Category Archives: Eco-tourism Facilities

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.

A Prayer Well Answered!

Eco-tourism has been the main source of funding especially for our community and conservation work. Funds collected from our Eco -facilities have been pivotal in the sustainability of our projects. However breaking down of the Gede Ruins Tree platform was one problem that wrecked our minds in the last quarter of 2013.

Coming down the tree platform

Coming down the tree platform

 

We desperately tried to have it fixed soonest possible so as to beat the December deadline when tourism would be at its peak but that was to be in vain! Repair operations started but on a rather small scale due to the lack of a steady source of funds to sustain that.We closed the year with a prospect of funding from the Watamu Rotary Club but the facility was still closed.

During the first Monday morning meeting of the year, we sat together as a team to share our joys, success and aspirations.We then joined hands in prayer but the most common “phrase” in every one’s prayer was that of  the tree platform repairs.

Gede Ruins Tree Platform

Gede Ruins Tree Platform

Later that same day our staff members Stanley and Daniel set out to meet a couple, adamant supporters of our work, Bill of the Watamu Rotary Club and his wife Cassandra. “Fingers crossed” we waited hoping for the best as they had shown some interest in funding the repair operations.

We could all read the glee in the faces of Stanley and Dan as they drove back into the Mwamba compound (where we are located). Finally The good Lord had answered our prayers and the repair operations had been fully funded by this couple. The tree platform should now be operational by the end of this month.

A big thank you to Bill and Cassandra for standing by us in our time of need. May you find favor in the Lord

 

Gede Tree Platform Repairs

 

 

 

tree platform

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.

At the platform

At the platform

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

again.

Your ideological, financial and material support will always be highly appreciated!!

Voice of the ASSETS child!

The ASSETS project has so far been the most reliable scholarship program in the north Coast of Kenya. It’s uniqueness knows no limit as it was tactically set to satisfy two needs at the same time. Apart from providing educational opportunities to some of the brightest minds in this region, It has successfully transformed the attitudes of  the locals regarding the protection of Mida Creek and Arabuko Sokoke Forest which are two extremely precious habitats threatened by human activities here.

ASSETS has been enjoying a great deal of both financial and material support from well wishers: Turtle Bay Beach Club,  Ocean Sports Resort, and guests who have been visiting our Eco-facilities; the Gede tree platform and the Mida Creek boardwalk and bird hide. Funds from these sources have been comfortably sustaining the project for the period it has been operational.

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However there has been lots of economic uncertainties over the recent past that has weakened our financial sustainability as a project. School fees in Kenya have extremely risen leading to a subsequent increase in our budget. The tourism sector which we significantly relied on has deteriorated leading to consequent decrease in the number of visitors to our two Eco-tourism facilities at Gede and Mida, this has seriously compromised our financial sustainability.The number of  eligible students has also been rising leading to an expansion in our budget.This has been as  a result of the consistent campaigns among the communities on the importance of formal education .

 

ASSETS beneficiaries

ASSETS beneficiaries

As efforts are being put in place to deal with the situation,   we really need to stand up for next year’s beneficiaries  to ensure that we retain them at school.This project has been providing hope not only to the benefiting  families but to the society as a whole, it is a perfect manifestation that restoration of the lost beauty of nature is achievable! It is such a beautiful thing to see the enthusiasm and initiative taken by the be

neficiaries including their parents in spearheading the conservation efforts at the local levels. We want to heed to God’s call of caring for creation and empowering the communities we work with in the process. The ASSETS project represents hope to the African child, it is the ‘logo’ of opportunity and the symbol of empowerment.

 

Johnstone's graduation at AKAM

The ASSETS children have great potential if given the chance, they have a way of getting to the top and that is all thanks to your esteemed support!

The best Christmas gift you can ever give out this Christmas season is a donation to the ASSETS project to ensure that the it stays operational next year. We need to raise 2 million Shillings  by the mid of January 2014 to be able able to keep our students in school next year.

You can make a donation through www.arocha.org/donateassets

No amount is too small to make a difference!

Like us on Facebook at ASSETS_Caring for Children & Creation

Follow us on twitter at @ARK_assets

 

 

 

Muvera Wa ASSETS

Muvera wa ASSETS  is an association of the parents of the beneficiaries of the Assets programme .It was formed in 2006 after the first Assets beneficiaries graduated from secondary school.The main aim of forming this association was to improve the benefits already received from the Assets programme,the name”Muvera”  is  a giriama word meaning ”Thanks”.This group now has over 100 members from all the 10 schools that are in the Assets programme.

