Category Archives: Uncategorized

2016 SUMMER FIELD COURSE

Dear volunteer,

It is a pleasure to invite you for the 2016 Summer Field Course of A Rocha Kenya.

Come and join us! We have an exciting program in July. You will participate in our projects, give a hand with general work, visit different work areas and get a better understanding of how Conservation and Christianity go together. Our Journal Club (studying a scientific paper together) and our Green Bible Study will help you to put faith and creation care in perspective. Staying at our Field Study Center (Mwamba) is a life experience. The same counts for working together with the other volunteers from abroad and our Kenyan staff.

Boundaries of ecosystems.

Boundaries are interesting areas that show ecological interactions of ecosystems. Mwamba is 80m from the beach, and at the Eco-line (boundary between the ocean and a vegetated mainland). You will appreciate the role of wave action and anthropogenic influence in erosion, deposition and pollution. Eco-line studies can be used to generate projections of future behavior of ecological units. This can help us understand, for instance, how sea level rise due to global warming is likely to change the configuration of the coastline and impact negatively on the adjacent mainland ecosystems.

Sabaki River Delta

Is an important bird area (IBA) where ARK monitors and do researches on the birds. It is an estuarine ecosystem containing brackish (mixture of fresh and salt) water with a transitional boundary (ecotone) of the river and the ocean where seeds dispersed by water sprout into vegetation, creating a home for birds and some lower creatures. On-site study offers hands-on experience to help students make logical deductions about biodiversity adaptation mechanisms which enable birds to maintain niches in a changing environment. The course will give participants a chance to participate in bird ringing and bird counts (Mwamba, Sabaki and Mida Creek)

facebook 2

Snorkeling or low-tide rock pooling.

At low tide you will have an opportunity to observe marine life, including various species of fish and sea weeds or ride in a transparent-bottom boat at high tide to explore more biodiversity, such as corals, that inhabit the blue-green waters of Watamu. This will be instrumental in helping you to recognize how sea weeds, as primary producers in the marine food chain, are adapted for photosynthesis, and appreciate marine life interactions, from symbiosis to predatory. At our marine–debris collection point, students will appreciate the significance of conservation in the restoration of ecosystems.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mida Creek and Board walk.

The suspended board walk at Mida Creek is an amazing platform which offers a splendid view of the site, including wading birds, from the mangrove forest canopy. You will also see how mangroves adapt for survival in saline environment, and go for a canoe trip at Mida Creek.

Beach fun

You will help a local group (Watamu Marine Association) with beach cleanup and attend an art workshop to make something valuable out of rubbish and also participate in beach games.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In addition, you will visit our Farming God’s way project in Dakatcha, learn more about our ASSETS program, visit an ASSETS school and assist Mwamba look even brighter by painting a building and pruning the Nature Trail. A visit to Gede Ruins and Turtle Watch to learn about turtles will be organized. Be sure to also participate in our de-snaring walks either in Arabuko Sokoke Forest and Gede Ruins.

Cyrus Hester from the UK puts it clearly from the 2015 SFC

“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.”

Logistics of the SFC

The Summer Field Course will be held in July, starting with your arrival (1-3 July) and two introduction days (4-5 July). . On these days you will learn more about A Rocha Kenya, Kenyan culture and basic Swahili, and participate in team-building activities.
The full program will run from 6-27 July, with 28-31 July as ‘Goodbye days’. You are free to stay at Mwamba, go out for a safari or go home to share your amazing experience with friends and family!

The SFC price is $840/780€/£590/ksh83000 and ksh1100 for local students. This covers full board accommodation from 1-31 July and includes all program, outing and transportation costs.

KARIBUNI!
(To register or ask for more information, please contact: [email protected][email protected] or fill out our online volunteer application form at www.arocha.org/volunteer)

SUMMER FIELD COURSE

As narrated by Cyrus Hester…..

The 2015 Summer Field Course has been a very busy and exciting experience so far. We’ve visited local schools bustling with smiling children, watched hundreds of flamingos feed along coastal flats, patrolled dense forests with community elders, and watched baby sea turtles scramble for the ocean. We’ve also had the opportunity to assist with ongoing research. On Monday, July 20th, we paid our third and final visit to the Gede Ruins National Monument and forest regeneration project.
2015Hester_GedeRuins

The Ruins rise out of the East African coastal dry forest like a dreamscape; toppled walls of rough-faced stone standing over wells filled with impenetrable dark and ornate tombs plastered a ghostly white. These are the remains of a coastal, Swahili trading town that reached its peak in the fifteenth century AD. The Omani, Portuguese, and Chinese all paid visit to this place at one time or another in the distant past. But, archaeological evidence suggests that rising hostilities, shifting centers of power, and a falling water table all contributed to its abandonment in the 16th–17th centuries AD. Whatever the causes, the structures fell to disrepair over the coming centuries and natural features came to dominate the area.
In 1927, the site was gazetted as a historical monument and in the early 1990s the first phases of forest restoration project began to turn agricultural plots back into coastal forest. This is where our story meets that of Gede’s. The Research and Conservation team at A Rocha Kenya recently agreed to take up the task of monitoring the long-term fate of the restoration project. A small team of us headed into the forest armed with hand-drawn maps, lists of species, and the keen wits of A Rocha Kenya’s resident ecologists. As Sykes’ monkeys watched from the canopy and pollinators flittered around us, we scrambled between tree trunks great and small to find the little aluminum tags that marked each tree. We noted which were present, which were missing, and which required replacement tags.

2015Hester_GedeRegen

It was a small, but important, task and one which will hopefully help contribute to our understanding of how this under-researched habitat responds to change. We were lucky to have had the chance to spend our time in such a beautiful place, with such a rich history, and all the while contributing to ecological research. I look forward to seeing what comes of A Rocha Kenya’s work here.

