Category Archives: ARK General

THE YEAR 2015, THE HOPE AND PROMISE OF 2016

Conservationists of all persuasions have embarked on a quest for environmental sustainability but in the face of an acutely difficult task we all need to consider what would motivate us to achieve it”- Peter Harris (Kingfisher’s Fire).

In retrospect, the motivation for the previous year for the A Rocha Kenya team can certainly be traced to the reinforcement of the Christian principles already upheld by the staff. This was instilled and fueled by the bible studies conducted every Monday morning which inspired and rallied the team to take care of God’s creation as alluded to in the book of Genesis, despite their job descriptions. It was further propelled by the visit of the A Rocha Founder- Peter Harris and his wife, Miranda Harris. They were able to be involved in the A Rocha Kenya’s activities and in turn they motivated the team and inspired many more in churches at Nairobi and Malindi through preaching the gospel of care for creation, by emphasizing the need for Christians to reconcile with God and his creation and ensuring restoration of God’s creation

Focusing on the Science and Conservation team, they were able to get a lot of research work going on. Despite being a team of two, they still soldiered on with support from numerous volunteers, interns and even the rest of the staff members. The terrestrial research team was able to conduct several bird ringing exercises held at Mwamba, Gede Ruins, Arabuko Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. The annual water fowl counts were successfully carried out followed by many others at Mida Creek. One of the major highlights was mapping of the newly acquired Kirosa Scott Reserve and the monitoring of the endangered Clarke’s weaver breeding sites in Dakatcha Woodland. The team was also able to host several researchers.

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Moving on to the marine side of things, the year marked a beehive of activities for the team ranging from research in the intertidal rock pools to the coral gardens of Watamu Marine Park. The major highlight of the year was the presentation of marine research work that has been conducted by A Rocha Kenya since the year 2010 until the end of 2014 in the Watamu Marine Park. This was spearheaded by Benjamin Cowburn and Peter Musembi. They organized workshops at Watamu, Mombasa and Nairobi where several stakeholders were invited including Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, National Museums of Kenya, Watamu Marine Association, Watamu Turtle Watch and boat operators. However, it was not all hard work and no play for the marine team, there was always the occasional recreational snorkeling and swimming for anyone willing to join.

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The larger Community and Conservation team worked to bridge the gap between the research team and the community at large, getting them to understand the need to restore the threatened habitats and ecosystems. The team was able to oversee the implementation of two projects into fruition, with one targeting empowerment of community forest associations (community groups who are actively involved in management and conservation of forests) through building their capacities and the other targeted empowering communities in Dakatcha Woodland through a livelihood project that promoted the adoption of Farming God’s Way (a conservation agriculture model). On the other hand, the pioneer program of the department-ASSETS, which has stood the test of time, was able to disburse scholarships to the many bright and needy students that come from the villages adjacent to Arabuko Sokoke Forest, amid a difficult year for the tourism industry since most of the funds are sourced from the ecotourism facilities at Mida Creek and Gede Ruins. Lastly, the vibrant environmental education team was able to conduct many lessons that were taught in schools around Dakatcha Woodland, Arabuko Sokoke Forest, Watamu Marine Park and Bamba.

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The mother of all- Mwamba Field Study Center, was able to host numerous guests throughout the year. They included researchers, volunteers, holiday makers, kite surfers and honeymooners. The year saw the center introduce a restaurant which is up and running, offer accommodation to water sports enthusiasts, host numerous workshops and to crown it all hold a kids festival followed by a successful fundraising dinner for the ASSETS program.

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Karara Field Study Center-which acts as the national base of A Rocha Kenya at Karen in Nairobi did not lag behind. The team was able to conduct numerous Farming God’s Way training, host several schools for environmental education lessons plus carry out various outreach activities to various community groups and churches.

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In order to instill and reinforce the spirit of team effort. The two teams from Nairobi and Watamu were able to participate in a team building exercise that saw them go on a blue safari that involved snorkeling at the Watamu coral gardens, lunch at the pristine Sudi Island and participate in beach games thereafter.

