Category Archives: Environmental Education

A unique Program, Great Results!

“A Pound, A Dream!” Campaign

 

It is our responsibility to care for God’s creation in whatever ways suitable. The well fare of the generations to come will significantly be affected by our activities today and how much effort we put into conserving and restoring nature. It is in relation to this call that A Rocha Kenya; a Christian Conservation Organization based in Watamu, felt the need to help in conserving the neighboring ecological hotspots. Here is a story by one of A Rocha Kenya staff showing how his association with the Organization has enabled him respond to God’s call and made Him feel really good about it.

Stanley Baya

My interest in nature led to my appointment as the wildlife club’s patron for the school where I was teaching. I had recently graduated from a teacher training college and just started working at Sawa-Sawa Academy in Watamu before I was promoted to be the head teacher of the school. This position reunited me with a long-time friend who was then working as Environmental Education Officer for Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. Mr Tsofa Mweni introduced me to A Rocha Kenya and to Colin Jackson, the founder.

In 2001, I took up an appointment as the Co-coordinator of the Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Eco-tourism scheme (ASSETS). This new challenge was both exciting and overwhelming. It exposed me to the very high poverty levels in the area, which led to a very high school drop-out rate. In our first meeting with the project stakeholders, it was revealed by the District Education Officer that more than 90% of the students who graduated from primary school the previous year did not join secondary school. After conducting a rapid survey to get some baseline information, we found that many students did not even pick up their results and admission forms from the school, as they felt there was no hope of them joining secondary school anyway. This put a lot of pressure on the parents to exploit the natural resources around them, like cutting trees to sell as timber. The result has been the degradation of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek.

Today, however, with over 450 students having been supported by the ASSETS eco-bursary scheme, it is evident that the trends are changing. The transition rate of children taking up secondary school places has very visibly improved and hope for the future almost restored. This renewed hope has influenced a change of attitude and behaviour among the students and parents who benefit from the program. An independent survey established that there is quite a significant improvement in understanding about the role of the forest and the creek in sustaining the livelihoods of the local people.

I am really proud of this program that has made it possible for over 200 students to attend universities and diploma colleges. It makes me feel that ASSETS was a step in the right direction towards redeeming the local people and creation.

This is just some of the many stories that A Rocha Kenya staff and associates have to say about the ASSETS project and its effect to the community. Currently we are on a 3 month fund drive dubbed “A Pound, A Dream!” campaign, aimed at raising funds to sustain the ASSETS projects.

Look at it, just by saving one pound a day you will be able to pay for a child’s school fees for a whole school term, better still you will have played your part in caring for God’s creation. (The writer is actually a successful graduate of this project currently in University)

You could be part of this noble mission and give a child an opportunity to achieve their dreams by making a donation online see:

http://www.arocha.org/int-en/you/donatespecific.html?d=KE-ASSETS. Make sure to choose “Kenya; ASSETS bursaries.

To donate to our bank Account please emails us on: mwamba@arocha.org for our details.          

Farming God’s Way in Gede!

In Gede, just 15 minutes from the A Rocha centre, there is a ‘shamba’ (farming plot) that A Rocha owns. It is being used for planting different crops, as an example of ‘Farming God’s Way’. About 2 months ago, many A Rocha volunteers and staff (including the cook and maintance staff!) went along to prepare the land for planting. This involved digging holes (or trenches) equal distances apart, filling with compost, then going round the forest collecting ‘mulch’ – dead leaves, to put around all the holes as ‘God’s blanket.’

ASSETS Shamba

Andrew and Paul testing the heat of the compostheap

We then waited a few weeks for the rainy season to start to come! We went back and carefully planted all the seeds, filled in the holes, and covered all the land with God’s blanket, a natural way of stopping the crops from drying out in the sun. The crops we planted were maize, beans and millet. We then waited for the crops to grow. Jimmy, who lives on site, will water the crops when the rains are low. We will use crop rotation after the grain from this planting has been harvested, to keep the soil rich, and ensure it is re-nourished with necessary nutrients. Seeing it a few days ago – the crops are all growing beautifully! We are now in the height of the rainy season; hopefully soon we shall have fully grown crops to provide healthy amounts of the three different foods. This land in Gede is coincidentally the place where the new ASSETS offices will be – right next to the shamba!

