Wader Ringing in Coastal Kenya.

Kenya is important for tens of thousands of wintering waders. While some species like the Little Stint (Calidris minuta) and Caspian Plover (Charadrius asiaticus) prefer the fresh water bodies inland, many others target the coastal zone. The rich inter-tidal mud of Mida Creek, Sabaki Estuary, Tana Delta and Lamu are essential for their survival. After breeding in the Artic Region, in places such as East Kazakhstan and Mongolia, vast numbers of waders migrate southwards spending their non-breeding season in India, East and Southern Africa. Between September and May, they feast on worms, shrimps, crabs and other invertebrates along the coast.
Wader ringing forms an important part of A Rocha’s research programme. Monthly monitoring, annual counts, anthropogenic disturbance, nutrition and moulting strategy are part of our research efforts which have been carried out on over 5000 waders which have also been ringed and measurements taken on them. We have demographic data of different species which has helped in designation of IBAs and general habitat conservation which local communities can access. We are working with conservation partners to safeguard wader habitats and migration corridors. The ringing itself creates excellent opportunities for training as it is a way of establishing environmental education knowledge of wader ecology in their non-breeding habitats.
Our lead scientist, Colin Jackson, is currently in the process of preparing a number of research publications on the collected data. Recently, Jaap Gijsbertsen; Science and Conservation Director at A Rocha Kenya, organised a birding event, and as he narrates, it was quite an experience:

The cloud layers gradually thicken as I feel the wind drop. A first quarter moon is visible behind the clouds and radiates blazing light every time it hits a gap in the clouds. It is neap tide, with a water level of 2.45 meters expected for 01.12. On the exposed tidal plain next to the ASSETS boardwalk, gentle wind blows through the wader net which is supported by long bamboo picks running deep into the mud to withstand wind and waves. These are the perfect conditions for catching wintering waders.
The team, comprising A Rocha Kenya, local bird guides and students from Pwani University gathers at around midnight to go round to inspect the more than 200-meter-net stretched across the plain, which is now flooded. Equipped with bird bags and ‘red’ headlights, we pull up our pants and wade towards the net. We are curious and full of anticipation. It is now deep dark and we rely on our experience to avoid deep pools.
As we progress, the last group of Crab Plovers (Dormas ardeola) fly off to their high-tide roost on one of the off-shore islands. Most birds have been pushed off by the incoming tide. We just hope some of them fell into our net. After wading for five minutes, we find a Lesser Sand Plover (Chardrius mongolus). Skillful hands safely drop it into the bag. Then another Sand Plover, Curlew Sand Pipers (Calidris ferruginea ) and Terek Sand Pipers (Xenus cinereus). Soon we discover that we have a good catch and eager students carry the birds. Large birds like Crab Plovers, Grey Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola) and Whimrel (Numenius phaeopus) go into larger bags. We return to the table and it is hands on as we ring, colourflag and take measurements on the more than a hundred birds belonging to eleven species, including a Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) and a juvenile Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) which we have caught for the first time at Mida.  Assessing moulting patterns requires much experience and dominates our discussion all night long. At day break, we down our net and drive home through the early morning, tired but inspired. The wonder of creation diversity and beauty overwhelms me.

11121775_906921249360822_9132604431829749202_n

The team at the ringing table.

11034910_906921299360817_2987153578086421449_n

A Ruff being ringed for the first time at Mida.

11130207_906921422694138_8436343394827120780_n

A Ruddy Turnstone ringed for the first time, too, at Mida.

Benefits of the Acacia Tree.

