Environmental Education, trees and volleyball

The Environmental Education team took a bigger group with them this time to Mijomboni Primary School. The group involved students on a trip organized by the Minnesota Zoo, USA. Melanie a staff at the Minnesota Zoo accompanied them to this trip. The students are interested in nature conservation and some of them study related courses at the university. The rest of them have not joined the university but have an interest in nature.

The students and pupils listening keenly

The pupils at the school received us warmly as we gathered into one of the classes. This time they bombarded us with questions concerning the sustainable use of natural resources like the forest. This could tell that they are very active in conservation efforts. They were keen to learn how they will convince their parents on sustainable use of forests and water sources like rivers.

The tree planting

Each of the students together with the local pupils got a chance to plant an indigenous tree in the school compound. Later on they played volleyball in the school field together with the pupils and donated some stationery to the school.

The volleyball match

Naomi Wanjiru Gichungu- Environmental Education intern

Maintenance at Mida Creek

The Mida Creek Boardwalk was requiring some yearly maintenance and repairs, and Festus has been out of the office on his motorbike to Mida quite often in the last week to make sure they are going well. We are grateful for what a good job he is doing out there, and just wanted to share a picture of how you can put Festus, a generator, and some extension cords all on the same motorbike!

Festus ready to set out from Mwamba Field Study Centre

It's time we paid back

"Yes, I bet you this is the right time to reconstruct our environment, by replanting Indigenous trees". This was a conversation between two school girls just after my talk on habitat restoration. I was very humbled to note that they had actually grasped the whole concept of replanting lost indigenous trees. This happened in Mijomboni, one of the ASSETS beneficiary schools, shortly before we embarked on a tree planting exercise at F. B. Thuva secondary school. These girls are potential of becoming beneficiaries if they attain the required score in their end of primary school exams in November. I believe they will carry the massage of indigenous tree planting to their siblings, parents and neighbors. Most people around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, plant fruit trees instead of indigenous trees. This is largely because indigenous trees occupy so much space in their farms not knowing that most of the trees like mango, coconut and cashew nut are in fact exotic. It is shocking that some community members argue that the forest can never get finished because it has always been there. What unbelievable level of ignorance! The ASSETS program has enabled many and their parents to change their attitude towards conservation of the forest and Mida Creek through awareness, education and benefit sharing.

Pray my dream comes true

As I parked my iron horse at Elizabeth Kanze’s home, in sight were kids running up and down. Suddenly, they were all around my horse. Oh! there comes a man, who turns out to be Kanze’s uncle.

Kanze and her mum had gone off to till their land just a few minutes walk away from home. A young jovial girl volunteered to go for them. Soon, they all arrived home with the young girl carrying a bundle of firewood on her head– I missed a snap shot.

They weren't at surprised to see me, in fact they said they heard the sound of the motorbike as I zoomed in.

Sitting across the the table while holding Ian on her lap Kanze was happy to share with me her dream. ‘Now that am back in school, I just want to hold fast on to my dream career' she said. 'I have all it takes to be a Lawyer and am not changing my mind from this. With all the other challenges that come along with it, I hope it works' she continued. When I asked her about another career she has in mind apart from being a Lawyer, Kanze said for now she has not thought of a plan B.

'How are you preparing for your final exams?' I asked. 'On a normal school day, I spend my week in school. After supper, I take about three hours to study before I sleep. Then I wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning to study before I start preparing myself for another school day' she said. 'During holidays like now' she continued, 'I go to school on my own to study four days in a week then for two days I help mum on household chores and in between, get a few hours to study. It’s working fine so far.'

Kanze is a first born in a family of seven children. Her father who is blind is about 56 years old. Kanze’s mum works very hard to provide for the big family.

Kanze sees her parent's poor financial status as a challenge to work harder in school as she weighs the high demand of school fees against her ambition. She however dismisses these financial hurdles saying, 'they won’t deter me.'

Taking up a challenge

You might remember Elizabeth Kanze, a girl from Mijombonicommunity who schooled in Ngala girls in Watamu. She was one of the best students we had in Ngala girls. Just a recap from the past postings, Kanze had dropped out of school because of early pregnancy.

Good news is that Kanze was able to go back to school after giving birth to handsome Ian. Kanze joined a local community secondary school early this year and she was very happy when we met her again in our beneficiaries meetings today. Together with her mum, they had doubts that they would be re-acceptance in the ASSETS programme. One exciting thing is that she has come out of the stress, stigma and broken heart. As she handed me her progress report for the 1st term 2010 of her last year in school, Kanze couldn't hold but smiled as i asked her what position she came out of her class.  Her progress is encouraging, she came top of her class of about 30 students. Look up for the next posting as Kanze will be sharing how she is preparing for her national exams and the plans she has for the future.