Robin Harris – volunteer

Some photos of the fun planting afternoon (photos by Benji)

Maize and beans which are going to be planted

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Planting the different fields

Planted field

ASSETS Plot Beginning to Develop!

The Gede ASSETS plot has been full of activity as we near the end of the year. In addition to building materials being dropped off for the new ASSETS offices, and eventually a conference center, we have also hired a permanent team member, Jimmy, to live on the plot and help manage the land, as well as look after our conservation agriculture demonstration fields. 

Last week a team from Mwamba spent the better part of the morning marking out the permanent fiels for our demonstration fields. Jimmy had done  a wonderful job of clearing a massive mango tree stump which was in the middle of one of our fields, as well as leveling the terrain. For the first time, we have six 6×6 meter fields marked out, side by side, ready to be prepared for planting when the long rains come in April/May. In addition to marking out the fields, a permanent composting station was also measure and marked out for construction, hopefully to be completely set up this week. If all goes according to plan, we should have enough compost to plant a whole acre of maize, which is more what we will need in one season of planting. We will have plenty of excess to store for future planting seasons. Plans are also in place to put a rainwater harvesting tank on the house Jimmy is living in to provide water for irrigation, enabeling us to maintain our demostration shamba’s year round.

We are hoping to grow a number of different local and more traditional crops this year, in addition to maize to introduce crop rotations as well as cover crops and fodder crops. It is a huge blessing to have Jimmy living on-site to watch after the place, and hopefully this year we will have a plentiful harvest. 

Age is no limit; Environmental Education at Kindergaten

Most environmental education programmes target students at upper primary level of education. To many of us this is because membership of the environmental clubs (the main focus of most environmental education programmes) often comprises of students of this age. This tendency locks out the smaller children from any involvement whatsoever in environmental programmes. Today we went against all odds to engage 53 students from Edna Peter’s Academy in environmental awareness activities for the afternoon.

With ages ranging from Baby Class (play group) to class Four, (11 years old) it was definitely a challenge to put to order a class of 53 students. However it was a lot of fun.

Castles on the sand

After their packed lunch, the students were led on a discovery tour through the Mwamba Field Study Centre Nature Trail where they enjoyed seeing ants, monkeys and butterflies among other creatures. I couldn’t stop them from singing an old butterfly song;

Butterfly butterfly

Where do you stay?

I don’t know, I never had a home,

So can you take me eh eh, can you take me.

Later they had a really good time building sand castles on the beach.

Children Playing at the beach

It was fun! As Mark Twain wrote, “Age is an issue of mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”

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

Films for a difference!

The classroom filled up all along the film!

The classroom filled up all along the film!

 

Last week in Mijamboni Primary School near Gede, the usual Tuesday evening Wildlife Club was offered a rather exceptional activity! The classroom was made into a cinema, staring David Attenborough and his BBC Earth Series.

This was very and increasingly well-attended, with about three times as many students at the end of the film than at the start! (and many more watching by the window). As the Wildlife Patron wasn’t here, we could not have a discussion afterwards as we usually do, but it was nevertheless an enjoyable afternoon for everyone, filled with ‘ohhs’ and ‘aahhs’ of amazement at the sights of nature and wildlife. Favourites were chasing scenes – lions chasing an elephant for instance-, and the monkeys having a bath.

We believe these films can make a big difference in giving a positive image of environment. Although they may not grasp all the commentary, children see how beautiful, diverse (and apparently funny) nature is. We know that for someone from a similar rural primary school, seeing such a film spurred an interest in the environment and eventually led to a full time career in this field! So let’s hope many more will be inspired to protect the environment through this!

 

Children packed outside the window too..!

Children packed outside the window too..!

Braced for Summer camps

August is here with us again! 136 ASSETS beneficiaries are just about to sit for their end of term examinations in over 40 different secondary schools. With over 1.2 million shillings paid out as bursaries for the students, the ASSETS account is left wanting, needing Ksh. 148,000 to bring another group of 40 students to the August camp.

Extra accommodation

For the last five years, this exercise has aided over 200 students to spend three days at Mwamba Field Study Centre and get hands on experience in the conservation work going on. During these events, students have a chance to visit the famous Watamu Coral Gardens, the Gede Ruins and the Mida Creek. This experience always leaves a lasting memory in the students and they always talk about it. To some, this is often their first time to see the ocean despite living less than 100 km away.