About 80% of Kenya is arid and semi-arid. These areas have been associated with less or no productivity. Most of the trees found in  these areas  shed leaves during the dry season. The leaves do not decompose easily in absence of moisture, hence low soil fertility. Most tree species would not do well in such areas but the most dominant and suitable tree or shrub in arid areas is the acacia.
In the Sahara Desert, for instance, towards the edge of Western Africa, countries such as Niger have used Faidherbia albida, a type of acacia to reclaim the desert. Once  acacia has been established, the area becomes fit for agriculture again. Faidherbia albida has a reversed phenology thus it sheds its leaves in the wet season and remains green throughout the dry season. It is suitable for agroforestry as it protects crops from excessive sunlight and provides shade for the soil hence conserving moisture. When other trees  shed their leaves, acacia provides foliage for animals. Its narrow leaves allow adequate light from the Sun to pass through, reaching  the crops for photosynthesis. During the rainy season the acacia leaves decompose easily when they fall due to availability of moisture, and their organic matter is incorporated into the soil for plants.
There is, however, a general negative perception towards acacia because of its thorns, when indeed there is a host of benefits associated with it. Nitrogen fixation, nesting sites for birds (especially the white-browed sparrow weaver), bee keeping, medicinal uses, source of true gum arabic, home for a variety of insects and browse material for zebras and giraffes, are some of the benefits of acacia. In the Sahelian region, acacia is associated with improved crop yield. In line with our mission, transforming lives through restored ecosystems, A Rocha Kenya is promoting the propagation of acacia and we have thousands of seedlings on sale at our Karen offices.

bl1

Preparing acacia seedlings  (above and below)

bl 3

Environmental Education in Primary Schools.

Last year A Rocha Kenya was privileged to have an intern, Lydia Kayaa, who conducted environmental education lessons in 16 primary schools in Bamba and Dakatcha areas. Pupils were shown a film, Running Dry, which focuses on the threats of deforestation and desertification to rivers. The pupils were also engaged in practical conservation sessions including the establishment of tree nurseries. After the lessons each of the schools established a tree nursery to be monitored by the Wildlife clubs under the guidance of their patrons.
Towards the end of February, this year, A Rocha Kenya staff visited the schools to see how the tree nurseries were fairing. The major challenges that the schools are facing is water scarcity and our team had to offer refresher courses to revive the nurseries. A total of 243 pupils, who are members of Wildlife and Environment clubs, attended the sessions. This year`s theme is Trees, Forest and Climate Change and the objective was to empower the pupils to distinguish the terms nursery, seed, seedling and to familiarize them with the steps followed in establishing and managing tree nurseries.
This week, we hosted teachers from these schools for two days at our Field Study Centre in Watamu and trained them on capacity building and how they can successfully incorporate Environmental Education in the curriculum. The activity involved creating and writing of environmental games, songs and poems. The teachers also had fun as we took them out for snorkeling in front of our beach and they enjoyed exploring the marine ecosystem.

DSCN0377

Allan Majalia from A Rocha Kenya with pupils

in one of the schools.

 

DSCN0413

Allan Majalia (in a blue T-shirt) with pupils

 establishing a tree nursery.

 

DSCN0449

Pupils during a practical session.

 

DSCN6017

Teachers during the training at Mwamba

Field Study Centre.

DSCN6024

An environmental game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declining of Marine Resources;Uyombo Village.