Over the past few years there were problems in the registration of this association because of a lack of a good forest management plan.This has changed since the Arabuko-Sokoke  forest,forest   management plan was launched couple months ago and it has three regions which are, Gede, Jilore and Sokoke Community Forest Associations (CFA) . Now the Muvera wa ASSETS association in the Gede region has been registered. The gede group comprises of Mida, Mijomboni, Mzizima and Chipande.

Last week we visited the four groups to explain to them the whole registration issue and how this brings an avenue of how the group can come up with eco-tourism projects for their benefits.The meetings were very well attended and we had 30 members all together.Stanley and Mr Suliman(one of the Assets Commitee member) were there to explain the registration issue

Muvera member asking a question

 

stanley explaining to the muvera cluster

Assets Second camp

The assets second camp was on from 28th of August and ended yesterday 30th August.It was a three day camp with alot of activities just like the first camp.The students who are first year beneficiaries got to learn about the environment and conservation.A total of 20 students and a teacher and a parent were in this camp. The first day the students were taken to the Mwamba nature trail where they learnt more about tree species and the general biodiversity of the mwanba little forest.

Nature walk

Thereafter there was an introduction part and this second camp was lucky to have two Assets university graduates who gave alot of encouragement to the students.

Talk by Assets graduates

Later that day there was a talk on education and discipline by one of the Assets committee members(Mr Julius Mwawiswa).Mr Mwawiswa talked and quoted verses from the bible to give emphasis on his talk.Again the students were lucky to get a talk fromMr Rafael Magambo, the National director of A Rocha Kenya.Mr Rafael gave them sound advice on being morally upright and conservation.

Talk by Aseets Committee member

A Rocha Kenya Director with beneficiaries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was time for games and two groups were formed,SIMBA(lion) and NYATI(buffalo).The first game was filling an empty bottle with water using hands from one member to the last.This was by giving water using the hands, then to the other member the same way until the last member who takes the water in the botlle. Nyati emerged the winners.It was then football where we had a great encounter and simba won 1-0.

Football game

Filling Bottle competition

In the evening the students watched a movie (finding nemo) before they went to bed.

Day two of the camp saw the students going for snorkelling after the morning glory and a powerpoint presentation from Benjo.Snorkelling  was a great experience for the students whose majority had not been in water.Mr Robert Sluka and Benjamin cowburn who are the marine biologists at mwamba led the students on this wonderful part of marine life.Students were able to see corals and different types of fish.

Robert with a student

After snorkelling Mr Stanley gave a powerpoint presentation on drugs and HIV Aids.We later went to the Watamu turtle watch(WTW) where the students learnt alot  about turtles. We later went to games.After a tough match which ended on a 1-1 draw we went to penalties.Nine penalties were taken from both sides and Simba won 2-1.In the evening we had a session of bible study and a session of quiz in which simba won, before they went to bed

After a bird ringing session led by the director of conservation and reserch,A Rocha Kenya, Mr Collin Jackson, the last day was full of movements.The students were taken to the two eco-facilities where the bursaries come from.Mida creek was the first place they visited and were happy to learn the various species of mangroove.They were very amazed by the different species and their long biological names .They went on to climb the boardwalk. Few of them were very afraid of its shaky nature but got encouraged by their fellow students.

birdringing session

At the board walk

The second movement was visiting the Gede ruins tree platform. Here the students had a lot of fun on the platform after a tour of the ruins.

At the platform

The students returned to mwamba for lunch.After lunch we had a recap of the camp and a short final quiz. The points were calculated and Simba became the overal winnere with 23.5 points and Nyati had 23 points.Prizes were awarded to the winning group.The losing group also got consolation prizes.The teacher and the parent who attended the camp were also awarded prizes. The camp ended with a prayer from one of the students and then they were shown a slideshow of all the photos taken during their stay.At 3:20 the students left mwamba.

byebye

Mida Creek Boardwalk Launch

Welcome to Mida Creek!

 

Last Monday (the 23rd of July) we celebrated the official launch of our boardwalk in Mida Creek! It was an exciting and well-attended event, with A Rocha staff and volunteers, local villagers and children, visitors from Kenya Wildlife Service, and Kenya Forest Service, as well as sponsors (Safaricom Foundation). We were able to officially launch the bridge thanks to a generous donation from the Safaricom Foundation. Everyone celebrated together with dance, theatre, tree planting and a walk across the bridge.
This 260m long bridge crosses different types of mangroves which we learn to recognize as we walk along. Lucky visitors will also be able to spot various wildlife species along the way. The end of the bridge is marked by a birdhide by the beach. All the revenue collected from the boardwalk/birdhide proceeds to the ASSETS bursary scheme.

Our first walk on the newly renovated boardwalk!

 

African celebrations always involve dance!

  

Tree planting