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It is my belief that there is no blueprint for a perfect course of action, since it is our job to identify it. The idea that there is such a blueprint reduces the whole business to a kind of a celestial game show with dire consequences for wrong guesses, but sadly it seems to be widely believed. However, this demonstrates our path for the New Year filled with uncertainty but promising with hope as written in Jeremiah 29:11 and Mathew 6:23-33. Certainly, I am convinced, the team will able to achieve even more than the previous year and continue ensuring nature is conserved while people’s lives are transformed.

A ROCHA KENYA ROCKED IN THE SHOWGROUND

Can you imagine working out of the office for six lump sum days? Well, an opportunity knocked at A Rocha Kenya doors some weeks ago for the second time.  We set out for the annual International Trade Fair at Jamhuri Park showground, Nairobi where all roads led in.

What a spectacular display of unique innovations, technologies and talents from different government institutions, organizations, corporate bodies, and schools all in line with the 2015 theme: “Enhancing Technology in Agriculture and Industry for Food Security and National Growth.’’ It was the best platform for ARK to interact with both local and international exhibitors as well as curious visitors.

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We were able to secure a stand through a courteous gesture of the Kenya Forest Service to demonstrate how Farming God’s Way can be used as a tool not only for improving food security but also for saving biodiversity.

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Thousands of people from all walks of life streamed in. For a moment it seemed overwhelming but the team was well prepared. Visitors from the Kenya Defense Forces, tourists, students, farmers, environmental enthusiasts and community developers were drawn to our stand by our beautiful garden among other displays.

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Did you know that about 70% of the food we consume globally comes from small scale farmers? Well, many of them arrived at our stand eager to learn how they can increase their yields and open a door for biodiversity into their farm. “We are tired with unending chemical use in our farms. Our farms have become so unhealthy” said one farmer. The pungent smell from a natural liquid fertilizer we had prepared was one of the striking exhibits that drew the attention of many. This is where the rubber met the road. As days rolled by, questions on farming and conservation were asked. It was our pleasure to quench this thirst for knowledge.

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Finally, the message was home; “You can increase your food production as you care for the whole creation.”‘Wow! Good job” “ARK is recreating the garden of Eden!’These were some of the reactions we got from different individuals which convinced us that, many would start relying on natural fertilizers, natural pesticides and would plant more wildlife friendly trees in their farms.

The following Monday we were welcomed by the 1-2-3 calls of the Rupell’s Robin chat reminding us that we were back to our offices in Karara. The show was over; we thank God for His grace throughout that period. For all those who missed out, see you next year! Kwaheri.

 

 

MWAMBA TALKS KITE SURFING

Maybe it’s the clear blue waters, maybe it’s the sunshine, maybe it’s the brilliant instructor or it’s probably just the thrill of the ride; but there is a brand new hot sport in Watamu- Kite surfing. One avid surfer I talked to called it the sport of Kings and queens.   This has gotten the better of my curiosity in the last few months as tens of kites surfers rolled in to surf the waters just in my backyard at Mwamba field study centre.

Recently, the near shore has been dotted with colourful kites as avid surfers glide away on the water. The surfers can be easily spotted in nicely tanned skin courtesy of the hours they spend in the sun and harnesses that attach their kites as they blissfully give themselves to the mercy of the wind. Did you know there are all kinds of tricks that you could do when kite surfing from basic jumps and back rolls, to kite loops? And that is not all; there are all sorts of fancy gadgets to record your speed, height of jumps and other interesting data that you can compare with your friends. Kite surfers lean on each other just as much as they lean on the wind. They have buddies/partners looking out for each other in the water just in case you need a hand.

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It is always a little comical to see a surfer in his beginner lesson; struggling to control the kite getting used to the harness, crashing into the water unceremoniously or basically trying and failing a hundred times  just to stand on his board. But worry not; I hear that it is not a very difficult sport to pick up. With good weather and consistent training you could surf in just a week! And once you got your feet steady and the wind in your kite, off you glide to your very own adventure in the waves.

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“Mwamba Field study Centre is the ultimate place to stay if you ever want to catch the waves either for a long holiday or maybe just a weekend,” Say Angela and Dan who stayed at Mwamba for a month just for kite surfing.  The accommodation is pocket friendly with a laid back atmosphere and terrific meals to complete the picture. The kite surfing school is also a walking distance from Mwamba.  And better yet, the best spot for kite surfing is right in our back yard.  Watamu offers a terrific place for flat water and wave surfing so it is a thrill for both beginners and advanced kite surfers. You could also catch the crazy downwind and surf beyond the reef crest to Malindi from Watamu like a group of kite surfers did recently and there is always the pleasure of watch turtles swim by.  Besides the kite surfing you also contribute to environmental conservation by staying with us as all proceeds are used in conservation activities. So come down to Watamu, relax, give back to nature and of course bring your kite along and KITE SURF!!

