Wildlife conservation benefiting Kenya’s coastal poor

I’m jamba water which means greetings from Kenya my name is Colin Jackson and I work with the rashi Kenya and the conservation science director and I’ve been working there for the last 16 years it’s a pleasure to present to you some of our work working communities and with conservation of threatened habitats and species I was born and brought up in Kenya so I feel very Kenyan though I my parents originally from the UK my father’s also born here so I have roots very much in Kenya and this is very much home for me I have worked in conservation since studying environmental science at a university in the UK and worked with Russia in Portugal where I worked is the assistant warden there and caught the vision for starting a project a Christian conservation project back in Kenya to help Kenyans to understand God’s love for his world and how we have a responsibility to look after it but working with the communities and helping them also to raise their standard of living at the same time as protecting some of the threatened habitats that we have here I knew there was a great need for conservation efforts in Kenya that the church is very large in Kenya and yet there’s never a sermon preached or a Bible study led about the importance of caring for creation through discussing with a number of experts in people and through praying about it and looking around the country we landed that Y tunnel which is on the coast hundred kilometers north of Mombasa a beautiful spot white sandy beaches beautiful as your blue sea on a marine park the oldest Marine Park in in Africa and just inland from that the Arab bukas akaka forest which is the last remaining patch of coastal forests that used to stretch in a mosaic of forest and grassland from Somalia all the way down to Mozambique and now all that’s left is this 420 square kilometers of forest caldera books of cooking right next to that is the meter Creek which is a tidal Inlet a wetland area with about 32 square kilometres of open sand flats and mangrove forests and that also is internationally important for its bird life and for a number of other taxa which are found there and so it’s a in terms of locating a project for conservation we saw what time will vary much as a hot spot for biodiversity conservation that within 30 40 kilometer radius there’s ten percent of Kenya’s important Bird Areas which are areas selected for the importance of birds but indicating importance of other wildlife and nature as well and so in 1998 I started off in watamu and by 2002 we were blessed to have a center an old guest house which we’ve been running as the field study center for Russia since then and have welcomed many people to come and stay many volunteers and we’ve now got a team of almost 20 people working in a variety of fields both research environmental education and the community work and its really the community work which I want to share with you about and how that has grown since its inception in 2001 which is when we got there court division for it many people ask about conservation in the face of real poverty and communities who are very poor and how can you tell people who are so poor that they have to protect the environment around them when actually they are desperate just to survive and find find some means of surviving and it’s a very relevant point it’s very important it would seem that in the West and for many of us actually conservation often comes as a bit of a luxury we’ve all made the money we need we’ve got jobs we’ve got security from government and all sorts of things and so we can then maybe start to look at how we can protect the environment in some ways and that is often the argument which is put by developing countries to that develop the world when they say you should look after your forests and your your environment however i think there’s people who say that are very short-sighted and have missed the major point which is that actually when it comes to environmental issues and to environmental degradation the people who suffer the most are the people living in the environment the poor the people living off the agricultural fields in that ecological framework and it’s really important for us to understand to help them understand that actually the environment around them is what they need entirely to survive on and as status from you who’s one of a Rasha Kenya’s board members has put it very nicely really the environment their local environment around them for poor people is their supermarket it’s their local path station it’s their entertainment it’s what their education it’s their pharmacy it’s where they survive on if they get everything they need from their immediate environment and so if we allow them to or allow others to come and trash that environment then obviously you’re having a major impact on their survival their ability to survive and in fact that’s what leads to a down spiral of poverty cervical zazaca forest is like I say one it is the last remaining patch of forest its unique forest in many ways because it’s got three forests within the one boundary this means that it’s very rich for its biodiversity and in terms of birds it’s got six globally threatened species that occur in there it’s got threatened species of mammals that exist in the forest as well several very rare species of butterfly and subspecies and it’s as a result it’s it’s a really important forest and so that was really which drove us to see how we can help protect it with the communities because the problem is the main problem with the forest and with the creek really is that the local communities are going in there to cut trees to trap