The immediate aim for Ruko is to develop alternative sources of income primarily from tourism to be used towards education, health and security, while the long-term goal is for a flourishing wildlife area to be created, joining Ruko Conservancy to Kaptuyia, Mugie and the Laikipia escarpment beyond the lake.
It all began when Ross and Caroline Withey owners of Samatian Island Lodge Baringo, became heavily involved with the communities of Rugus and Komolion after clashes between the Njemps and Pokot brought their elders to the area looking for an urgent solution to an on-going tribal conflict.
Ruko was granted legal status in February 2007 with the support of the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and operates under an anagram made from the first two initials of the place-names Rugus (Njemps area) and Komolion (Pokot area). It is the eastern most conservancy of the Northern Rangelands Trust and is unique from the others in that its foundation for wildlife conservation is peace keeping.
The Ruko area was first settled in the 1700’s by Njemps, linguistically related to both the Maasai and Samburu. The Njemps tribe are a unique people who are the only pastoral, cattle herding, tribe who also fish. The other main tribe which feature in this story are the Pokot, whose ancestors were probably some of the first people to reach Kenya from the Nile in 500BC. The Pokot are mostly cattle herders/farmers, but about a quarter are cultivators. However, whether a cultivator or pastoralist, the measure of wealth among the Pokot is determined by the number of cows one owns.
Historically the Njemps and Pokot have always fought, mainly over grazing rights and access to water for their livestock, especially in times of drought when there is much competition for grazing cattle. As the years have gone by, the stress on the environment caused by a combination of over-grazing, the practice of slash and burn, (and bush-meat hunting), have become unsustainable.
And so Ruko Community Wildlife Conservancy was born.... an example of the potential conservation has to promote ethnic reconciliation.