In a typical early morning of January 2015, fishermen in small dug-out canoes head out to the sea. Occasionally, sail boats magnificently creep through the waters past the canoes that seem troubled even by weak waves. The mission is to bring food on the table.
Increasing populations and entry of more fishermen into artisanal fishing coupled with dwindling catches in the Indian Ocean has made life to be harder for every one here. Each day experiences less and less catches, sometimes nothing at all. The fishermen are poor and can only afford dug-out canoes and gillnets. Due to lack of effective equipment, it is not safe for them to explore the deep waters and heavily rely on shallow reef fishing. On some occasions they dare row their canoes deeper when the sea is calm. Stories of fishermen capsizing and perishing in the waters are not uncommon here.
At the shore, women are sitted under mangrove trees. Each of them has a bucket and vigilantly stares at the horizon, waiting for any sign of a vessel. Some few people own sail boats and usually sell the catch at any price they want. The tide is receding and vessels arrive at the shore in intervals of two to three hours, each with barely five kilos; a whole night`s catch. It is common to see women rushing to the canoe to scramble for fish and usually one or two can be lucky. Such lucky women hurriedly leave the shore and head home to prepare the fish for sale. The unlucky ones go back to where they were sitted and wait for their fate. A canoe arrives with ten juvenile back tip sharks and two women are lucky enough to share the catch. Today is worse, it is midday and only three canoes hit the shore with a cumulative catch of less than ten kilos.
According to the locals, migrant fishermen from Zanzibar have been camping here for a fortnight and own at least five big boats. The boats are known as Ngalawa. One of the boats is being repaired so that it can be used for a night fishing shift. The crack in the boat is attributed to its hitting a strong wave. The zanzibari men, at times, get no catch too. The situation is yet to worsen as the villagers anticipate arrival of another crew with controversial fishing gear. Other places have opposed such sophisticated fishermen but the Uyombo locals receive them, yearning for small business opportunities like offering them accommodation and meals.
The village borders a park managed by a state agency. Some of the locals whom we interviewed claimed that the locals have not benefitted from the thirty-year old park, citing a relationship between the agency and the community as one that has been plagued with mistrust. Some fishermen admit that they occasionally poach some octopus in the park. To iron out the rapport, the agency established an eco-tourism facility as an incentive for the locals but it unfortunately had to close down owing to declining tourism in the area and probably, limited marketing. Relatively flourishing tourism in Watamu area also contributed to the facility`s failure.

Predictions of global warming and climate change progressively are painting a hopeless picture and livelihoods are at stake. Stakeholders hence have the challenge to effectively link local socio-economic systems to management of the marine ecosystem.

Uyumbo fisheries catch monitoring with CORDIO- bringing back the catch

Fish customers rushing to a canoe.

Uyumbo fisheries catch monitoring with CORDIO- fish in a net

A fishing net.

Uyumbo fisheries catch monitoring with CORDIO- recording data

Monitoring the catch.

 

Bird Ringing at Ngulia.

Bird ringing at Ngulia is a mega event that takes place every year during the fortnight stretching from late November to early December. The Tsavo West activity brings together birders from Kenya and other parts of the world.
Ornithologists gather important information pertaining to birds` migration and reproduction patterns and the adaptation ability of migrant species. Most of the birds that are caught at Ngulia are warblers migrating to South Africa from Europe. For a fortnight birders ring at night. Most birds travel at night when most predators (including birds of prey ) take nocturnal break. Birds follow the light from heavenly bodies and birders turn  lights  on when it is misty to attract more birds. The mist makes the lit area to be the only bright area and birds tend to take it for natural light. Most of last year`s catch happened during the first week which was misty, its best session`s catch being 1532 birds. The second week experienced a severe mist scarcity and only 1000 birds were caught for ringing.
Last year, birders caught slightly more than 7000 birds which is significantly low compared to the previous years . It is, in fact, the smallest catch since 1995. Weather, climate change and the scanty bush in front of the lodge are to blame for this decline. It is further argued that some birds including Afro -tropical species like nightjars, shrikes, sterlings, doves and sparrow-hawks shun the bushes due to elephant dominance causing serious damage on the vegetation during  the dry spell.

Jpeg

Ringing in progress.

Jpeg

One of the birds caught for ringing.

Jpeg

Recording birds data.

Mwamba Field Study Centre.

Mwamba Field Study Centre, located in Watamu, is A Rocha Kenya`s main office in the Coast. We have a guest house , camping equipment and nature trail which make Mwamba an ideal destination for both holiday- makers and scholars.
Mwamba has a dazzling beach in front of Watamu Marine Park and our guest house that has beautiful spacious rooms stands just 80 metres from the shore. The sweet breeze from the ocean, delicious meals served in a beautiful dining room, and the kind, honest staff give Mwamba an atmosphere of serenity. We have free Wifi internet for our guests. The flat roof is an amazing place where guests can sit and enjoy the splendid view of the ocean. Our marine team has a boat and a snorkeling kit that guests can use to explore the wonders of the marine ecosystem.
The nature trail is home to birds, insects, lizards and other animals including elephant shrews. We do bird ringing every week . The trees are labeled to make identification easier and our Environmental Education Hall situated in the nature trail is a good conference facility.