By Marxine Waite

The Power of Team Work…..TIME OUT well spent

Even through the aroma of the tantalizing samosas Mathias the chef had prepared for the team, you could still smell the excitement in the room. This was indeed a special day. It looked like a great reunion filled with handshakes, patting backs and laughter as the A Rocha Kenya family from around the country piled into the Mwamba dining room. We were even privileged enough to have a volunteer from A Rocha France. It is incredible that we all seemed to keep time, 6.00 am sharp and it was almost a full house; defying the old adage of African timing.

What better way to start the day than a long overdue lesson on creation care, reminding us of our role in the world. This was a stark reminder that what we do is not just mere conservation, but rather it goes beyond the physical. It is spiritual; it is indeed the will of God. Not even a little choppy water could deter us from snorkelling which was activity number two for the day. Even after some coaching and pep talk on safety from our marine scientist, you could literally see the apprehension on most of our faces. Well, most of us are comfortable on land than in water. Still people put their courage hats on and struggled to get their masks right and floaters were handed out. All this uneasiness was soon forgotten as some of us for the very first time had a peep of the blue world under the waves; Myriads of colours of tiny and big fish, corals; some massive and some branching like hundreds of little fingers and sea weeds and anemones that danced in the waves. Lizard fish crouched in the sand and the occasional ray swam by. Beautiful does not even begin to describe the sights we saw, we could only gaze in awe at God’s wonderful works.

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Time for rugby!!  Did I mention this was in the water? What fun this was! The exercise was funny, exhausting and competitive. I think this should be an official Olympic sport. A mixture of barred teeth, glaring eyes and weird grunts filled the play area as the teams put out their most competitive edge. So we sweated and panted and scrimmaged for the ball, a scratch there an elbow here… sometimes we looked like one big messy tangle of limbs. Within twenty minutes of play, we knew what real hunger pangs were, and the whistle to mark the end of the game and time for lunch was all too welcome. Who would have ever thought that some people are faster when they are in a sack than on two legs?! Well this was evident as we all hopped around in the sack race and played many more games after lunch to build our team spirit.

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But alas the games and fun and food and competition came to a close. With songs and prayer we gave thanks to God. At the end of the day we came out a stronger team, more united to the purpose and cause of the A Rocha family, and maybe we lost a couple of pounds from all that exercise!!

August News Letter

A Rocha August Newsletter (Issue 6)

Five things no one will tell you about when joining A Rocha Kenya

It has been an exciting,eye opening and educative journey  with A Rocha Kenya; a christian conservation organization that is part of the  larger International Network of A Rocha organizations in 19 countries around the world.

With offices in Nairobi and Watamu, A Rocha Kenya aims to conserve and restore threatened habitats and biodiversity through research, environmental action, advocacy and community empowerment.

For the time I have worked with this christian organization, I have learnt a lot more than I imagined I would.And today I want to share with you the five things that no one will tell you when joining A Rocha Kenya.So here we go:

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At Karara (A Rocha Kenya’s forested property in Karen)

1.Too much love

Well, the love I got when I joined A Rocha Kenya is indescribable.Normally as a newbie in most organizations after your orientation you are left on your own to execute your duties as per your employment agreement.At A Rocha it is a  completely different thing,everyone is always willing to lend a helping hand wherever and whenever they can,which makes most employees,interns and volunteers settle in quickly.The love can be overwhelming at times especially on birthdays and farewells.If you are the emotional one,pocket tissues and handkerchiefs will come in handy.

2.You must embrace the spirit of  communality
The spirit of communality is embraced throughout A Rocha Kenya.More so at Mwamba(A Rocha Kenya’s field study center),where are required to interact with each other and guests with love and respect as we work towards conserving God’s creation.

