro for an exposure tour to the south Rift landscape. For the week they were with us they were given a presentation by John Kamanga, chairman of the Olkiramatian group ranch and Director of SORALO, and they visited various places of the Shompole and Olkiramatian group ranches to understand the land uses, including the community conservancies/grass banks, livestock rearing areas and also farming areas.


Students enjoyed talks from various departmental resource assessor teams at Lale’enok Resource Centre and went every day for field work for learning with the following teams:

  1. Ecological monitoring
  2. Habituation of Baboons
  3. Carnivore monitoring game drive

The students also learned about water issues by visiting the Oloibortoto water intake and were able to talk to WRUA committee representatives and learn how they manage water system in their farms and also the type of crops growing there.


Joel Meja Sumare and Sisco join the hike walk to the waterfall with the students which was an adventure because on that Saturday night before we received rain which then delayed the start of the walk in the morning trip to hike, and also our bus got stuck near Entasopia dispensary which also delayed the walk. So we only managed half of the walk hike but the students enjoyed it a lot as it was hard work!

KWSTI walk

On Saturday evening the KWSTI students together with Lale’enok resource assessor teams sat together and shared their experiences and filled in the feedback questionnaires. We then sat together around the bonfire to share stories and talk about the wildlife we all liked the most.

Many thanks to all those involved and we very happy for everyone’s cooperation and we are grateful to have had the chance to interact with young, eager learners.

Ashe O’leng and welcome back again.

Lale'enok facilitates the advancement of community livelihoods, sustainable resource management and human-wildlife coexistence through the integration of research, livestock development, tourism, and other income generating community projects. As a physical place for information storage and sharing, the centre provides the community with a forum to engage partners in knowledge creation, dissemination and application.