19154_282752773523_8376156_n

Mwamba guest house.

311357_10150367281563524_1493773197_n

GEDE; one of the rooms.

DSC_0442

Catching birds in the nature trail for ringing.

 

 

 

Re-awakening Ngong Forest User Groups.

Ngong Forest is unique because it is the only indigenous forest located in the confines of a city. About 80% of its 208 species of trees and plants are indigenous.
It is rich in biodiversity with about 190 species of birds and 35 species of mammals. Besides, it supports various rivers including Mbagathi and Ngong-Motoine. Our mission as A Rocha Kenya is to transform people`s lives so that they can conserve nature and we are committed to empowering the Ngong Forest user groups so that they can realise this objective. We are currently using the Community Forest Association trainings as a platform to address the challenges that the forest has been facing. Encroachment, urbanisation, mining, illegal logging and invasive species are some of the major challenges here.
Olulua Forest Environmental Participatory group, one of the user groups we are working with, has realised a major achievement. On 27th January this year, we taught them how to make compost manure using Lantana camara and Tithonia diversifolia. The group has embraced this fully and are now composting using the above mentioned weeds which are alien. These species are rich in Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, Calcium and Manganese.
This is an innovative and environmentally friendly way of turning harmful invasive weeds into beneficial uses. One could say: killing two birds with one stone.

gathering of Lantana camara

Gathering Lantana camara.

Sprinkling water on the compost

Sprinkling water onto the compost.

Nairobi International Trade Fair

The annual Nairobi International Trade Fair took place at the Jamhuri Park grounds from the 29th September 2014 to the 5th October 2014. For the first time since its inception in 1901, ARocha Kenya was more than privileged to be part of it this year, thanks to the partnership with Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

10633412_10152768971513524_7758659232689107512_o   DSCN1520

A Rocha Kenya’s stand at the trade fair.

The trade fair, which was open to the public was officially opened by His Excellency; Uhuru Kenyatta the president of the republic of Kenya. It brings together various organizations from Kenya and beyond, making it a highly attended event.

10683468_10152768970313524_2547178117614469429_o

Mc Rae(A Rocha Kenya’s Community conservation officer), putting a cross a point

With this year’s theme being “Enhancing technology in agriculture and industry for food security and national growth”, the trade fair proved to be an excellent opportunity for networking and sharing ideas in the application of technology for food security and thus, this year it attracted 433 local exhibitors and 43 international exhibitors.
ARocha Kenya was hosted by Kenya forest Service, thus giving us the opportunity to display and demonstrate various activities we carry out as a biodiversity conservation organization both in Nairobi and watamu.

DSCN1780

Jimmy(A Rocha Kenya’s church and livelihood officer), explaining to a show goer how green manure is made.

Our presentation on Conservation Agriculture (Farming God’s Way) got the interest of various individuals who visited our station. It sparked the consciousness of the environment in relation to agriculture among the various individuals. This demonstration supplemented our vision, conserving nature and transforming people. We also highlighted our success stories in Dakatcha where we are doing farming God’s way and as well as ASSETS (Arabuko Sokoke Schools and Ecotourism Scheme).A communal program that has been able to educate over 500 kids living near Arabuko Sokoke forest.

10717787_10153246227072818_827025099_n

Claire(A Rocha Kenya’s employee) talking to QTv’s Mr Nathan during the interview

Our participation in the trade fair was further heightened when a local television station (Qtv) that airs an agricultural program dubbed “mkulima ni ujuzi” visited our stand for an interview to find out more about our conservation work.

DSCN1769

Naigara primary school kids from Narok county pose for a picture at our stand.

As an organization, our most beneficial moment from the trade fair was being able to spread the message of environmental conservation to people and nurturing the interest of school kids in the environment.

Young Nairobi Farmers.

