The Uuuhs and Aaarghs of my life

Posts tagged ‘Vacation’

Kakamega Forest Community shares how to Fight Poaching in Kenya

1525333_10202910624265936_122383361_n

I always loved travelling to the village in Kakamega during school holidays when I was young. Of course, my family did not enjoy the luxury of spending vacation time in the best beach to bush holiday destinations or flying abroad. But I sure learned the value of visiting my family back in the village. From my community members, I learned about environmental stewardship long before I interacted with the term during an environmental class at the university.

Salome was my late grandfather's prayer tree and one of the trees in the beautiful Kakamega Forest

Salome was my late grandfather’s prayer tree and one of the trees in the beautiful Kakamega Forest

My late grandfather whom I loved to call “Kuka” spent majority of his youthful years in an army camp in Uganda during the World War. He had seen the face of war and I believe that it seemed like heaven when he retired to the tranquil Kakamega forest. Every Sunday morning before going for church service, Kuka requested that parents release their children for nature walks. I made sure that I walked close to him so that I could filter wisdom from his old and husky voice as he told stories and riddles about the forest. One in particular stays fresh in my mind about the forest baboons. Kuka said that if you pick a stone and try to hit a baboon, you start a war against yourself. He said that in his many years of interacting with the baboons, he has never witnessed a baboon fail to catch a stone. Kuka said, “The baboon will always catch the stone and hit you with it for a baboon never misses his target!” Looking back, I now realise that Kuka had been teaching us about environmental responsibility.

1525171_10202910616345738_1594936710_n

During church service, I had expected the typical shouting during praise and worship and pastors enjoying celebrity life like in Nairobi. I was wrong!

Interestingly, church services in the village took-on a different format. Selected elders of the village would speak openly about some of their concerns about the village. The pastor would sit and listen to their wisdom. Some congregants would share their testimonies and thanksgiving. It seemed like it was one big family meeting where the forest somehow brought people together and closer to God. It was evident just how much the people loved the forest and even looked into the Bible for ways to be responsible about God’s creation.

1607096_10202910623305912_367249318_n

I remember the last church service I attended with Kuka, he was the guest speaker. He spoke about supporting women who often fetched firewood from the forest. They were often attacked by baboons and they too harmed the trees. Kuka requested that the church members get together and take supportive action in finding sustainable solutions. And they did, soon after the service under the leadership of their pastors. Teams were formed, tasks were assigned and action was taken throughout the week. Nobody just talked about ideas. These were often backed by conversations that sought solutions which led to a sense of ownership of the forest; our forest.

1512391_10202910614025680_135958237_n

It soon became clear to me that the forest was part of us and so we needed to protect it. This is why most of the community members assertively sought jobs from KWS as forest guards. They knew just how important it was to preserve the community’s philosophy alive when it comes to protecting the forest. Also, the community worked with legislators to ensure that industrialists don’t take advantage of areas near the forest. There are no big hotels near the forest to avoid exploitation and disturbing the peace in the forest. It only takes a mighty long drive to the Kakamega forest to realise just how real this is. In the long run, the forest remains a peaceful aboard for beautiful wild animals, trees that are over 500-years-old and a community with generations of wisdom on forest conservation.

Hands-off

So why isn’t the same happening in Kenyan national parks where poaching has been gaining momentum?

I think it all goes back to understanding the role of environmental stewardship. Why? This is because it would take three environmental stewards working together to promote responsible use and protection of the natural environment. They are: (1) Doers (2) Donors and (3) Practitioners.

black-hands

Photo: MLD Family fund

 

Doers are the people who volunteer to support the cause by taking action. For example, doers in the Kenyan context would be citizens like myself who visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphan’s Project area to get informed and also adopt elephants. Through this project, doers get to support rescue and rehabilitation efforts for orphaned elephants and rhinos.

My friend Maureen touching an elephant for the very first time at the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage in Nairobi

My friend Maureen touching an elephant for the very first time at the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage in Nairobi

Donors are the financial backbone for various causes. Their approaches could be donating money and even holding fundraisers to create awareness and gather financial support for a cause. For example, the First Lady of Kenya on behalf of the government was the fundraising force behind an anti-poaching campaign “Hands Off Our Elephants” to support conservationists and protect elephants in Kenyan National parks.

999541_658499920832202_469291713_n

Practitioners are those who work on a day-to-day basis to gather support from scientists, governmental agencies, stakeholder groups and other groups to promote environmental stewardship outcome. For example, Dr. Paula Kahumbu and her team at WildlifeDirect who initiated the “Hands off our Elephants” campaign. They are a group of practitioners who tirelessly blow the trumpet about elephant poaching in Kenya and gather support from citizens, the government and other agencies for sustainable solutions to fighting poaching in Kenya.

Dr. Paula Kahumbu (left) who is WildlifeDirect's CEO and myself during the 2013 StoryMoja Hay Festival where she promoted the "Hands Off Our Elephants" campaign

Dr. Paula Kahumbu (left) who is WildlifeDirect’s CEO and myself during the 2013 StoryMoja Hay Festival where she promoted the “Hands Off Our Elephants” campaign

Together, these three groups of warriors form environmental stewards. The best thing is that anybody, even you, can become an environmental steward just by getting informed, being conversant about the environmental situation around you and carrying-on with a personal effort to reduce the likelihood of negatively impacting the environment.

