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Why does The Ol Lentille Trust in Laikipia, Kenya, receive our vote hands down, each time?

Nicola Shepherd By Nicola Shepherd
01 Jun 2022
1 Ol Lentille Chilling

One of the greatest pleasures in life is to travel to somewhere uniquely special. A place with breath taking views, with no other sign of human habitation. No light pollution. Just nature and you.

Then what if you added a layer and said – but I want to do fabulous trekking here! And I would love to understand other cultures and tribes. And yes, of course I would love to see amazing wildlife! And what if such a place existed? And if this place had just a cluster of private villas which ensured your total privacy – whether two or eight of you, and they served you fabulous, freshly grown produce?



Well we have found this place - just for you. It’s called Ol Lentille, situated on the Laikipia plateau in Kenya. It is also owner managed - so important as the care offered by an establishment with a vested interest is markedly different. Oh, and I forgot to say, they are undergoing a major refurbishment as we speak, so the place will feel absolutely new when you visit!

But what really sets Ol Lentille apart is its philanthropic foundation - which we are excited to tell you all about!

Ol Lentille’s m o, is one of building sustainable communities and ecosystems with the idea of “Healthy land = Healthy people”.

The Ol Lentille Trust was set up by John and Gill Elias, when they owned their lodge, Ol Lentille and was primarily responsible for supporting the local community within the area they operated as well as protecting the wildlife and the surrounding environment. They are probably the most proactive independent people I know who have made ground breaking success, most notably in terms of women’s education and in terms of trying to change some of the cultural issues which are harmful for girls, in particular, FGM.



I know of no other charity in the country addressing this issue, because there is a lot of division over the subject matter, specifically because these rituals, including scarification, are seen as testimony to their strength, their endurance and the acceptance into their culture and the affirmation of women hood, and warriorship for men.

The argument, of course, is that who are we, as westerner’s to impose our ideology on African culture? That in itself is a correct assumption, but where the lines become more blurred, is where there is undue pain caused by such a tradition and secondly, loss of life due to infection, bleeding etc, which can be avoided. Very finally, of course, is that some of the local tribes have adopted certain western ideology and principles, and simply don’t agree or want this ceremony anymore.

Gill in particular, has gone through great pains to keep the culture and respect for the culture intact, whilst simply pointing out that dignity does not need to be removed, and she has provided a platform for local women to be heard.



OLT have a particular focus on girls’ education – ensuring that girls are enrolling and staying in primary school (as per the law) through provision of safe boarding and through education/sensitisation of communities on the importance of girls’ education. Although the law does not make Secondary education mandatory, OLT also strongly encourage girls to stay in school and avoid the cultural practices of ‘beading’, FGM and early marriage.

OLT’s Anti - FGM programme has been ongoing for 7 years, through community sensitisation and education. 2015 has been the culmination of this first phase of the program and has seen 71 girls have the support of their families and community to forego FGM and choose an alternative rite of passage. They will stay in school and not be ‘circumcised’. They are the first girls in this community to do this – a huge success. The girls have the support of pastors, chiefs and other community leaders, and the programme will continue in coming years.

Secondly, with Africa’s population set to double by 2050, human wildlife conflict is one of the biggest threats facing Africa. They have a fabulous plan whereby they provide sufficient water in the conservation areas so the wildlife does not stray into community water sources.



The Ol Lentille Trust also supports education and healthcare of the group ranches and communities who own this land and are contributing to the programme objective of conservation.

The objective is to build community capacity for self-management and sustainable socioeconomic development through 4 programme sectors. Objectives are achieved through the provision of technical expertise and management of these programmes.