3.Getting your hands dirty

Be ready to get your hands down and dirty.A Rocha Kenya operates on the principal that, for one to understand conservation work better they have to get involved practically in the activities such as gardening,tree nursing and rock pooling.So you might want to  get yourself a pair of gloves (if you are a girly girl like I am and care about your nails) and to avoid looking ridiculous in heels on that field day, a pair of good gum boots would do.

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Preparing a farm for Farming God’s Way at Logos Christian School Nairobi with A Rocha Kenya’s National Director Dr.Raphael Magambo.

4.You must own a bible or rather have access to one
Being a christian conservation organization,every activity carried out by A Rocha Kenya  is aimed at caring for God’s creation.And most of the time quotations from the bible are used to pass across the message of conservation.You will also need your bible during Monday morning meeting and sharing.Oh yes! We do have a rota where each individual gives a sharing from the bible.You do not want to injure your neck by overstretching.So just get yourself that bible,will you?

5. Deprivation of titles
Aha!You read that right!.No titles at all.Titles can get to people’s heads causing detrimental effects at times. A Rocha Kenya is aware of this and therefore encourages equality and co-operation at all times.Make use of that title when conducting business on behalf of A Rocha outside the office and remember not to let it get to your head.

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Sharing a dance with A Rocha Kenya National Administrator Mrs.Carol Kitsao in a white trouser and Mrs.Sue a volunteer at A Rocha.

You are now in the know zone,aren’t you?

Claire Nasike

Communication and Community Conservation Intern

Reflections on the A Rocha Kenya 2015 Summer Field Course

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By Cyrus Hester…

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re wondering whether the A Rocha Kenya Field Course is right for you. Is it worth it? What will I be doing? Is it too long, too far, too short, or too close? I had the same debate once… Alright, maybe more than once. Of course, I can’t tell you how your course will go, but I can tell you how my time has been. Put simply: it has been an exciting, encouraging, and unforgettable experience. And, while I can’t say whether you’ll have the opportunity to watch flamingos burst into flight over the Sabaki River or watch juvenile lion fish swim in a tidal pool or hold a mangrove kingfisher, I can say that you will witness firsthand what caring about communities and conservation can do.
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The 2015 Field Course took us everywhere from the bumpy roads of Dakatcha to the brittle cliffs of  Whale Island and the swaying boardwalk of Mida Creek. We’ve assisted with research on tree regeneration, counted migratory birds, surveyed for illegal logging, and visited rural schools – where kids are continuing their education thanks to support from A Rocha Kenya. We’ve learned how farming practices can be amended to improve crop yields and reduce impacts on the land. We’ve also heard that the challenges for communities and their environments remain; be it in the form of poaching, fuel production, climate change, or limited access to basic goods and services. All the while, we’ve been nourished by ugali, chapatis, mangoes, freshly-caught crab, and kind-hearted friends. We’ve been lulled to sleep by the sound of ocean waves and woken by the chatter of birdsong. We’ve braved dense forests, busy city streets, and knee-high mud flats – with each step giving us a new perspective on community conservation.
As the final days of the 2015 field course tick away, I can’t say how your experience will be. But, I can tell you that this is a beautiful place with inspired, compassionate people who work each day to make a difference for local communities and the environment. I can tell you that I am leaving here richer in memories, hope, and Kiswahili vocabulary. Maybe the same will be true for you someday.

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There’s only one way to find out…

Cross-cultural experience at ARocha Kenya

Cross-culture is one of A Rocha’s core-commitments and it’s a privilege working with people from all corners of the globe. We believe that each one’s presence is a blessing to the communities in varied ways.

We are therefore glad to welcome Jaap Gijsbersten and his family to A Rocha Kenya. The family has been at Mwamba (Watamu) for the past six months to complement the team following the absence of Colin Jackson our conservation and Science director; on a one year sabbatical leave.

I had quite an interesting conversation with them and learnt a few things about their Kenya experience.

Jaap 33, a nature enthusiast and an Msc degree holder in forest and nature conservation with a specialization in ecology and management is the New Conservation & Science director while Esther 33; as well is responsible for the Hospitality at Mwamba Field Study Centre. Together they have three beautiful kids Boaz (5), Aurelia (2) and Arthur (1).

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Stepping into a different culture is enriching and challenging at the same time but things worked out so well and the family has fallen in love with the country especially Mwamba (Watamu). Esther suggests; “home is where our family is and to us Mwamba is our beautiful home, safe and very peaceful.

