Category Archives: Community

EXPLORING CHICKEN REARING-AN INCOME GENERATING PROJECT FOR ASSETS

It is exactly 15 years since the birth of our ASSETS programme in 2001. The journey has not been easy ensuring that the promise we made back then is fulfilled. The ASSETS Eco-bursaries have been coming from our esteemed donors and proceeds from our Eco-tourism projects in Mida Creek and Gede Ruins.

Fueled by the conviction of conserving our Arabuko Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek together with the community members at large, there have been financial constraints, inadequate support from some of the community members and accountability issues which mar the project. However we have withstood the storm and heeded to the vision, “nature conserved people transformed”; it’s what you use that makes a difference and creates the echoes of the raising voice”

ASSETS, which has stood the test of time, has been able to disburse scholarships to many bright and needy students that come from the villages adjacent to Arabuko Sokoke Forest, amidst difficult years for the tourism industry since most of the funds are sourced from the ecotourism facilities at Mida Creek and Gede Ruins. It is due to all these that we thought it right for some time now that we think of another finance generation project that will keep us going. Though it may not bring a lot of returns in this near future we are certain that it will surely help in the future.

Chicken rearing is the project we embarked on beginning this year.  It’s not only about paying for their bursaries, but also educating them on how to care for the creation. We have seen it right that there is need for the young children who are growing up to be educated on the environment so as to cultivate a positive curiosity that will drive them to conserve and protect their environment so that in reality they can witness the above imagination. Barlow, in Confluence of Streams, puts it nicely: “children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for nature. Properly cultivated, these values can turn into sustainable patterns of living.”

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The chicken rearing is not only to generate funds but also to be a platform where the community can come and learn how to rear local chickens in their homesteads. This will reduce the pressure on the habitats we are conserving for our endangered species. Educating the young generation will influence the whole community at large.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

IN THE WORDS OF A SUMMER FIELD COURSE VOLUNTEER

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Rebecca Eastwood, a  summer field course volunteer from The United Kingdom, who stayed for a month and 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 four 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 Farming God’s Way.

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It is amazing how one can practice 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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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.

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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.

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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.

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The entertainment was…i cant really find the right words to describe it but let me say it was simply breathtaking!

Dakatcha Farming God’s way

On a typical working day for the Mweria group in Dakatcha (farming God’s way): the group meets at the working site at 9am in the morning.

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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.

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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?

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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).

ARABUKO SOKOKE SNARE WALK…

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.

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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.

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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.

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We are hoping and praying that the word will spread, the destruction of our forests to stop and conserving it to be our passion.

MWERIA SYSTEM FARMING GOD’S WAYS

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.

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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”.

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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.

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We hope that the system will continue on successfully and hope that God will continue blessing us all the way.

 

In and around Arabuko Sokoke forest for Education and Conservation…Adventurous!

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!

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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!

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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!