Investing in the younger generation

The ASSETS programme, since its inception in 2001, has solicited for Eco-bursaries which have benefited hundreds of needy, bright students from around Arabuko Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. A Rocha Kenya works closely with Muvera wa ASSETS members (parents whose children have  benefited from the bursary scheme)  to actively involve the children in conservation of the environment. IMG_1468 A Rocha Kenya together with parents(Muvera wa ASSETS) and pupils, organized a tree planting activity at  Chipande Primary School( a school that has  benefited from the ASSETS programme) and managed to plant more than 300 seedlings of indigenous trees.

Establishing tree nurseries and maintaining woodlots at home is one of the key requirements Muvera wa ASSETS members have to fulfill. This minimizes the pressure exerted on the forest when communities need wood for fuel, construction and other household uses.The pupils on the other hand were expected to take care of each tree and monitor the growth of the various trees planted.

IMG_1490 It was an opportunity to widen their knowledge on trees as they were taught  the botanical names and the significance of various  indigenous trees as well as forests.For instance the ability to provide: food and medicine to humans , a suitable habitat for endemic fauna, and acting as carbon sinks.


pic 1 Marxine Waite (above) is an intern at A Rocha Kenya in the Environmental Education department. She is a recent graduate of Pwani University with a degree in Science. She attended the April 2015 ASSETS camp which changed her life. Below is her story.

Armed with beddings, mosquito nets, juice for the kids, and most importantly hope in our hearts, we piled onto jolly old Kiboko and headed to day one of the ASSETS camp. Kiboko is our old truck that did quite a number on us during the trip. On the way I pondered about the lesson ahead and how to really impact the teenagers. I was interrupted from my train of thoughts by drizzling that was eventually seeping through the canvas as we rode at the back of the truck. Eventually, it turned out to be a heavy downpour that would send us into a frenzied struggle to keep dry. We held on the canvas, attempting to stretch it out even further ( as if that would work) ; meanwhile old Kiboko was already tired of the muddy, bumpy road and decided to let loose dense black, sooty diesel exhaust fumes to the carrier of the truck and the struggle ensued until we got to our destination. So here we were, finally, at Bogamachuko Primary School late and drenched in water, with patches of soot, blackened beddings but in one piece.


Bogamachuko, which produced most of new ASSETS beneficiaries last year, was voted the venue for the  camp. We headed to the classroom where the parents and students were eagerly waiting. Session one was on what A Rocha is, our main goals and the connection between A Rocha and the ASSETS program. My favourite presentation was by Mzee Katana, who sits in the ASSETS committee, during the second session. It is not uncommon for the elderly to speak their mind freely, but this particular man was just in a class of his own. Not only did he speak freely indeed he did it with confidence, flair and comedy seasoned with 36 years of experience as an educator. He sizzled his speech with flowery Swahili, English and hints of  Giriama (local tongue) so that everybody felt included; young and old, literate or otherwise.


Marxine conducting an Environmental Education session.

One by one we gave our message to the children and parents, each in their special way, through stories and jokes and motivational talks. I had the privilege of conducting an environmental lesson through games and chalk and board. I pray the message of my lesson hit home; the scarcity of fresh water on a global scale and the need to conserve it. It was finally the end of day one sessions, and as the students left, it was time to unwind. This marked the drill for the days to follow. Evenings were a special time for me for there was always chicken for dinner; and what a fine meal that was! Our accommodation was also something to remember forever, who would have ever thought I would camp in a staff room? With the special privilege of being the only female, I got to camp alone in the office and could spend long hours reminiscing  childhood times as I read fairytales and storybooks that formed my fundamental literature in my early years. This was the order of the next two nights as we visited Malanga, Nyari, and Mijomboni Primary Schools. As we finally headed back to A Rocha, thankful for the successful visits and Kiboko holding up; I reflected on the events one by one. Although I was a beneficiary of a scholarship program myself, this experience made me appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifice that parents and donors make. I walked into that camp hoping to impact lives and walked out having been changed myself.


Beneficiaries and their parents during the camp.


Disbursement of fees.

