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.

Marine biodiversity

The global oceans cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface providing numerous habitats and micro habitats which harbor ecologically and economically important species. In the oceans there are ecosystems and habitats such as coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangrove forests and so many other that are highly diverse.

corals

Coral reefs for example have been reported as among the most diverse ecosystems in the planet. Occupying just less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to more than 25% of marine life. One of the most amazing experiences anyone can ever have is the diversity and abundance of a coral reef. From brightly colored fish swimming everywhere to almost immobile invertebrates and different colored corals. The coral reefs and many other ecosystems in the ocean provide various forms of goods and services that are vital for the well-being and survival of the large population inhabiting coastal areas such as food, regulating global climate, shoreline protection and many others.

DSCN6478

Even though the magnitude of these ecosystems is great, the resources and services they provide are not infinite. In order to get more and bigger and because of technological advancement, man has ventured into intensive fishing, deep-sea mining and deep-sea oil and gas drilling. Industrialization and use of fossil fuels has produced greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere that have had a feedback effect to the ocean through global warming and ocean acidification. The magnitude of the ocean has made us to believe that they are beyond any harm and thus we made them dumping sites.

DSCN6505

The result of this has been serious degradation of the ocean ecosystems and rapid decline in marine biodiversity. It has been reported that, currently 60% of world marine ecosystems; important sources of livelihood have been degraded or are being used unsustainably. This has and will continue put into jeopardy the ecological and economical goods and services that the ocean provide and therefore the negative impact on the livelihood of millions of population that live along the coast. The questions now are how far will this continue? Or is there hope for the Oceans?

IMG_6381

Working in Watamu Marine Park and Reserve, the ARocha Kenya marine research and conservation programme seeks to answer these questions and emphasizing that there is indeed hope for the Ocean. Working with the communities and stakeholders around the park, we carry our ecological and social research to understand the community use and impacts to the marine resources, creating awareness to schools and communities, on the ocean and sustainable use of its resources as well as organizing and participating in beach clean ups.

Soil Sampling in Gede Ruins Regeneration Project

Gede ruins regeneration project aims at assessing biodiversity on a 5 acre piece of land formerly a cropland, which has been replanted with indigenous tree species, which sits on a 70 acre piece of land within the Gede Ruins National Monument.

This project has brought in immense expertise from various research bodies, organizations and parastatals including National museums of Kenya (that stewards Gede Ruins National Monument), Kenya Forestry Research Institute(KEFRI), Malindi Museum Society, Michigan State University, University of Washington, and A Rocha Kenya.

gede soil 1

Jaap (A Rocha Kenya) explaining the whole process of soil sampling to Caesar (Archeologist), Mr. Mwarora (Curator; Gede Museum), and the manager of Kipepeo project.

The habitat was replanted 22 years ago, and the project involves measuring tree growth and soil content (an important indicator of carbon sequestration potential aimed at offsetting global climate change), bird and arthropod diversity. The project aims at comparing re-growth and biodiversity among different plots in the restored habitat.This will help evaluate relative effective tropical dry forest restoration on biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services along the East African Coast.

This project is, as far as we know, the only restoration project in East Africa focusing on indigenous tree species – an important endeavor, as it addresses important issues stemming from the introduction of a host of non-native species (Eucalyptus trees from Australia, and Neem from India) that are affecting water tables and myriad ecological interactions.

2012 and 2013 saw the implementation of phases one, two and three; that involved re-identification and re-labeling of the planted trees, growth measurement of all planted trees, and identification and measurement of all recruits.

gede soil 3

Mr. Mambo (Gede archeologist) examining the soil layers

Soil sampling falls under phase four , which was successful conducted on October 2014. We had to seek for an Archeologist opinion and supervision as we made pits and drilled agaers beneath the ground, and indeed, we brought to the surface a number of archeological artifacts ( local bodies and imported Chinese porcelain rings).

gede soil 2

imported Chinese porcelain rings

A total of four pits ( one meter cubed each) were made and soil collected in different horizons using the standard core samplers. Three of the pits were dug in the restored habitat and one in the primary forest. Both litter and ager soil samples were as well taken.

gede soil 4

Mr. Banton (A Rocha Kenya staff) drilling in the soil ager

gede soil 5

neatly labeled ager soil

This will ultimately be used to assess bulky density, and carbon and nitrogen content. The KEFRI team (Gede station) is now in the process of analyzing the collected data and we hope to have the findings soon.What next? An Arthropod study, to assess diversity and distribution maybe?