mammals animals for bush meat to fish with fishing nets with a very small mesh cutting the mangroves why in order to raise money mainly for school fees because most the communities whilst they’re very very poor and in fact one year let the sub locations we work with is the poorest in Kenya they can somehow survived by scraping a living out of the soil to find food and maybe enough to sell to get clothes second-hand clothes and so on but when it comes to a hard cash to pay for school fees that’s when it becomes a major challenge and that drives them very often to cutting trees for timber or charcoal for building poles and for trapping animals for bush meat so we thought that if we could help them with school fees money directly paid to the schools that the children are registered at enrolled in then they would not need to go and cut the trees in the same way and that by getting them to understand that and to even sign that they would agree not to go ahead and cut trees and trap mammals then it would make a big difference in for them and so we started that in two thousand one and since then it’s been amazing to see the way that project has grown and developed we’ve supported now over 500 children through secondary school we we commit to supporting them for four years through the the whole of the their school career in secondary school and it’s linked very much to their performance and to their abilities to to work but even if they do badly we still commit to helping them through and we seek to follow up with the families and with the children and so it’s not just a handing out of the cash and waving goodbye but actually following up for those who may be struggling in some way the way that we get the money for the bursaries for the scholarships is through ecotourism and we have built a couple of eco-tourists facilities 300 and 300 metre long hanging walkway through the mangroves that on the edge of meter Creek leading out to a bird hide overlooking the creek which we charge people to use also a tree platform in the top of a bear Bab tree 16 metres high overlooking an ancient Arabic ruin called Getty ruins which a lot of tourists go to see and we charge people to use that and that money we goes directly into the bursary fund into the scholarship fund so that we can pay scholarships for children we also work with the local hotels and all in any other opportunities we can find to raise funds through tourism locally and through supporters elsewhere so that we can generate the money that we need for the scholarships and then linking it also to conservation and that has been the key we’re not just doing this to help children through secondary school but we’re ultimately concerned about God’s amazing creation in the form of arable Kosuke forest and me two creeks and one of the the things that we get them to do is we link the children through environment education activities we take into school camp sometimes to and help them do games and activities that help will understand the importance of the forest we were the parents as well we look to try and introduce new ideas for them for the families so that they can improve their own standard of living through income generating activities which may be different to what they’ve tried before we facilitate them with that and all with the the understanding the foundation and the basis that this is God’s will that he loves it he loves them and he wants us to live in a way which honors him and which sustainably allows them to use the forest but to use it without destroying it and it’s been encouraging to have independent studies done working with the communities to see is it making a difference and encouraging to hear of other conservationists who spoken with community members and being surprised how a very poor lady a widow has been able to have her child go to one of the leading secondary schools on the coast and to hear that it was because of support from Russia Kenya through assets that they’ve managed to that and now students have gone on to secondary school to university to teachers training colleges working in different jobs and many of them feeding back into their communities resources to help the families but remembering as a result that it all came as a result of caring for the environment and that the important thing message we’re trying to put across is caring for creation in that way so often working with the communities they understand the environment around them is something there to be used it’s there not something really that holds beauty and value in itself other than if the tree can be used to build or to make charcoal or the animal can be eaten or whatever it might be but it’s often a new concept that a tree has value in its own right it is intrinsic value why well because God created it and he made it wonderful and he made it to give glory to him yes he’s given it to us to use but we need to use it wisely and we need to appreciate the beauty that’s there and to through that worship of God as a result of the Wonder and the beauty of his creation to lead that into wise action for it and I think to me that is what the heart of our community work is in in arusha that as Christians working in conservation it’s about helping people appreciate the beauty of God’s creation to to wonder at him and to understand that it is that his world displays his love displays his awesomeness displays his glory d

One thought on “Wildlife conservation benefiting Kenya’s coastal poor

  1. hello i wanted to ask a question that i was given to answer how can CAMPFIRE be implemented in kenya and can it be the solution to human life conflicts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *