Desert Edge operates in areas within and adjacent to the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot. It is active between Mt Kenya, a key freshwater water tower in the region, and Marsabit National Park in Laikipia and Samburu (Northern Kenya). Desert Edge, a not-for-profit, limited liability Kenyan company, provides product aggregation, quality control, product development support and market linkage facilities to nomadic and rural populations in northern Kenya for the following products:
- Honey, beeswax and apitherapy products
- Nutraceuticals and bodycare products
- Essential oil and cold-pressed tree seed oils
- Herbs and spices
- Edible mushrooms and wild fruit
- Bio-fuels from invasive species
- Crafts (wood, paper and jewelry)
However, the focus of its current operations is mostly with regards to organic honey, aloe and resin production. The organic honey is widely distributed internationally, mainly to supply European companies such as the Body Shop. Desert Edge is currently making the transition from a donor-supported rural development initiative to a non-profit commercial company.
In 2011 a consortium of organizations including VV invested in Desert Edge to provide working capital that has been allowing for payments to honey farmers, inventory growth and a steady stream of sales (rather than just once a year during the harvest season).
Located in the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot, with 329 protected areas and more than 10% of its land surface in protected areas, Kenya hosts 36 IUCN Category II protected areas, four Category IV protected areas and 13 Category VI protected areas. Kenya is also host to 60 Important Bird Areas (IBA), established to ensure the survival of local and migratory birds. Despite this conservation achievement, these protected areas are under increased threats from a growing population and an unsustainable development trajectory, resulting in deforestation and the loss of biodiversity. A 2003–04 assessment of IBAs indicated that half of these were in decline, a quarter was improving, and only eight were stable.
Desert Edge is providing alternative economic activity and income to a significantly marginalized community with minimal alternatives (almost none of which are sustainable). The cash flows from the natural products are used to mitigate significant threats to the remaining habitat as well as to provide other sources of income and an economic justification for the long-term conservation of this area within the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot.