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Project background

The Grevy's zebra (Equus grevyi) is one of Africa's most endangered large mammals. They are a separate species of zebra, distinct from the widely-recognized common zebra (or plains zebra) through their large, fluffy ears, white belly, and comparatively thinner black stripes. Once distributed across the horn of Africa, 92% of the remaining Grevy’s zebra are now only found in Kenya, with a few small isolated populations in Ethiopia.

Once hunted for its magnificent skin, the Grevy’s zebra is now threatened by habitat loss due to land degradation, limited access to water, poaching, and disease. Present day estimates indicate that around 3,000 animals remain, representing an 80% decline in global numbers over the past four decades. 

Established in 2007, Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT) is the only organization in the world with a mission focused solely on conserving the Grevy’s zebra. GZT works exclusively with local communities in northern Kenya to protect the Grevy’s zebra and its habitat. The GZT approach is founded on the intrinsic link between the Grevy’s zebra and human livelihoods, and the fragile ecosystem they both rely on to survive.

Project overview

One of Grevy’s Zebra Trust’s community initiatives is the Nkirreten Project. This project allows women from the Wamba region in Samburu County, northern Kenya to safeguard endangered Grevy’s zebras and become economically empowered through the production of reusable sanitary pads. 

The production of these pads is an income-generating activity for the women, and the use of pads contributes to preserving the dignity of the communities’ women and school going girls in the region. 

The pads are designed with the unique black-and-white "zebra-striped" fabric, which helps to raise awareness of the plight of the Grevy’s zebra and the message of GZT's mission. Though the Nkirreten Project, the participating women and school-age girls learn not only about conservation but also about menstrual health and how to use the pads hygienically. The program also ensures that girls are not missing out on their education due to lack of sanitary pad supplies. Also, as the pads are reusable, this reduces environmental waste in the Samburu region.

Providing menstrual health resources to women and girls in these communities directly supports long-term wildlife conservation – when women are more empowered to make decisions about their bodies, statistics show that the number of children they have drops. With a decreased rate of human population growth, people, wildlife, and livestock do not have to compete as desperately for resources.  

What's covered in project cost

All amounts are the cost for 12 months.

Production costs (estimated production for 2020 is 2,400 packs)

  • Zebra-print cotton material – 12 rolls: US $3,300
  • Towelling – 12 rolls: US $3,300
  • Plastic lining – 12 rolls: US $780
  • Accessories (thread, fasteners, etc.): US $600
  • Salary for participating women (4 women): US $4,800

Logistics for project coordination/community visits

  • Motorbike running costs: US $180
  • Field subsistence: US $600
  • Vehicle maintenance/fuel: US $750

Project management (includes working with women and girls to engage them in conservation and health education)

  • Project officer salary: US $3,840

Communication (marketing to school-age girls about the program and to county government to sponsor the program)

  • Marketing materials: US $250

TOTAL: US $18,400

Partners and community involvement

The Nkirreten Project is currently an in-house initiative of Grevy’s Zebra Trust. Samburu women are employed by GZT from the villages of Sasaab and Ngutuk Ongiron in Westgate Community Conservancy, which neighbour GZT’s field camp, and the project is led by Damaris Lekiluai, a Samburu woman from the area.

The project is promoted through GZT’s network of 21 Samburu women Grevy’s Zebra Scouts who support the outreach to schools and communities and present on Grevy’s zebra conservation. GZT currently partners with 20 schools in Samburu and will expand to an additional 20 in 2020.

Part of a larger strategy

GZT approaches conservation holistically, with the understanding that for their efforts to be successful in the long-term, they must positively impact local communities. Many residents in this area live at a subsistence level – they share land with endangered wildlife, but they also need to provide for themselves and their families.

GZT works to improve their standard of living while also improving conditions for Grevy’s zebra. When communities see direct benefits – such as income and health care – they are more willing to engage in conservation efforts. The Nkirreten program is part of this effort; other aspects of GZT’s community work include:

  • Holistic rangeland management to restore degraded land for the benefit of livestock, grazing wildlife, and water retention in the soil.
  • Employing/training community members to monitor and collect data on Grevy’s zebra
  • Building peace in the conflict-prone region of El Barta
  • Conservation education in local schools and secondary school scholarships

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