Capacity Building at the Grass Roots

I am not a proponent of the trickle-down theory, but I would like to coin the phrase ‘trickle-down knowledge’ because this is what I believe A Rocha Kenya is doing by empowering communities through Community Forest Associations.

SAM_2812
A Rocha Kenya is running through its Community conservation department, a project dubbed Empowering Community Participation through Community Forest Associations (CFAs). Through these trainings, A Rocha Kenya aims to capacity build the CFA groups in understanding issues of climate change, natural resources management, resource mobilization for the groups’ well being, sustainable groups’ management and networking the CFAs to be able to undertake advocacy activities with the County Governments and other local and national government structures.
SAM_2803

A Rocha Kenya conducted a two day training session in Kajiado County for the Ngong Metro CFA.The training took place at the PEC guesthouse in Ngong.
Stanley Baya (A Rocha Kenya’s Community conservation Officer) gave an overview of our work as A Rocha to the CFA as well as explaining the importance of the trainings based on the projects being undertaken. Speakers from Centre for environmental stewardship(CES) Oscar, Sophia and Dr Mbaabu did a great job as they taught the group on Environmental Crisis and on climate change, the Kyoto protocol and the introduction to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

SAM_2776

It was an interactive session as the participants were divided into five groups and each group allocated a set of questions to discuss and later present the answers. The questions included: Who is in crisis? What are your concerns? What are the causes of Environmental Crisis? Each group appointed a presenter who in turn presented their answers and the group members were freely allowed to clarify and offer support where necessary. This activity elicited quite an active discussion with participants drawing local examples to try and explain some manifestation of the crisis such as how deforestation in the Ngong Hills Forest has affected the hydrological cycle such that most rivers which had origins from the forested hill tops are no more and the predicament has worsened with the ever growing population and thus encroachment into the forest area to seek settlement.

SAM_2846

The training was concluded by brainstorming session on the action plan in light of the knowledge received. It was a good one I must say.
Psalms 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” So come forth let’s take of God’s creation.
Allan Majalia
Community conservation officer

A Rocha Kenya

 

Locally Managed Marine Areas.

A cocktail of human induced local and global disturbances are threatening the health of marine ecosystems altering the ecological and economic roles that these ecosystems play and weakening the livelihood of many coastal communities that depend on these resources. Various inputs by local authorities have often been employed with little success. Government agencies due to limited resources and capacity among other factors have more often failed to effectively manage marine ecosystems even with important tools such as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) have in the recent past been successfully employed to substitute the top-down management approach.

kuruwitu
LMMAs are initiatives that empower local communities to partly or wholly manage their marine and coastal resources. They have been successful in protection of marine biodiversity as well as providing of social-economic benefits to local communities through alternative sources of livelihoods. The secret of LMMAs effectiveness lies in the inclusiveness of local communities that directly rely on marine resources from setting up of the areas to management and ultimately reaping both the short-term and long-term benefits. Through assistance, from local authorities, Non Governmental Organizations and other stakeholders, local communities can be made aware of the problems facing their areas which in most instances they do understand and empowered to manage their resources. With strong considerations of their social structures and livelihoods they set up rules and regulations they use in their resources utilization which can be periodically reviewed and adapted to changing conditions. Because they have been involved throughout the process they have a sense of ownership and therefore feel responsible for the well-being of the resources.
Sharing of successes of such initiative with marine resources users from other areas can also be a sure way of outreach to other communities increasing these areas and having a Locally Managed Marine Areas network, which will ensure sustainable use of marine resources. LMMAs have been effective in Asia and different parts of Western Indian Ocean (WIO) such as Madagascar and Tanzania.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the coast of Kenya in Kilifi County one such outstanding initiative is Kuruwitu conservation and welfare association. Starting as a clearly degraded marine ecosystem, the area has experienced tremendous increase in biodiversity within a relatively short time. This has opened other sources of income and addressed not only biodiversity value of this area but also socio-economic benefits and poverty alleviation.
With most marine areas facing environmental threats such as diversity lose and habitat degradation, LMMAs are offering a new leeway in which communities can come together and manage their marine resources.