After several trainings on Farming God’s Way to Farmers and Churches, A Rocha Kenya introduced the technology to school kids but in a language suitable for them. Logos Christian School was the first school to carry out farming God’s way, through their environmental club.
For the period of three months, this young ones interacted with the soil, learnt the process of planting, germination and harvesting, preparation of compost, green tea and organic pesticides.
Wondering why farming god’s way in schools?

10620422_10152881254663524_6572372915429772987_o

We as A Rocha Kenya want to nurture a generation of young people who care for God’s creation, a generation who do not depend on relief aids when there are no rains and a generation that acknowledges and values humanity.

DSCN1115
At the onset of the program, with the help of the club’s patron Mrs. Warigia, we set up two demonstration plots (3 meters by 2 meters wide) in the school compound. The kids planted Managu and Dhania (coriander)(Solanum nigrum) in each of the plots, took care of them through watering and looking out for any pest or weed attacks.

DSCN1278
In a bid to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We taught them how to make compost with the waste from the school kitchen and the grass form the playground. As well as pesticides from the locally available plants such as the Mexican sunflower and the fish poison bean.

.1913247_10152881257898524_2382359366666389412_o

1960839_10152881256543524_7516125605946706512_o
We harvested the crops after the three months elapsed and the fruits were astonishing. They sold vegetables to their parents during their closing Christmas concert making a total of Ksh.5500 which was donated to a single mother ailing from fistula and cervical cancer. 1237350_10152881258733524_3638465728468447067_o
In line with our vision Nature conserved, people transformed, this young ones view of farming was completely changed as most of them at the beginning taught it was an activity for the poor and dirty. We thank God for the success of this program in Logos Christian School and we hope this is received by many more schools for sustainability’s sake

Young people in Nairobi address global sustainability issues.

A Rocha Kenya is currently working with three secondary schools within Nairobi to address global sustainability issues such as biodiversity, climate change, waste management, food and water and trees and deforestation, encouraging them to take action, propose their ideas to politicians and share the same ideas with schools from other countries pursuing the same project.

DSCN1414
One of our schools is Lenana where the students have engaged with the project with huge enthusiasm and creativity and a determination to make a difference within the school community and grounds, as well as more widely.

DSCN2311

They have begun detailed research on the topics above and are putting together plans for practical action, which range from setting up a scientific project monitoring the regeneration of natural vegetation in the school grounds, to running awareness raising seminars with local schools on climate change. They also have plans for tree planting and labeling in the school grounds, for a conservation agriculture plot and for addressing the challenge of waste management in Nairobi.

DSCN2315
According to a report by UN Habitat, Nairobi has the highest rate of population growth per annum in Africa, with 75% of urban population growth being absorbed by informal settlements. However, proper waste disposal, garbage collection, drainage systems and reuse and recycling of waste has not yet been effectively achieved in the informal settlements within Nairobi.DSCN2333
In line with the well known mantra ‘Think globally, act locally’, Lenana students have taken action by initiating various activities to address this issue. On 8TH November, 2014, Lenana School Environmental Club in collaboration with the Christian Family Chapel, Family Bank, Nairobi County Government and A Rocha Kenya organized a successful clean up exercise in Ng’ando Estate which borders their school.

DSCN2525

This attracted more than 300 participants, with the main aims being to clean the estate and to sensitize the community to the need to keep the local environment clean. The club has also installed dustbins within the school compound and plans to separate the waste collected, biodegradable material being used to make compost manure while the plastics and other non-biodegradable material will be re-used or recycled. The dustbins themselves are made from used Jerry cans, a lovely visual aid for the principle of re-using!DSCN2551
We are delighted to see this group of students engaging passionately with the big environmental and sustainability issues of the 21st Century – indeed the knowledge and experience they are building up will begin to equip them as future leaders in this field. At A Rocha Kenya it is our heartfelt desire to see God’s wonderful creation conserved and restored for the generations to come, who will need it’s resources and enjoy it’s beauty – and so we thank God for what is happening at Lenana School, (as well as for many other similar projects across Kenya), and for the contribution they are making to this end.