1. CONSERVATION AND HOLISTIC GRAZING (current population benefitting 15-20,000 individuals)

  • Protecting wildlife and their habitat, especially grass, which is key to increasing the resilience and fertility of land to sustain the whole ecosystem
  • Initially, OLT worked with the immediate local community to set aside part of their land for conservation. Following the success of this, OLT worked with further communities to enlarge the conserved area to 25,000 acres. OLT is now partnering with Northern Rangelands Trust and has increased its area under conservation management to 45,000 acres.
  • After total livestock exclusion for 5 years the land inside the original 5000 acres fully recovered including a rise in the water table and the revival of long dead springs; other sectors of the Conservancy are in varying stages of recovery depending on the length of time that total livestock exclusion has been practised. Rangers started a new methodology to count wildlife in August 2015 in the original core area.
  • A team of 26 rangers and a Head of Security are trained and employed to monitor the security and wildlife presence in the conserved area. Rangers have access to a vehicle and are posted in outposts around the conservancy for maximum security and monitoring.
  • The management plan includes “holistic grazing” - livestock management inside the conserved area in a very controlled manner during times of sufficient rain and grass. Properly managed grazing within the conservancy contributes to optimum grass production.
  • Challenges for the conservation programme are mainly on ensuring no incursions of livestock across the boundaries of the conservancy from neighbouring communities.
  • OLT continue working with surrounding communities to enlarge the conservancy and maximise the positive effects of this on the environment and on communities participating, through holistic management strategies but mainly through socioeconomic development.




  • The objective is to minimise human/wildlife conflict (mainly this refers to elephant) by:
  • Ensuring that there is sufficient water inside the conserved area for wildlife that they do not stray into community water sources, also increasing the density of wildlife within the conservancy.
  • Increasing the amount of (clean) water available to humans far enough away from the conserved area, through creation and maintenance of community dams and boreholes. OLT has good experience of solar-pumped boreholes.
  • OLT also ensures that supported health and education facilities have access to clean water
  • OLT see the future as a better partnership for sustainable water management between organisations, communities and the government.



3. EDUCATION (currently benefitting 1500 children)

  • OLT support 9 government schools to ensure that every child in the target area accesses quality nursery, primary and secondary education.
  • OLT also provide bursaries to students for Secondary education
  • OLT have funded the construction of 2 full schools: which have been officially handed over the government. OLT have also funded the construction of classrooms and boarding houses at other supported schools.
  • OLT provide maintenance and transport support to schools, assist them in getting registered with the government (a bureaucratic process) and supplement food where necessary to child nutrition. OLT also work very closely with school committees to ensure effective school governance, providing them with technical support, helping them to access county and CDF money and linking them with the District Education Office.
  • OLT fund the training and some salaries of teachers, in order to ensure an appropriate teacher - student ratio in the schools (the government has found it very difficult to find teachers willing to be posted to these remote areas, though this is improving with better infrastructure and teachers’ accommodation etc.)
  • OLT have also provided bursaries for tertiary education to students, particularly for medical (nursing) or education courses




  • OLT aim to improve the overall health status of the community through ensuring access to primary and secondary care, provision of education/sensitisation on key issues and through WASH infrastructure
  • Since OLT have been in the locality, the health centre has developed from a dispensary with a staff of 1 nurse to a Sub-District Hospital. This is fully in partnership with the county government.
  • OLT have funded the construction and partial equipment of the hospital and fund a community outreach healthcare programme.
  • OLT will fully handover the hospital to the County Government in the next 3 years. It must first be developed to ensure a high standard of care can be maintained (appropriate systems in place) and equipped/staffed to “Level III” standard (government grading).
  • Nabakisho employs a team of Community Health Workers, a community nurse (who leads the community health education program) and a mobile clinic driver.
  • The mobile clinic schedule ensures that more remote and hard-to-reach areas of the target community are provided with curative services, preventive care, immunisations, health education (CHWs) and referrals where necessary to the Hospital.
  • Nabakisho supports an HIV/AIDS program – monitoring the health and ARV uptake of the 60 registered patients and providing them with food on a monthly basis.
  • There is a strong focus on maternal and reproductive health. Pregnant women are known and monitored by the CHW team with ante and postnatal checks being ensured by the local doctor. The CHWs and hospital team have worked closely with Traditional Birth Assistants (TBAs) in the community to register them and educate them on the importance of medically-supervised births. TBAs receive an incentive to bring mothers to the hospital to give birth, which is reducing the number of at-home births.
  • WASH programming focuses on provision of clean water (tanks with taps) for hand washing and latrines in schools and homes.
  • OLT are working with AMPATH to implement a patient monitoring and data collection methodology for community health and hospital records.
  • OLT wish to expand the mobile clinic program to more hard-to-reach areas and to continue to work on education/sensitisation, especially around girls’ and women’s issues and communicable disease (the biggest concerns).


We would be thrilled to set up a call with Gill or John Elias if any of these points interest you and you feel you would like to donate to their incredible, worthwhile and worthy projects!

Please do get in touch to find out more, so we can find something perfect for you. Alternatively, if you just want to dream for now, you can do so by visiting our Video Library.