ASSETS Big Debate

"Arabuko-Sokoke Forest should be cleared for farmland and settlement" was the title of an educational motion on the first day of ASSETS beneficiaries meetings at Bogamachuko. The students were split into two groups of opposers and proposers while Mr Tsofa Mweni played "Mr speaker sir" This role play was designed to expose the students to the issues facing Arabuko-Sokoke Frest today. Despite afew of them truggling to express themselves in English, their points came out very clear. It was quite impressive to see how much the students knew about the forest; ranging from rain attraction to species extinction. The new ASSETS beneficiaries had a chance to learn from the others the rationale behind the ASSETS eco-bursary scheme. While the students were doing their learning through a debate and role play, the parents were seperately engaged in a discussion about the most sustainable way of utilising the forest. Not surprising, the newly selected beneficiaries did not have any idea about the eco-tourism value of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. They however left the meeting with a new messege for their families that there are people who come all the way from Europe and America to see the Golden-rumped elephant shrew in the forest; what an odd way of spending ones money! they might have thought. The meetings continue!

Meeting Alfred's Mother

Can't begin to apologise for working on Easter, but it was quite a special Easter indeed. I decided to give my day to those whom I felt needed it most. Particularly to Alfred Baya, the student we almost missed in our assessment. I was sent by the ASSETS eco-bursary sub-committee to revisit Alfred's home and meet the parents. Since they are can't be reached by phone, I had to just turn up and hope they'll be home for some reason. I wasn't totally unlucky as I found Alfred's mother at home. Alfred and his mother.jpg However my joy was short-lived; my camera batteries were flat. Luckily I had carried a spare pair of batteries but they too turned out to be flat. To get to the shop where I can buy good enough batteries called for another 20 minutes ride along the very slipery muddy road I had come on. My hosts told me that there is another rout which was also very muddy. My experience on the slipery section of the road I came made me think other can never be worse. I was wrong this one was deffinitely worse. Luckily this time with Alfred accompanying, we joined hands in pushing the motor-bike through the slipery sections of the road including one small stream. Back to Alfred's home where most of the children were now getting used to the sound of the motor-bike I had a good chat with both Alfred's mother and siblings. I watched as Alfred and mother were thatching Alfred's new house. Amazing survival techniques!Alfred and Mother thatching house.jpg

Can't wait to go back and meet the man of the house! While the committee was happy to support Alfred, it has taken an issue with the very poor living conditions of the family and decided to follow the matter up to make sure the parents take up their responsibility fully. You don't need an expert to tell the very visible signs of mulnutrition and ring worm in the children. Hopefully we'll be able to change the situation sooner.

The 2 beds in which the whole family sleeps.jpg

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Selecting new ASSETS eco-bursary beneficiaries 2010

This was another momentous occasion in the operations of the ASSETS eco-bursary fund; a great opportunity to give hope to a needy student and an important habitat in Africa. The eco-bursary sub-committee met to deliberate on the students to receive bursaries for the next four years. The meeting today was held at Town Secondary school where Hemed Ndonga, one of the committee members teaches. A total of 25 students were selected today from among 26 applicants while two more are still waiting for assessment. The number of applicants this year was low due to an overall poor academic performance by most primary school. The process which was expected to last a couple of hours in the morning ended taking most of the day as a result of thorough scrutiny of application and assessment form and by the committee. Hemed Ndonga - ASSETS Committee member.JPGEvery application was discussed in length to fully determine the level of need and support required. After the selection process the committee came up with a work plan for the rest of the year. Among the activities outlined for this year include visiting beneficiaries in their secondary schools to encourage and challenge the students to work hard in class. Meetings with the parents were also organized to create awareness about the conservation challenges of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. The committee planned two major tree planting events one of which will take place at Girimacha where there has been serious degradation. Looking forward to a busy year!

Suleiman Bakari - ASSETS Committee member.jpg

Assessment for Eco-bursaries

Friday 10th March 2010; for the first time in 3 years I rode my iron horse (Yamaha 125cc motorbike) again. Perhaps this time round I wasn’t half as confident as I would have been 3 years ago before the accident that rendered my left wrist stiff. Today the ASSETS team started the process of assessing new students to receive bursaries from the ASSETS eco-bursary scheme. I was assigned the school on the farthest side of the forest (Bogamachuko) where ten students needed assessment. By 10.30 a.m. I am sitting in the head-teacher’s office seeking assistance with directions of where the candidates come from. After drawing a sketch map of roughly where all the students live, I move on starting with the furthest of all, Mwadziwe S. Wale. The process of assessment students for awarding ASSETS eco-bursaries is always such a humbling exercise. Here one encounters some of the most desperate financial statuses you can imagine. The sight of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and despair makes one feel not only wealthy riding a motorbike but also wildly extravagant. The most encouraging thing today has been that parents have really struggled and sent most of the students to school in the hope that ASSETS will come in their aid sooner. You can always tell they have been waiting for someone from ASSETS as soon as you introduce yourself to the very humble folks, as though saying uh, at here last! Jane Sadaka

Introducing Cecilia

All protocol observed; the lady in this photo is Cecilia Mwarandu; a graduate of the ASSETS eco-bursay scheme. Cecilia completed her secondary school in 2008 at Ngala Girls Secondary school and is searching for opportunities to join college. Cecilia is joining John to help welcome visitors to Gede monument and issue tickets to those wanting to use the facility. This is one of the measures we are putting in place to maximise the very promising tourist projections later in the year.