Milgis Trust, northern Kenya

Conserving wildlife, habitat and a pastoral people's way of life..

Helen Douglas-Dufresne and Milgis Trust - Community Based Development and Nature Conservation

(by supporting a diverse range of flora and fauna and the pastoral livelihoods of several nomadic tribes including the Samburu, Turkana and Rendille)

This unique trust which engages the local people to manage their resources whilst maintaining their traditional pastoralist lifestyle. The Trust works within the northern rangelands of the Matthews Mountains, Karissa, the Ndoto’s, Mt. Nyiru and Mt. Kulal, all the while working with minimum funds.

The Milgis Trust is exactly what it says: The Milgis – a core area within the Samburu heart lands of northern Kenya, and Trust – not only as a legal entity, but more importantly – Trust, as a core value in building consensus with the tribal communities, chiefs and elders in identifying common meaning and purpose and an understanding that sustainability in the region for present and future generations is based on interdependency, co-operation, collaboration and respect for its natural resources.

The Milgis Trust aims to conserve the wildlife, habitat and pastoral people's way of life. Its core area is located in northern Kenya within the drainage of the Matthews Range, Ndoto Mountains and Karisia Hills, spreading out towards Oldonyo Mara, Mount Nyiru and Mount Kulal. The Trust covers approximately 8,000 sq kms and supports a diverse range of flora and fauna and the pastoral livelihoods of several different nomadic tribes including the Samburu, Turkana and Rendille.


Started by Helen Dufresne who has lived and worked in the area for 30 years, she understands the people and her gentle approach bodes well with making some grass root conservation policies. Her small team includes Samburu warriors from the region who understand the cultural norms and help the Trust to reach those in marginalised areas, as well as work with people to help with problems such as over-grazing and soil erosion through the lack of trees after they have all been cut down.

The Trust has the following objectives:

• To provide security and communications to the area for the protection of wildlife;

• To address the destruction of natural resources;

• To increase local awareness of resource conservation among affiliated pastoral communities;

• To support and enhance access to education for the pastoral communities in this remote region;

• To facilitate access for pastoral communities to specialised healthcare by hosting medical clinics;

• To motivate Quality rather than Quantity of livestock through better veterinary backup;

• To improve the water situation by harvesting flood waters; enhancing water catchment areas; whilst providing clean drinking water to schools, medical centres and villages;

• To strengthen the partnership between the Trust and the pastoral communities in the region so that future generations can continue to conserve this area;

Helen Douglas-Dufresne runs the Trust on ground level. She is a colourful Kenyan and renowned conservationist who has walked the length and breadth of this part of northern Kenya for over two and a half decades. Along with her partner Pete Ilsley and their loyal Samburu crew they have taken hundreds of walking camel safaris through this remote and untouched land, learning and experiencing all it has to offer.

Mama Helen as she is known by the Samburu has been welcomed with outstretched arms and is trusted more than any other in the region having worked hard to create a wonderful rapport and understanding with the communities, elders and warriors.

Their continued presence on the ground sustains this trusting relationship and encourages and promotes the successful implementation of projects as well as the Milgis Trust's ongoing field operations.

Milgis Trust - OUR STORY

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‘Mama Helen’ as she is fondly known by the Samburu, has been welcomed with outstretched arms and is trusted more than any other in the region having worked hard to create respectful rapport and understanding with the communities, elders and warriors of Northern Kenya.

Just over 30 years ago, northern Kenya was still closed to outsiders. It is one of the least explored regions of the continent and is traversed by some of its most traditional tribes — the Turkana, the Boran, the Rendille, the Gabbra and the glamorous Samburu, the elusive cousins of the Masai. The territory also contains some of Kenya’s most spectacular geographic features.

Helen - is an iconic Wilderness Warrior - a Kenyan by birth is well versed in folklore, botany, ornithology and astronomy, an experienced pilot and renowned conservationist has been guiding camel safaris, around the Mathews and Ndoto mountains for more than 25 years. The 5 star tailor-made expeditions are run by Helen, her partner Peter Ilsley (also an experienced pilot and successful entrepreneur) and their experienced Samburu crew. Together they have honed the complex logistics of sustainable and responsible eco- tourism, while at the same time combining modern ‘creature comforts’ with mobile bush luxury.

Courtesy: ResponseAbility Alliance & Milgis Trust


MILGIS WEBSITE is ready! + this elephant is now happy!! Helen Douglas-Dufresne - Oct 2018