Tag Archives: ASSETS

“Farming God’s Way” in threatened Dakatcha Woodlands

We’ve been somewhat quiet over Christmas and New Year – getting away and having a much-needed break, though many times this is when developers like to take action because they know that there are fewer people looking. This seems to have been what has happened in Dakatcha with the jatropha project – just before Christmas, new machinery was brought in and activity levels at the Italian jatropha project picked up. The worry is that the project will go ahead at a level which is still unacceptable for a) a crop which has overwhelming evidence that it will fail and only bring problems and greater poverty to the site and b) a site that is globally important for rare and endangered biodiversity.

NatureKenya have continued to do a great job at highlighting what is going on though there hasn’t been much news from them either of late… will have to do some ferreting to find out what’s going on.

However the great news is that the Bountiful Grains Trust based in South Africa but working throughout southern and eastern Africa have decided to continue working with us as A Rocha Kenya on the Farming God’s Way (FGW) work amongst farmers in the Dakatcha area. This is awesome and Pius Mutie has just come back from Dakatcha with our A Rocha Staff member Katana where they’ve done ten days of follow up training with the farmers and church members who have been involved already and anyone else who is keen to learn about it.

The beauty of FGW is that it not only works really well in hugely increasing productivity for farmers who practise it correctly, but it also gives excellent teaching on core life principles based on solid biblical teaching. Katana has been putting the FGW techniques he has learnt into practice and has reaped the benefits – as can be seen in the photos below of his shamba (farm) and the size of the maize / corn he managed to grow last year. For comparison, his neighbours crop is shown which shows how traditional farming techniques really do serious harm to communities still trying to live by them.

Katana in his FGW-farmed maize

Katana’s neighbour’s maize – taken the same time

What is the difference with this form of agriculture? The main principles taught by FGW are that you should do your farming with excellence, do it on time (apparently the main reason there is hunger in Africa – farmers plant late and so miss the full benefit of the rains and thus get under sized crops and sometimes none at all), do it with joy and without wasting anything. Following these and applying them with the core techniques of no ploughing, lots of mulching of dead vegetation on the crops and rotating your crops are the key ingredients to getting a bumper harvest from your fields.

We really hope to spread this news far and wide and get more and more farmers using it so as to not only help them get more from their fields, but also to stop erosion, retain moisture in the soils, reduce the area of land required for farming and thus saving some more indigenous habitats. We hope to introduce FGW with our ASSETS community project around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek and even at the Sabaki River Mouth with the communities there – but that’s a wee way into the future from now.

The recent training has gone pretty well though the turn out wasn’t as high as we’d hoped but there was an enthusiastic reception from those who were there. Our vision is to spread it to as many people as possible and have many of the community being able to feed themselves as well as having food left over to sell and in doing so protecting the forest from further destruction.

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Quizzes on the Far Side of the Forest

On Friday, a group of us took the trip to one of the furthest reaches of the ASSETS network, to facilitate a quiz between two primary schools – Malanga and Girimacha – on the eastern side of the Arabuko-Sokoke forest. This was the first round of the competition for the two schools, hoping to beat off the competition and secure a semi-final place against Boga,   also from the east side of the forest. The ultimate goal is a spot in the Inter-ASSETS Primary Schools Quiz Final, to be held in Watamu at Turtle Bay Beach Club in mid-November.

The competition was stiff and the 5 competitors from each school battled hard, eagerly cheered on by their classmates in the audience. The range of questions was wide, and the rounds fast paced, with the children being asked to answer questions on a wide range of subjects. One moment, they were being asked to name the Minister for Tourism in Kenya, the next they were required to name two ways to prevent the spread of cholera. 


The Malanga team

Ultimately, after 8 rounds of quick-fire questions and a comprehension task, it was Malanga who prevailed, proving strongest on many of the topics faced. Girimacha, however, were magnanimous in defeat, knowing that the primary aim of the quiz had at least been achieved and everyone had learned a lot. Somehow, the whole class fitted in the back of the truck and they sang all the way back to the village. Malanga, on the other hand, are extremely excited to continue another step along the ‘Road to Turtle Bay’ and now have two weeks to study hard and prepare as much as possible before the much-anticipated semi-final against Boga.


Girimacha head back home

Day 3 of the Camp – talks on drugs and saying goodbye

Our last day dawned bright and early with more Morning Glory, breakfast and then an excellent talk from a worker from the local ‘Imani drug rehabilitation Centre.’ He explained the science behind the addiction and how you get hooked and well as the realities of rehab and being strong about avoiding drugs in school and at home. There were many questions from students with some even wanting to talk about other, non-drug related problems.

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Drug Awareness Talk

Our last activity was a trip to Mida Creek. This was a first time for me as well as the students and it was beautiful, despite the intermittent rain when we sheltered under trees!
Students on Walkway at Mida
Students on Walkway at Mida

You may know that A Rocha Kenya as built a hanging walkway through the mangrove forest as an eco-tourism attraction at Mida Creek. It raises money for ASSETS through Tourists coming and paying to use the walkway. Alex and Said, two of the guides, were very knowledgeable about the Mangrove ecosystem and the students had a great time on the walkway!