The kids who are home schooled, seem to have blended in with the team as well; in fact they are learning to speak English and Swahili. The place has made them quite creative in such a way that they can make their own toys from the plastics they pick along the beach. They seem to be nurturing their environmental interest as well by getting involved in ARK programmes.

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And just as A Rocha’s core commitment is bringing together people from different cultures, they are taking this as an opportunity for a cultural-exchange rather than a challenge.

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They commend A Rocha Kenya’s work in spreading the message of hope for creation and the unity displayed among staff when performing their duties.

 

Sign in for A Rocha Kenya’s Summer Field Course this July!

A Rocha Kenya offers you an amazing opportunity to experience how Conservation and Christianity go together through practical involvement in our work.
Register for our Summer Field Course this July at Mwamba for a lifetime experience! You will be able to visit different work areas interacting with our staff as you get involved in specific tasks and learn as well as share skills and expertise. The Journal Club (studying a scientific paper together) and our Green Bible Study will offer an opportunity to share on ways to put faith and creation care into perspective. Staying at our Mwamba Field Study Center is extremely amazing and the same counts for working together with other volunteers and our Kenyan staff. More so; the warm waters of the Indian Ocean a few meters away will be there waiting for you!

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What to expect…
• Go out at sunset with your binoculars to learn about the East African birds. Assist with bird ringing and bird counts (Mwamba, Sabaki and Mida Creek).

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• Go out rock pooling with our Marine team and learn more about our Marine eco-systems.
• Help restore a mangrove habitat as you assist with planting mangroves at Mida Creek.
• Visit our conservation farming project “Farming God’s way” in Dakatcha.
• Visit the Arabuko Sokoke Forest with our experienced guide David, who extensively understands the forest.
• Learn more about our ASSETS eco-scholarships scheme and visit an ASSETS school.
• Help a local group (Watamu Marine Association) with beach cleanups and attend the art workshop to make something valuable   out of the rubbish.
• Assist Mwamba look even brighter, by painting a building and pruning the Nature Trail.
• Visit the Gede Ruins, go for a canoe trip at Mida Creek, learn about turtles at Turtle Watch and go out to Malindi.

The Summer Field Course will be held in July; arrivals are expected between the1st to3rd of July. The program will then start with two days of orientation on the 4th and 5th; this will help you learn more about A Rocha Kenya, the Kenyan culture and basic Kiswahili as well taking part in team building activities. After a Sunday of resting on the 6th, the program commences on the 7th and ends at the 27th of July.
There will be a few extra ‘farewell days’ from the 28th till the 31st of July. On these days you are free to stay at Mwamba, go out for a safari or as well depart to share the amazing experience with friends and family!
The Summer Field Course will cost $1230 equivalent to €895. The price covers full board accommodation from the 1st till the 31st of July. It includes all the program, outings and transportation costs.
KARIBUNI! (To sign in or more information: mwamba.ark@gmail.com)

Nairobi farmers go ‘God’s way’ in their farms……

Cities over the world are known to be biodiversity deserts. They are synonymous with tall buildings, lots of traffic and a sea of humanity, so is Nairobi. The one amazing thing about Nairobi however, is its ability to combine the hustle and bustle that is characteristic of a rapidly growing city in Africa with rare biodiversity.
Seated in my office at the Karara plot in Nairobi’s Karen, I enjoy this stunning site of a beautiful forest, with a wave of lovely butterflies gracing the flowers, a community of rather friendly monkeys complete a magnificent and quite ecosystem.
On this particular day however, I gladly welcome an interesting visitor; Sarah Young from A Rocha International. She quickly blends in as I lead the team in transplanting a few seedlings; Meru Oak, Ehretia symosa and Margaritaria discoidea in our garden.
We then decide to seize the opportunity, invited farmers from the neighborhood for two days of training on Farming God’s way. It was a wonderful experience sharing with farmers from diverse religious backgrounds; and by this I mean a huge Muslim delegation including the vice-chairman of Supreme Council of Kenya Muslim!
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Additionally, we ministered to them on the need to show our love for God’s creation not only in the farm but also in our everyday lives.
Encouraging enough, I have recently been answering lots of phone calls from farmers asking specific clarifications regarding the same, which tells me that people are going ‘God’s way’ in their farms!