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Samburu Obama flagged as ‘eloquent spokesman’ for conservation receives first in a continent

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Tom Lalampaa, Chief Programmes Officer of the Northern Rangelands Trust

Tom Lalampaa, Chief Programmes Officer of the Northern Rangelands Trust/Moses Muoki

SAMBURU, Kenya, Sep 28 – He is a moran; he’s not allowed to say his own name out loud and that’s why, I’m told, he hands over his identity card when asked what it is. The date of birth reads 01.01.84. I forget to check his place of birth.

His name is Sharin Lepeta and while I’m doubtful that 01.01.84 really is his birth date, there’s no mistaking the notes that peek out of his wallet, when he pulls out his ID, for anything other than cold hard cash.

Cold hard cash was what brought Lepeta and the group of morans he leads, to the Kalama Community Conservancy on Friday.

Cold hard cash was also the reason they tolerated the ‘lesser’ bead working women who they insisted be sent away so they could eat as their eyes on their meat would render it inedible.

And while they also insisted that the women move away for them to accept cheques amounting to Sh450,000, they appeared to have no problem accepting their money; the women having, ahead of them, contributed over Sh100,000 of their hard-earned earnings — through bead work — to a community development fund.

The man at the centre of it all was the toothy grinned Tom Lalampaa who as Chief Programmes Officer of the Northern Rangelands Trust, played a leading role in making it all possible; which explained the reverential sort of regard with which he was treated.

He was after all, the one of their own who had not only been awarded the inaugural Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa in 2013 by none other than Prince William, but he was also the one of their own who represented their interests as conservationists one-on-one with President Barack Obama when he visited the country last year; during his engagement with the Civil Society of Kenya.

On Wednesday, Lalampaa who is described as, “putting people and profit at the heart of successful conservation in northern Kenya,” will be adding another feather to his cap when he accepts the first Bright Award to go to an African, at the prestigious Stanford Law School in California where he will also deliver a keynote lecture.

The Bright Award which comes with a Sh10,000,000 prize, “is given annually to an individual who has made significant contributions in the environmental preservation and sustainability area,” the SLS website sets out.

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Quite a ways to go for boy who went to school by chance after his older brother turned down the opportunity, to keep herding his family’s goats and cows. “And he’s never let me forget it,” the ever smiling Lalampaa told Capital FM News, “he usually jokes that half my salary is his on account of his ‘sacrifice’,” he says laughing.

That’s not to say, it was literally or figuratively, an easy road for him to take.

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