Last week, ASSETS coordinator, Festus Masha, visited the students whom A Rocha Kenya is supporting in their schools. The aim of such trips is, normally, not only to pay fees but also meet the beneficiaries and see how they are fairing in their studies. We seek, through this kind of interactions, to give the students moral support, too. It is also imperative that we get first-hand report of the students` class attendance and discipline from the school authorities. Both hard work and discipline are key requirements for ASSETS students.We are currently supporting 123 students. Jackline Kazungu is one of them. She hails from Kahingoni; one of the villages that border the Arabuko Sokoke Forest. She schooled at Kahingoni Primary School and is now studying at St Thomas Girls` Secondary School in Kilifi. Her parents supplement subsistence farming with charcoal burning and ASSETS pays up to 80% of her fees to discourage her parents from raising bulk of the fees from illegal logging or other forms of unsustainable use of resources.  The bursary scheme continues to  change perceptions and attitudes of such financially unstable parents from around the forest. Jackline is hard working and she is always at the top of her class. At Manghudo Secondary School, Agnes Furaha Katana was very happy when she learned that Festus Masha was around to pay her fees. Agnes comes from Bogamachuko; another village bordering Arabuko Sokoke Forest. She was worried since her father paid only an installment of this term`s fees and she was not sure whether he would be able to come back to offset the balance before schools close for the holidays.


Agnes Furaha Katana in her school.



Jackline Kazungu in her school.




Re-awakening Ngong Forest User Groups

  Ngong Forest is unique because it is the only indigenous forest located in the confines of a city. About 80% of its 208 species of trees and plants are indigenous. It is rich in biodiversity with about 190 species of birds and 35 species of mammals. Besides, it supports various rivers including Mbagathi and Ngong-Motoine. Our mission as A Rocha Kenya is to transform people`s lives so that they can conserve nature and we are committed to empowering the Ngong Forest user groups so that they can realise this objective. We are currently using the Community Forest Association trainings as a platform to address the challenges that the forest has been facing. Encroachment, urbanisation, mining, illegal logging and invasive species are some of the major challenges here. Olulua Forest Environmental Participatory group, one of the user groups we are working with, has realised a major achievement. On 27th January this year, we taught them how to make compost manure using Lantana camara and Tithonia diversifolia. The group has embraced this fully and are now composting using the above mentioned weeds which are alien. These species are rich in Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, Calcium and Manganese. This is an innovative and environmentally friendly way of turning harmful invasive weeds into beneficial uses. One could say, ‘Killing two birds with one stone.’

gathering of Lantana camara

Members gathering Lantana camara.

Sprinkling water on the compost

Sprinkling water onto the compost.

A Trip to ASSETS Schools

It is on a Wednesday morning, the 28th day of January. It is 8 am as we leave our Gede office. We are visiting ASSETS schools to establish a list of the pupils who scored atleast 320 marks in the final exam; Kenya Certificate of Primary Education(KCPE). Our  Maruti crawls through a dusty  road and before long , we arrive at Mijomboni Primary School.We issue the head teacher with an A Rocha Kenya newsletter before the Wild Life Club patron hands us the names of the pupils who, out of the 500 marks, were able to garner 320  or more. We have bursary application forms that we give to the patron, the pupils are to get them from him.This is what we are going to do in each of the other schools we are yet to visit.

The next school on our list is Girimacha and we drive along a dusty route winding on the edge of Arabuko Sokoke Forest. From here, we drive to Malanga and our car has to pass through an eroded path full of potholes and sometimes confine its wheels between gulleys. At around 11 am we arrive at Bogamachuko Primary School. The patron, here, gives us the list of the top perfomers and dares to inform the head teacher, who is in a meeting with parents, that ASSETS team has arrived. The head teacher comes out promptly. I see it on her face that she is very happy that we are here. 12 pupils. That is the number we get here, the largest so far.We leave Boga ( this is how they proudly abbreviate the name of their school here)  and drive to Kahingoni, then Nyari, Mzizima, Mida and back to Gede in the evening. What a round!

We look at the list.We have 45 pupils with atleast 320 marks. Then  we remember that our budget is not as fat and we will have to recruit only 30 of them to the bursary scheme this year. We would later do assessment which involves collecting the application forms and visiting the pupils in their homes to interview them. One of the decisive criteria in this assessment is living close to Arabuko Sokoke Forest or to Mida Creek atleast 3 years before sitting the exam.