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

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Environmental Education At Karara

Do we ever think about how life is going to be for our children, children’s children 50 years from now? How do we expect them to lead healthy lives when we have already destroyed natural systems to an extent that they are unable to regenerate themselves?
We live in an era where more and more children are disconnected from nature, and instead are glued on television screens, mobile phones and play stations. Well then how do we expect these young ones to take care of their environment when they hardly know what it is or rather when we ourselves can’t take care of it?
A Rocha Kenya recognizes the importance of making a real investment in environmental education and outdoor learning, and is therefore carrying out environmental education in various schools in Nairobi.

SAM_0763
Gillian Raven( A Rocha Kenya’s Environmental Education officer)got together with pupils from Logos Christian school for an Environmental class, with the main topic tackled being forests in Kenya and their importance. This is part of an Environmental Education programme that was rolled out between A Rocha Kenya and the school, to run for the next few months, and hopefully into the future.

SAM_0197
With both theory and practical learning employed, the pupils got to learn about the different types of forests found across Kenya and their importance as well. They got to learn how to measure a tree diameter which most of them found very interesting.

SAM_0227

SAM_0275
Tomorrow’s leader needs to be equipped for tomorrow’s challenges, and we must adequately prepare our children for the future they will inherit.

 

A prayer well answered!

Eco-tourism has been the main source of funding especially for our community and conservation work. Funds collected from our Eco -facilities have been pivotal in the sustainability of our projects. However breaking down of the Gede Ruins Tree platform was one problem that wrecked our minds in the last quarter of 2013.
We desperately tried to have it fixed soonest possible so as to beat the December deadline when tourism would be at its peak but that was to be in vain! Repair operations started but on a rather small scale due to the lack of a steady source of funds to sustain that.We closed the year with a prospect of funding from the Watamu Rotary Club but the facility was still closed.

During the first Monday morning meeting of the year, we sat together as a team to share our joys, success and aspirations.We then joined hands in prayer but the most common “phrase” in every one’s prayer was that of the tree platform repairs.
Later that same day our staff members Stanley and Daniel set out to meet a couple, adamant supporters of our work, Bill of the Watamu Rotary Club and his wife Cassandra. “Fingers crossed” we waited hoping for the best as they had shown some interest in funding the repair operations.

We could all read the glee in the faces of Stanley and Dan as they drove back into the Mwamba compound (where we are located). Finally The good Lord had answered our prayers and the repair operations had been fully funded by this couple. The tree platform should now be operational by the end of this month.

A big thank you to Bill and Cassandra for standing by us in our time of need. May you find favor in the Lord

Rocky Platform research

A Rocha Kenya’s marine programme have been focusing recently on rocky platforms along the shoreline of Watamu Marine National Park. Robert Sluka, Director of the Marine Conservation and Research Programme recently presented a poster on our research at The Oxford University Biodiversity Institute’s Biosymposium 2013. We worked in collaboration with Senior Coastal Scientist Dr. O.S. Mohamed of Kenya Wildlife Service. Thanks go to ARK co-authors Benjamin Cowburn, Benjamin Vanbaelenberghe, Chloe Naylor, and Victoria Sindorf.

Oxford Biodiversity Symposium poster

Abstract

Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya is renowned for its beautiful beach and nearby coral reefs. In addition, visitors to this national park are often observed exploring rockpools at low tide and an unofficial guide trade has developed around this activity. With the exception of some historical literature, little to no research has been completed in these rockpools and so there has been no assessment of conservation needs. A project was started in December 2012 to study the biodiversity of these rockpools, identify threats, suggest possible conservation interventions, and begin developing education products for use in the local community to raise awareness of these habitats.

The initial phase of the project, completed in February 2013, focused on major taxonomic categories of organisms. Biodiversity included all three major algal phyla, lower animal forms such as sponges and corals and higher animal forms such as echinoderms and vertebrates. An educational package was developed and tested with both adult NGO workers and a group of 50 primary school students and their teachers. A guide to these major taxonomic groups was produced as well as presentation resources. Phase 2 of the project focuses on quantifying the abundance and biodiversity of these major taxonomic groups and is currently focusing on corals, fishes (both resident and juvenile reef fish), and echinoderms. Coral studies have identified a population of Anomastraea irregularis, an EDGE coral species. Potential threats to rockpool biodiversity include overuse by tourists, runoff from land-based development, and poaching. Conservation activities include quantifying the full range of biodiversity, monitoring changes spatially and temporally, and continuing education of guides, tourists, and the local community.

Rockpools of Watamu Marine National Park

We started the week here at A Rocha by a staff visit to see the local rockpools. Bobby Sluka (age 12) worked hard on collating pictures the Sluka family had been taking over the previous weeks into a rockpool guide that was laminated and tested for use by the staff. We saw loads of creatures from algae to fish and all taxonomic varieties in between. Then on Tuesday over 50 kids from Dongokundu primary school near Mwamba came over to the centre and were treated to the rockpools. An introductory presentation prepared by Sarah Sluka (age 10) and the ecology and science added by her father was presented and then we found many amazing animals and plants at our doorstep. We finished with a fun game.

We are looking forward to increasing the Marine Conservation and Research Programme’s work in the intertidal areas of Watamu Marine National Park. Look out for some interesting research, education, and conservation in the near future!

Colin seems to be enjoying the rockpools despite the lack of birds.

Colin seems to be enjoying the rockpools despite the lack of birds

The walk from Mwamba to the rockpools

The walk from Mwamba to the rockpools

Starfish

Starfish

Everyone had a great time!

Everyone had a great time!