A Rocha Kenya offers a great opportunity for conservation awareness and action to the community living around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek.
Rebecca Eastwood is a summer field course volunteer at A Rocha Kenya from The United Kingdom,staying at Mwamba Field Study Centre in Watamu. She has been with A Rocha Kenya for a month and during her stay she got to participate in the various activities carried out by A Rocha Kenya.Below is her story.
"It’s been a great experience for the past three weeks and we’ve had the opportunity to work on so many different projects which have been a major eye opener in terms of conservation. On Saturday 18/07/2015, we visited Kuvuka community plot in Gede where we learned about the ASSETS programme and a Farming God’s Way.
It is amazing how one can practise sustainable farming on a small plot of land. For each crop there were two plots, one depicting normal farming and the other one depicting Farming God’s Way. The key difference was that for Farming God’s Way, mulch was used to conserve the soil moisture and to suppress the growth of weeds and compost used as an organic fertilizer. The purpose of this plot is to demonstrate to the local people how farming sustainably can produce healthier crops with higher yields than normal farming, whilst being friendly to the environment in both short and long term. Having completed the short tour, we were set to harvest the maize.
This was a new experience for me, and I could definitely see a difference in the cobs harvested from the two plots. Once harvested, we uprooted the stalks and then dug new holes for the next crop which we filled with compost made of plant material collected from the plot, and then planted new maize seeds.
For the Farming God’s Way plot we had to cover the soil with mulch. This involved spreading back over the old layer of mulch, followed by the uprooted maize stalks, and then a final layer of grass which is grown specifically for the purpose round the back of the office. It really was amazing to see how sustainable farming can be, and how waste maize stalks can be reused.
As we worked ,we captured the interest of little kids who were playing nearby. This group of children who live in the vicinity came out to help; it was great involving them in the tasks and they got to learn a bit about Farming God’s Way as we worked. Our final job for the morning was filling little bags with sand to create pots for the seedlings in the tree nursery, before rounding off the trip with a taste of fresh coconuts. I must say it was a great experience to see how A Rocha Kenya is working with local coastal communities to promote sustainability and improving livelihoods."
On the 7th of October 2014, we held a grand opening ceremony for the new Environmental Education resource facility. Bishop Julius Kalu officiated the official opening.We had several entertainments as the ceremony was taking place from primary school students, an ASSETS beneficiary, a choir and a play by the community. The ASSETS beneficiary a young bright man from Gede boy’s high school gave a small talk on how the program has played an important role in his life and the importance of conserving the environment.
The primary school students presented two songs about the dangers of not conserving the environment, the importance and urged the people to conserve the environment. The choir also did a wonderful job to emphasize on the same singing a wonderful song about the environment.
The community wasn't left behind they performed a play: a group of parents whose kids benefit from the program. They illustrated very well why people should not go around poaching elephants and other wild animals and the consequences of such actions.
The entertainment was...i cant really find the right words to describe it but let me say it was simply breathtaking!
Women carry water drinking water and every member brings a cup of maize flour and twenty shillings for lunch while the owner of the farm brings pots and plates. The first order of business is prayers, members make a circle, go on their knees, pick a lamp of soil in both hands and two volunteers say prayers of blessing and restoration for the land.
The members then spread over the land, work as they chat and share stories till lunch break and work resumes thereafter and ends with a prayer. Really inspiring isn’t it?
After the days target area of cultivation has been accomplished, the group closes with a prayer."For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20).
In a forest ecosystem, living things are interdependent, and they are also dependent on water, light, temperature, space, topography, soil type, chemicals, nutrients and other factors. If something in an ecosystem changes drastically, for example, if there is a sudden change in weather or even cutting down forests for development or agricultural purposes obviously reduces their biodiversity.
A Rocha Kenya joined the David Ngala, two KFS rangers, Mvera wa ASSETS parents and the beneficiaries themselves for a snare walk in Arabuko sokoke forest. The purpose of the snare walk was to create awareness and to help remove any snares they come across and take action on any other illegal activities.
We dint observe any active snares but we saw two old snares (probably 3months old), logging of trees for timber and building. It was a productive walk for the Mijomboni parents and beneficiaries had firsthand experience of what poachers have turned our forest into.
We are hoping and praying that the word will spread, the destruction of our forests to stop and conserving it to be our passion.
The Farming God's ways A Rocha Kenya’s project has made it possible for farmers to form a Mweria working system that has been established in Mulunguni and Boyani where villagers meet in a member’s farm to work.
The exercise is on-going at the moment, the well watered gardens are coming up ok, though slightly below our expectations mainly because the manure used was of very poor quality, almost fresh. Nevertheless this did not break the farmers’ spirit at all as a matter of fact it was a significant lesson learnt. For they will be far more careful next time; just like the saying " once bitten twice shy".
The already trained members undertook the training under supervision and with the help of the field staff after a one day training and rehearsal on their own. This has already started off successfully. The trained villagers take it upon themselves to train other fellow farmers. Strict rules and fines were made for the success of the system. The farmers made a lot of sacrifices ; the willingness to avail themselves and to be patient to learn and to even go ahead and enlighten fellow farmers on the same.