At some point I remember what Peter and Miranda Harris, the A Rocha founding couple, said," [E]very A Rocha family that we visit around the world, we tell them how ASSETS has brought hope to the young generation and is progressively changing people`s perceptions and attitudes towards conservation" This reminds me of Boga, the best ASSETS school this year. I have taken one photo of a few pupils standing in front of their school`s sign board and realised that some other pupils in a room, that is worthy quite a  trouble of upgrade, were staring at me and I can not quite tell the speed with which I captured them too, when their teacher said," These are visitors from A Rocha Kenya. We need help and I know that they can help us" Faces of pupils yearning for hope.

Here at A Rocha Kenya, we are glad that our readers, supporters and donors do not disappoint. They are a generous lot that progressively are making ASSETS be a story of hope.






Launching of the green schools program

A Rocha Kenya’s Conservation Officer Mr. Festus was privileged to attend a launching of the Green Schools program which was initiated By His Excellence President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nyandarua County at Mikinga Primary school. This was then to be replicated in the whole republic, it was time for coast to launch this program and Bale Primary School in Ganze Sub-County was the focal point for the event. 1

The event was graced by the Minister for Environment and Natural resources in Kilifi County Hon.Mwachitu, Head of Conservancy Coast Mr. Nderitu and Ecosystem conservator Mr.Maina. There were lots of entertainment during the forum; Bale primary school traditional dancers really entertained the guests with their traditional songs and dances.


This was really encouraging seeing people taking charge in an Event like this which goes hand in hand with the Objectives of A Rocha Kenya as an Organization.


" A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the."Deuteronomy 11:12.


Gratitude: A lively sense of future benefit

Remember the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19? How Jesus healed them and only one came back to show his appreciation  to God? I will never forget this one time i attended a Sunday school service in one of my friend's church; Moses, a Reverend at St. Andrew's ACK church. The teachings for that day was about the ten lepers-after reading the bible verse he asked the children what they thought about the story; one little boy said,"Jesus must have been so happy that somebody thanked him" i was marveled at the response of the little boy. How many times do you seat down and reflect on the countless blessings God has bestowed  you and appreciated ? We are pleased  by the letter below that one of the ASSETS beneficiaries Ngombo Lillian Tabu wrote us showing her sincere appreciation to ASSETS and the A Rocha Kenya in general.

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"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6-7 

May the Almighty God's favor and blessing follow you wherever you may go Lillian; you will always be in our hearts and remembered in our prayers.


The ASSETS Program conducts camps in two folds one when A Rocha staff go to the schools and camp for a week, this happens in April in every calendar year. The other camp happens in August in every calendar subject to funding. The August camp invited participants are beneficiaries, parents and wildlife clubs of Kenya Patrons from selected areas. The objective of this event is to impact the beneficiaries with environmental conservation knowledge so that they able to use it in school and at home with their parents and friends. ???????????????????????????????

The topics that are emphasized on include Creation care “ God is the creator of everything and man was created to take care of God’s creation”, A Rocha’s five Cs-conservation, community, cross-cultural, cooperation and Christianity, ASSETS conditions, Career choice and development and drug abuse and HIV/AIDS.


In addition that the beneficiaries are also taken to snorkeling, Gede ruins, Mida creek where they visit our Eco-facilities: tree house at Gede ruins, the boardwalk at Mida creek (enjoying the biodiversity around).



It has been two years now since our last ASSETS camp; we are hoping and praying to raise enough funds to hold one next year (April 2015).


Inspiring entertainment by the ASSETS beneficiaries and their parents

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!

Investing in the younger generation

The community conservation officer (Festus) and I made a visit to St. Thomas girl’s high school. Though the visit was very brief, it was an amazing experience to interact with the student. We did get a chance to interview her and had a talk with her about how she’s doing in her studies, her goals and what plans she has for her future. Her name is Jackline Kazungu. She started schooling this year in the month of February. She comes from Kahingoni a village 3km from the Arabuko sokoke forest. ???????????????????????????????

Jackline first learnt about ASSETS program way back in her primary school (Kahingoni primary school) from one of their teachers. The teacher was a patron of the wildlife club in their school. He encouraged the students to join the club since being a member of the club was one of the requirements of being selected as an ASSETS beneficiary. She joined the wildlife club and learnt a lot about what A Rocha Kenya really does and conserving the environment became her passion. She did quite well in school and  was also selected to benefit from our program. Jackline wishes to become a doctor in future.


She  is a bright young lady and we pray that she achieves her dreams!