1939575_10203503840855980_1712985015_n

So what works at the Kakamega forest? Well, the three groups which make up a fierce environmental stewards team actively work together for the good of the community and the forest.
If the communities that live around the national parks are supported and educated about their role to protect wildlife and why they need to care about protecting them, then they would begin to take ownership of the wildlife. Too many of them live in poverty and feel abandoned in the process. This is why I believe they keep quiet when the poachers infest their land for a hunting spree. Some have also been facing human-wildlife conflict in their communities but with little or no effective support on how to combat the situation.

10155400_10203503872496771_540402753_n

What if the donors supported the communities with financial aid? What if the practitioners supported the communities with educational initiatives about environmental stewardship? What if one day the communities became doers and started community initiatives to defend their wildlife?

10175005_10203503868256665_6840278_n

This could be a reality if Kenyan people began to embrace a culture of environmental stewardship by sharing wisdom, staying informed and actively participating in environmental conservation initiatives.

10171666_10203503843296041_1466937596_n

I believe that it can become a reality but it begins with believing that we as a nation can get there if we work together to our best capacity. If it works in Kakamega forest, it can surely work in our national parks. After all, they are all part of the beautiful Kenyan carpet of nature!

ad

Check out my photo gallery about my first trip to the David Sheldrick Orphans Project area, please click here.

For more about the poaching situation in Kenya, join the conversations on Facebook and Twitter!

Also, check out the “Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign” and even more on www.wildlifedirect.org

Advertisements

Amazing Zanzibar!

Have you ever longed for a holiday for quite some time only for reality to constantly strike you with demands, demands and more demands? Well, that was me for quite a number of years but little did I know that one awaited my indulgence in April 2013. I recently found out that I had been booked for a flight to Zanzibar for a business trip. You can only imagine how my eyes welled, for I never thought that the day would come this soon. I could finally accomplish my dream travels to Zanzibar! Why the emotion? Well, let’s just say that I had been longing for a Zanzibar holiday since high-school. It may seem fairly naïve but I guess once a girl, always a girl!

 

 Image

Sea Cliff Resort & Spa

The best thing about this trip is that it barely hit me that I was working during my stay at Sea Cliff Resort & Spa added to the importance of pursuing a job that I love. I had a great time bonding with my colleagues and discovering their great sense of humour. I got the chance to build friendships with some of the other hotel guests which was amazing as we still communicate. The staff members were polite, the themed dinners at Mangapwani Restaurant absolutely scrumptious.

Image

Mwangapwani Restaurant Poolside – Sea Cliff Resort & Spa

 

The venue was breath-taking with scenetic traditional Swahili architecture, tropical plants gracing the landscape, the Jetty Bar that literally floats atop the Indian Ocean, a lovely beach by day and crushing waves by the ocean cliff by evening.

Image

Jetty Bar at Sea Cliff Resort & Spa

 

There’s also a mini-beach within the hotel compound, bicycles available for cycling and even a gym that I escaped visiting out of laziness…Haha! I had the chance to enjoy a Jacuzzi in my room and this added to my indulgence.

Image

Jacuzzi in Executive Room – Sea Cliff Resort & Spa

 

The conference facilities were excellent and perhaps this explained why there were so many international guests flocking in for business conferences! Other guests incuded families from all around the world enjoying a summer holiday and even some couples possessed with love on their honeymoon. There was enough for everyone to feast on at the great location!

 

Meeting the Locals

I learned so much from the locals in Zanzibar during a tour to some of the CARE International humanitarian projects. It was clear that I came out as a city girl since my Nairobi Kiswahili called for assistance with translation into the heavily Arabic Swahili spoken in Zanzibar. I got empowered by the strength and resilience of the ladies who fought tradition to pursue a wholesome life for their families and protecting the dignity of their daughters by daily breaking sweat to educate them. Early marriages are often the trend on the island and due to lack of proper girl-child education; homes are often dependent on men as bread-winners. The main project feature tree farming, jiko (ceramic stove) making and butterfly farming. We had a great chat with the project beneficiaries and even managed to receive great shopping tips from the ladies. We women and shopping!

 

Shopping Experience

Oftentimes, many go to StoneTown to shop where prices are hiked due to its popularity as a tourist centre. Instead we went with our driver to do some shopping and it was funny how he got into the shopping fever to a point of recommending which dress I should buy for my mother and the Swahili make-up that would best suit my yellow-skinned little sister. A funny guy he was, but he was really helpful in the bargaining process at the Daraja Market where locals do their shopping at friendly prices. We had to make sure that we had Tanzanian currency to access goods or services and we had done this as soon as we arrived at Kisauni Airport. Also, we were advised to keep watch of our money as the market is busy with activity, hence easy location for pick-pockets; merchants following potential buyers in the streets, motorbikes hooting for way, vendors unpacking fresh catch from the sea, children running around and the jobless corner with individuals offering shopping-errand services in exchange for money. It seems crazy but funny at the same time for I thought that I had transposed to a typical Indian market. Luckily, we had a great shopping experience with great buys at awesome bargains. My family members now have something cool from Zanzibar and I was lucky enough to actually find a lovely dress that touches my toes, which is often a shopping challenge for me in Nairobi!

 

Hard to Say Goodbye

Image

Sea Cliff Resort & Spa in Zanzibar

As I sat down on the terrace, enjoying my last moments at the hotel, I decided to post a Trip Advisor travel review about my amazing Zanzibar experience. Whether they approve it or not, all I know is that one has to experience it personally to understand the emotional attachment triggered by this little island of mine – my island of escape to great adventure. You bet I’ll be back!

PS: This post had to come early, I couldn’t wait 🙂

Yours Truly,

Ayuma.

Tag Cloud