THE YEAR 2015, THE HOPE AND PROMISE OF 2016

Conservationists of all persuasions have embarked on a quest for environmental sustainability but in the face of an acutely difficult task we all need to consider what would motivate us to achieve it”- Peter Harris (Kingfisher’s Fire).

In retrospect, the motivation for the previous year for the A Rocha Kenya team can certainly be traced to the reinforcement of the Christian principles already upheld by the staff. This was instilled and fueled by the bible studies conducted every Monday morning which inspired and rallied the team to take care of God’s creation as alluded to in the book of Genesis, despite their job descriptions. It was further propelled by the visit of the A Rocha Founder- Peter Harris and his wife, Miranda Harris. They were able to be involved in the A Rocha Kenya’s activities and in turn they motivated the team and inspired many more in churches at Nairobi and Malindi through preaching the gospel of care for creation, by emphasizing the need for Christians to reconcile with God and his creation and ensuring restoration of God’s creation

Focusing on the Science and Conservation team, they were able to get a lot of research work going on. Despite being a team of two, they still soldiered on with support from numerous volunteers, interns and even the rest of the staff members. The terrestrial research team was able to conduct several bird ringing exercises held at Mwamba, Gede Ruins, Arabuko Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. The annual water fowl counts were successfully carried out followed by many others at Mida Creek. One of the major highlights was mapping of the newly acquired Kirosa Scott Reserve and the monitoring of the endangered Clarke’s weaver breeding sites in Dakatcha Woodland. The team was also able to host several researchers.

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Moving on to the marine side of things, the year marked a beehive of activities for the team ranging from research in the intertidal rock pools to the coral gardens of Watamu Marine Park. The major highlight of the year was the presentation of marine research work that has been conducted by A Rocha Kenya since the year 2010 until the end of 2014 in the Watamu Marine Park. This was spearheaded by Benjamin Cowburn and Peter Musembi. They organized workshops at Watamu, Mombasa and Nairobi where several stakeholders were invited including Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, National Museums of Kenya, Watamu Marine Association, Watamu Turtle Watch and boat operators. However, it was not all hard work and no play for the marine team, there was always the occasional recreational snorkeling and swimming for anyone willing to join.

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The larger Community and Conservation team worked to bridge the gap between the research team and the community at large, getting them to understand the need to restore the threatened habitats and ecosystems. The team was able to oversee the implementation of two projects into fruition, with one targeting empowerment of community forest associations (community groups who are actively involved in management and conservation of forests) through building their capacities and the other targeted empowering communities in Dakatcha Woodland through a livelihood project that promoted the adoption of Farming God’s Way (a conservation agriculture model). On the other hand, the pioneer program of the department-ASSETS, which has stood the test of time, was able to disburse scholarships to the many bright and needy students that come from the villages adjacent to Arabuko Sokoke Forest, amid a difficult year for the tourism industry since most of the funds are sourced from the ecotourism facilities at Mida Creek and Gede Ruins. Lastly, the vibrant environmental education team was able to conduct many lessons that were taught in schools around Dakatcha Woodland, Arabuko Sokoke Forest, Watamu Marine Park and Bamba.

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The mother of all- Mwamba Field Study Center, was able to host numerous guests throughout the year. They included researchers, volunteers, holiday makers, kite surfers and honeymooners. The year saw the center introduce a restaurant which is up and running, offer accommodation to water sports enthusiasts, host numerous workshops and to crown it all hold a kids festival followed by a successful fundraising dinner for the ASSETS program.

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Karara Field Study Center-which acts as the national base of A Rocha Kenya at Karen in Nairobi did not lag behind. The team was able to conduct numerous Farming God’s Way training, host several schools for environmental education lessons plus carry out various outreach activities to various community groups and churches.

presention on how to increase waste control through recycling and awareness creation

In order to instill and reinforce the spirit of team effort. The two teams from Nairobi and Watamu were able to participate in a team building exercise that saw them go on a blue safari that involved snorkeling at the Watamu coral gardens, lunch at the pristine Sudi Island and participate in beach games thereafter.

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It is my belief that there is no blueprint for a perfect course of action, since it is our job to identify it. The idea that there is such a blueprint reduces the whole business to a kind of a celestial game show with dire consequences for wrong guesses, but sadly it seems to be widely believed. However, this demonstrates our path for the New Year filled with uncertainty but promising with hope as written in Jeremiah 29:11 and Mathew 6:23-33. Certainly, I am convinced, the team will able to achieve even more than the previous year and continue ensuring nature is conserved while people’s lives are transformed.

DINING AND WINING FOR THE ASSETS PROGRAMME

Coordinating a project as great as ASSETS can get a little scary sometimes, 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, donors and well-wishers involved since things would be impossible were it not for them. Our different stakeholders categorically, have been pivotal in effecting the fruitful dinner we held recently at our Mwamba Field Study Centre.

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After a short planning and advertising of the fundraising dinner, the 12th December D-day finally arrived. The day kicked off with a good plan of entertaining kids who flocked at our premises at exactly 1000hrs in the morning very excited and feeling very energetic for the day’s activities. With a totally number of 60 kids of different ages, the day smoothly passed with organized games and environmental classes by the beach from our staff. The kids day ended at 1600hrs after a very tasty meal thus opening the gates for our dinner guests.

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The dinner was crowned by a group of dancers from Mida community that entertained the guests as they enjoyed themselves while serving. The core reason being our ASSETS program, short inspiring speeches were given by our Community Manager Mr. Stanley Baya, an ASSETS graduate, miss Lydia Kayaa and a community member Mr. Julius Katana.

IMG_4835Mr. Stanley Baya giving a speech at the dinner

The ASSETS project is being administered in two main ways; the general bursary fund that provides upto70% of school fees and a child sponsorship scheme for the exceptionally needy students. Providing 70 percent of the school fees is a huge relief to most students whose parents can comfortably raise the rest. Some of the children however hail from extremely challenged families, while some do not have any. This therefore calls for an exception in the amount of money we pay as scholarships (bursaries) in such instances thus we had to think of some other new ways of fundraising for the ASSETS program. The dinner was relatively rewarding as we raised Ksh42,100/=

The ASSETS project is actually a package for the whole family as almost everyone has a story to tell about how A Rocha Kenya through its well targeted project has changed their lives. You love the Environment! You are a friend of A Rocha!  You can support our work especially the ASSETS project. We are currently on a fund drive to sustain this project. Our target is to raise Ksh3,000,000/$30,000/GBP22,000 to be able to keep hundreds of the beneficiaries of this project in school next year. Any amount will play a huge role in sending a child back to school and putting a smile in everyone’s face.

IMG_4848Lydia Kayaa giving a speech at the dinner

 

FARMING GOD’S WAY WITH THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES

A Rocha Kenya offers a great opportunity for conservation awareness and action to the community living around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. Constant involvement and encouragement of the members of Muvera WA ASSETS is crucial to keep the interest of the community in conservation. Tree nursery management, tree planting and use of farming God’s way methods in their farms is very key.

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Farming Gods Way is a farming practice that has proven to be productive in places where it has been practiced, in fact it is a method that borrows insights from how GOD Himself being the First farmer does ‘’Farming ‘’ as observed from what happens in the forest where so many litters of leaves decay to provide the land with the best ever nutrients for plants to grow well. At Gede we have the FGW demonstration plot aiming at imparting knowledge to people that we work with so that they replicate this to their farms. The outcome from the plot is extremely encouraging, the crops that were grown from the FGW demo sites were healthy and its yields were extremely high that we have been selling the produce and the money proceeds to the ASSETS different programs.

With these results in mind we have extended the plot to accommodate other crops that were initially not kept in the demo site. We have increased nine plots so that we can grow other types of crops that are on demand, such as spinach, onions, dania and carrots among others.

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Apart from all these, farming God’s way trainings will soon be introduced to our target audience so that everyone is well aware of all the benefits and importance of FGW. As it has proven to be more and more productive, Farming God’s Way is bringing hope to farmers in Dakatcha. Mr Stephen Moneni is slowly reaping the benefits after two seasons of practice. ‘It is amazing that I didn’t have to weed my plot during the second season’, he says, ‘and the difference between the plot and the rest of the farm is evident, I am pleased’. Having been a strict maize farmer, Stephen has now diversified his crops and made compost for his farm in a bid to increase his yields.DSCN1134

 

A focused mind will never lack

We have over 100 stories to tell, but one at a time gives one the true picture that sure enough the ASSETS program is God sent to some of the families living around Arabuko Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. Our main objective is the conservation of the threatened species in these endangered habitats. Communities around these areas together with the schools have been helping us spearheading the gospel of conservation through participation in our patrols in the forest, discouraging cutting of trees either for timber or carvings and also advocating for anti-snaring activities.

Below is an incredible story of Isaac Mwangiri, an ASSETS beneficiary who finished school at Galana Secondary school in 2012. Isaac is now the owner of JIBZY STUDIO in Malanga. According to him success comes to those who put some effort to try working things out.

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“After finishing my high school education in 2012, I volunteered at A Rocha Kenya in Watamu for three months. Thereafter I started teaching in a public school called Yembe Primary school in Malanga. The board members of the school thought it was right to employ me as a part time teacher due to the fact that I had passed very well in my KCSE. I taught Kiswahili, Mathematics and C.R.E in classes 5, 7 and 8. I was in this school for exactly a year and since I had a dream of opening my own business in future I saved the little money I was being paid in Yembe. After the one year, I thought I should invest on the money I had saved and thus came up with the idea of a video shop. I started small but today I thank God my business is expanding day by day. I have employed someone who also takes charge when am out in events or weddings taking photos with my own camera upon given tenders. It might have been challenging but I do not regret any step I took at least I am proud of myself since I used what I had to do better.” Isaac believes anyone can succeed only if we use the little that we have be it knowledge or money.