We hope that the system will continue on successfully and hope that God will continue blessing us all the way.
On this bright Tuesday morning, the ASSETS team boards Kiboko; the truck all packed and ready for the ASSETS beneficiary camp. The beautiful scenery of the forested landscape coupled with the sweet scent of budding flowers made the ‘cruise’ to Bogamachuko; our first stop quite short and exciting! It was fun identifying different species of trees and birds as the road closely meandered along the forest edge offering just a glimpse of the treasurer encompassed within the 420km2 of dry coastal forest!
ASSETS beneficiaries from Kahingoni and Bogamachuko were all seated and waiting for us as we drove into Bogamachuko school compound. We then proceeded to Malanga then Nyari, Mijomboni and finally Mida where we able to meet all beneficiaries from the nine schools.
All through we strengthened their understanding of the ASSETS project whilst assessing progress of the different clusters of Muvera wa ASSETS; the beneficiaries association. The level of enthusiasm was extremely encouraging as some of the attendees were not even beneficiaries! We seized the opportunity to urge them to conserve the local natural resources around them; Mida creek and Arabuko Sokoke forest for their own sake. Mzee Suleiman a resident of Mida also an ASSETS committee member took to the stage with his rib-cracking but quite educational narratives to instill the conservation message in the best way possible. We also had separate sessions with the students challenging them to make the best out of this opportunity. Led by Daniel and Patience who were both successful beneficiaries of the project and now on further studies; we inspired them that regardless of all the difficulties, nothing that could stop them from achieving their dreams!
At the end of it all, parents vowed to adopt all the alternative technologies taught to them through Muvera wa ASSETS as well as working together to protect the forest by reporting to us of any illegal activities. The students on the other hand promised to be our ambassadors in their respective schools apart from making the best out of the scholarship opportunity!
Coordinating a project as great as ASSETS can get a little scary sometime going by the amount of hope laid on us by thirsty young minds yearning for school apart from nature itself that we view to conserve in the long run!I must however thank the different stakeholders involved since things would be impossible were it not for them. Muvera wa ASSETS categorically, has been pivotal in effecting fruitful conservation initiatives at the local level. Recently I visited the association members from Malanga and the site of their beautiful casuarinas seedlings; healthily dancing to the rhythm of the wind truly moved me.In this part of the world, this is certainly the driest period of the year and it must have taken them immense efforts to accomplish this. It got me thinking about how transformed their attitude towards the environment is; truly encouraging…! In less time than it takes to tell undoubtedly, we will have a completely ‘green community’ bordering the ‘greenest’ forest in the whole of Eastern Africa.
I leave Malanga and head towards the south-western end of the Arabuko sokoke forest, a village called Nyari. A peculiar site welcomes me though; a very clear path into the forest despite the electric fence!! Maybe or maybe not, someone uses this opening to smuggle timber out of the forest.
Normally, I would be extremely disturbed by such a site, having had to get hold of the Kenya Forest Services guards to report this; but then on second thought...! I stop my relatively old but rather responsive Yamaha DT motorcycle to call the chairman Muvera wa ASSETS Nyari branch, I explain what I had seen and speed off to my office in Gede to attend to other offices matters; am all glad though because undoubtedly my laments are in the right hands.
Turtle Bay Hotel has been one of the most consistent supporters of our work as A Rocha Kenya. True to what it is popularly referred to "Kenya's responsible resort", the hotel works commendably well in improving standards of living of its neighboring communities.
An annual event referred to as The Turtle Bay Christmas Charity Auction is normally organized by the hotel with the sole aim of raising funds to cater for various needs that face the Watamu community. Responding to our call for funds to sustain the ASSETS project, the 2013 version was dedicated towards our ASSETS fundraising campaign. On the 28th of December 2013, different commodities ranging from tour trips to sports kits were up for grabs as the hotel guests went to battle with the highest bidders carrying the day.
A total of 258 000 ksh was raised by the end of the day all dedicated towards the ASSETS project. Sincere gratitude to the management and Turtle Bay guests for this amazing gift to the ASSETS child.
A big thank you to everyone of you also for your kind donations so far. As we wrap-up our fundraising campaign you can still 'touch a child's heart' by making a donation. See:www.arocha.org/donateassets
Remember to Choose 'Kenya, ASSETS bursaries'
Eco-tourism has been the main source of funding for the ASSETS project as we seek to ensure that the project is as sustainable as possible.
Funds collected from the amazing Mida creek boardwalk and bird hide together with the Gede Ruins tree platform have been providing more than half of the money used to pay the school fees.
However breaking down of the tree platform among other factors such as increase in school fees and decline in the tourism sector,
financial stability of the project has been seriously compromised.
As we continue raising money for next year’s school fees, we are also really keen on having the Gede Ruins tree platform getting repaired because that is the right way towards restoring the project’s sustainability.
The Watamu Rotary Club has shown some interest in helping to raise funds for the repairs but no progress has been made so far and we are still ears open and trust in the Lord that we shall be able to find funds to complete the repairs and have the platform functional
Your ideological, financial and material support will always be highly appreciated!!