Swimming, a rare trea

Discussion on HIV AIDS and drugs forms a key part of the camp. This challenges the students on important choices they are required to make in life. The three days learning programme is spiced up with many games and quizzes for ease of learning.

We are grateful for a donation of £ 440 that we have so far received for this activity. This is enough to cover the costs for 15 students attending the camp. We are currently looking for sponsorship for the other 25 students at a cost of US$ 50 per student.

Students on the Mida Boardwalk

ASSETS Beneficiaries Days

Students play “Hungry Hippos”

On Friday the ASSETS program started camps for families receiving bursary funds.  In the morning, parents and students from Gede primary school and Mijomboni primary school gathered in Mijomboni. This is where Festus, a community conservation officer, started off the day teaching the families about the history of A Rocha Kenya, shared the location of the eco-tourism sites that provide bursary funds and highlighted the importance of conservation in the surrounding area.  After enjoying juice and cookies the parents left leaving the students for the rest of the day. A key part of the ASSETS program is to teach students about conservation. The afternoon was spent explaining the ecological importance of the Arabuko-Sokoke forest and Mida Creek. Students participated in games called, “Hungry Hippos,” and “The Wader Migration Game.” During “Hungry Hippos” students had to share limited resources with their friends and by doing so they were able to cross a river full of hippos. “The Wader Migration Game” involved the students learning about the challenges birds face while trying to migrate around the world. The day ended with the introduction of a brand new curriculum, called A Rocha Conservation Education Course for Secondary Schools (ACCESS), where students participate in a four year long environmental studies course outside the classroom. The students were very excited about the introduction of the new course and agreed to participate. The day was full of learning. Next week Festus and volunteers will continue to run camps for eight more schools supported by the ASSETS program.

Students and parents learn about the ASSETS program
Students play ” The Wader Migration” game

 

Environmental Education Jump-started again

Bogamachuko School rules

It was again necessary to take the road less travelled inorder to accomplish a great mission. The last time we were on this road was in November 2011; when it was wet, cooler and green. this time round the conditions are the extreme opposite, hot, dusty and brown. We were heading for environmental education at Bogamachuko Primary school on the western edge of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.

With three overseas volunteers, it was necessary to arrive just after classes to avoid disrupting learning in this school where they hardly see foreigners. by 3 pm we had arrived, and went straight into the head-teachers office where Mr Mwambao and Mr Bali gave us a brief about the school.

Les admiring trophies at Boga

It was very interesting to lean about the many achievements that the school had accomplished in the last few years.

An hour later, it was time for playing the “Wader Migration Game” when twenty five students split up into two teams. The game challenges the players to realise what chances of survival birds have as they migrate between the breeding and roosting sites.

Wader migration game

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Feedback from ASSETS Camp Participants

As you have seen on previous posts, we were privileged to host 18 ASSETS students last weekend for ASSETS Camp. At the end of the weekend, the students were asked to write down any feedback/comments they had about the camp and all that they got to experience. Here are some excerpts from their notes:
“all the trips helped me to learn a lot of things which I didn’t know before”
“At first I was afraid of swimming but because of the life jackets I found it easy to swim.”
“Although I was afraid of snakes before I was impressed by the visit to the Bio-Ken Snake Farm from where I learned that there are some snakes that are not poisonous”
“I would also like to thank this organization and how they help the children from poverty-stricken families”
“In Mida Creek I got to know some of the different types of mangroves and what they do for the ecosystem.”
“I appreciate the warm welcome you gave us, the meals and accommodation”
“I have learned very important things, that actually if I am to tell one by one I may end up taking the whole day”
“I wish the camp could take about two weeks so that I could continue enjoying myself”
“I enjoyed all the lessons that you had for us”
“Let the cooks be blessed and GOD KEEP THEM FOR A LONG TIME!”
(There were many happy comments about the food, obviously meals were a highlight!)
The students seem to have really enjoyed all the out trips, learning sessions, meals and games that they got to play while they stayed here at Mwamba Field Study Center, which makes it all very worthwhile for all the staff and volunteers who participated.

swimming
A big thank you goes to Stanley, Festus, and Bimbo, who put in a lot of time preparing. They are hard at work now preparing for our second ASSETS Camp, which takes place from August 27-29. Keep us in your prayers as we hope to provide a wonderful experience for this group coming in!