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‘NOT all hope is lost’

It’s not easy to predict what the future holds for the young generation, Lennox Magajia and Daniel Mwaringa are part of this young generation hailing from Girimacha village. In this village we find Girimacha Primary school, a school adjacent to Arabuko Sokoke Forest (ASF). They graduated from the said primary school in 2009, joining high school thereafter through the ASSETS program. They completed their high school education successfully and were at home not knowing what to do next. However, they did not throw in the towel, instead they decided to give back to the community through offering teaching services at Rutuba Academy (a private School) at a time when the country is facing a crisis in the education sector, where public schools are closed as a result of the ongoing teachers strike.

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This situation has left many students with questions without answers, in fact those sitting for their national exams are at a greater risk of not performing well. Private schools seem to be taking advantage of this situation and the need to deploy a teaching force is paramount. It is because of this demand that the two graduates found their way to Rutuba Academy. The two had lost hope of joining college, due to inadequate financial resources. However, this current job might open doors for them so that they can fully furnish the desires of their hearts including pursuing higher education as they search for better options for survival. It seemed to be the end of life for them as they had expressed the fear of the unknown but the Bible recounts that God works in ways that we cannot even understand ….within the difficulties is where we are transformed to see difficulties as opportunities.

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FROM THE ASSETS STUDENTS POINT OF VIEW

This year’s ASSETS camp kicked off on a high note with a total of 18 students from different schools and two parents to watch over them at A Rocha Kenya’s Mwamba Field Study Center in Watamu. It was a two days activity that seemed too short for every one of them. It was their time away from books, their two days were preoccupied with motivational, live skills, career choice talks as they also had fun and games on our quiet nature trails and incredible beach.

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A walk by the beach that also involved them in knowing more about rock pooling and different types of fish.

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On leaving every student seemed saddened but they had to go…this was made clear by the comments they all left us on how they all rated the camp. Most of them requested that next time such an event should be given more days and more students to be involved since it was a very good experience for them both socially and academically.

SPEARHEADING DISCIPLINE IN SCHOOLS

Girimacha Primary school is among the 10 schools supported by the ASSETS programme. However the for the past few years that has not been possible because of poor performance.

The school has recurrently recorded poor results in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education(K.C.P.E)  exams. For this reason , a meeting  headed  by the ASSETS chairman Mr. Hemedi Ndonga, was scheduled on the 30th of July 2015 between parents, teachers and the ASSETS committee  to evaluate the cause of the performance drop.

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The parents were saddened by the fact that teachers were not concerned about the pupils well being and they cited an example of the head teacher who arrives in school at noon everyday yet he is the one being looked upon by the pupils. The issue of having tuition for the children also arose and it was noticed that there is only one teacher conducting tuition among the pupils.

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A lot more issues were raised between the teachers and the parents but the important thing was, both the teachers and parents were ready to work together as a team to make sure their children performed well academically.

Mr. Hemedi emphasized to both the parents and teachers that education is the best gift they can give a child and they should work together  tirelessly to ensure that discipline is maintained in the school from the dress code, punctuality and good morals among the students and teachers.

 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

 

MEET DORIS; THE ASSETS BENEFICIARY WHO GETS SATISFACTION THROUGH GIVING BACK TO HER COMMUNITY.

“Were it not for A Rocha Kenya’s ASSETS program, i don’t know how my life would be today,” said Doris Furaha an ASSETS beneficiary who hails from Kahingoni Village in Kilifi County.

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Doris(left) with A Rocha Kenya’s volunteer Rebecca Eastwood.
Despite having passed her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (K.C.P.E) examinations highly in the year 2010 at Kahingoni Primary School, Doris Furaha’s future seemed bleak. Her parents; who are small scale could barely afford to enrol her in a secondary because of their meagre earnings. The second born in a family of two could only pray for luck to come her way.
And lady luck sure did knock on her door when she was selected as an ASSETs beneficiary in the year 2011.She was enrolled at Bahari Girls High School where she obtained a mean grade of B- in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (K.C.S.E) examinations.
“Teaching these young boys and girls keeps me busy and helps me avoid bad company but to top it all sharing my knowledge with these young people gives me satisfaction. The sight of me here, is an enough motivation for them to work even more harder despite the challenges they face.” She said at Kahingoni Primary School where she volunteers as an English, Kiswahili, Social Studies and Science teacher. Doris has been a volunteer teacher at Kahingoni primary since May 2015.

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Doris with her mum
Even as she keeps on equipping these young ones with the knowledge she still holds onto her dream of becoming a clinical officer someday. It is her prayer that she will be able to join the university and study her dream course.
ASSETS is a well targeted sustainable development programme that provides secondary school scholarships, meeting the economic and social needs of the local community whilst promoting the conservation of two of Africa’s most important ecosystems: Arabuko Sokoke and Mida Crreek in the Kenyan North Coast.

IN THE WORDS OF A SUMMER FIELD COURSE VOLUNTEER

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Our next task was to stake the tomatoes. Again, everything we used was natural. We obtained twigs from on of the trees, and used banana fibres to tie the tomato stems to the stakes.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.