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Some of the girls with Said at Mida

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Boys outside the bird hide at Mida

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Some of the Students on the Walkway

The camp has now come to an end but the students go away with a wealth of new experiences and information about life, the environment and conservation. Hopefully they have been encouraged to keep on going and their confidence has been increased.

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Lydia, the most active girl

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 John, the most active boy.

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Group photo on steps of Mwamba!

Assets Students arrive for the first Assets camp 2008

Day 1

Twenty Assets students trickled shyly into Mwamba during the course of the morning of 12th August, unaware of the packed three day programme we had in store for them. Tsofa kicked the camp off with introductions, explanations, camp rules and started the ongoing camp competition, whereby the students were divided into two teams. Throughout the three days there would be different challenges and question times when the teams could win points. The first days activities included a guided walk through the nature trail with Jonathan Baya – who used his skills to explain about the importance of natural life – focusing particularly on trees and Stanley has led a discussion about the realities of why parents want their children to have a good education and the challenges of being in, and staying in, school; school fees; drugs; bad company and love affairs (pregnancy, diseases and early marriage) were all suggestions made. Stanley leads discussionStanley leading a discussion on the Balcony

He left us with some wise words he once heard; ‘Elimu nyingi, kazi kidogo, pesa nyingi’ (The higher the education, the higher the salary and the smaller the labour for it). We played on the beach, had a Bible study and in the evening there was a campfire.

Games on the beach

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Games on the Beach

Day 2

Day two started bright and early at 6.30am with Morning Glory (devotions) before a quick breakfast and then out to the beach at 7.30am to catch glass bottomed boats which took us to the coral reef for snorkeling. Most of the students had never been on a boat before and also could not swim but everyone was brave enough to put on a life jacket and get in the water to look at the beautiful fish and the coral. After Snorkeling, Mohammed the boat owner doubled as the local HIV/AIDS expert and gave a useful and informative talk about this disease. Lots of notes were taken and questions asked by the students who seemed determined to get their facts straight. Stanley then talked about caring for Creation and why we should do it as well as why A Rocha exists. In the afternoon we went to Watamu Turtle Watch to learn more about turtles and why they are endangered. Everyone particularly enjoyed meeting ‘Kisumi’ the resident disabled turtle. The day was all go and we arrived back a bit late for Henry’s talk about Careers, where he focused on having realistic goals and not simply pursuing a particular career because that is what a relative wants for you – wise words. Afterwards there a bit of time for some activities on the beach including soccer, sand sculptures and a beach clean-up. In the evening there was time for a video – ‘The God’s must be crazy.’ If you have not seen it it’s a timeless comedy classic and was enjoyed by everyone (particularly Tsofa who appeared to have watched it several times!).

Urgent appeal to save a highly threatened and critically important wetland

In the last blog I outlined the situation with the Tana River Delta – that of an incredibly rich and diverse wetland for both wetland and its value for the local human communities living there (with c. 30,000 head of cattle dependent on it) that is imminently threatened with destruction through conversion to sugarcane.

The following shots are some images of cattle in the delta – fat and healthy enjoying the lush vegetation and abundant water. You’ll also notice a lot of birds associated with them – egrets (white herons), swallows, Sacred Ibises (the black & white birds with long decurved bills) etc.

Cattle in Tana River Delta with swallows - by Jill Retief

The image above is taken exactly where sugarcane is planned to be put…

Cow with egrets and ibises, Tana River Delta by Jill Retief

These Orma men are spraying their cattle with insecticide against ticks etc. This is potentially damaging for the ecosystem but with proper awareness on good and bad pesticides, this could be significantly reduced

Spraying cattle for ticks - Tana River Delta by Jill Retief

The extremely worrying thing about this is that the government organisation, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) who’s job it is to refuse or grant licences for this sort of project has apparently just this week accepted the EIA for the sugar project and is giving a licence for it to go ahead. This, after all the very clear inadequacies of the EIA being pointed out by many people and the outcry against the project in the delta (again c.f. The Water Hole). The EIA and comments on it are being posted on the website www.tanariverdelta.net along with a lot more info (tho’ the website is still being put together).

Our only option now is to fight it with a major campaign in a bid to put a stop to it – and for this, we need your help…

George Wamukoya, who is playing a significant role in taking a lead in this fight, wrote in an email this week:

“This message may disappoint you or give you the impetus to fight on. This is to inform you that the Director General (of NEMA) has issued the EIA Licence to Mumias/TARDA to proceed and undertake the sugar project. Am further informed that the DG has done so against the advise of the technical staff who were dissatisfied with the response provided by Mumias on the issues raised by TAC and during the public hearing. As a result, he has hidden the file in his office!

Given this new development, it is imperative that we soldier on by proceeding a major campaign to halt the decision. We are proceeding to prepare pleadings but we will definitely require money to cover costs. We are convinced that this is a clear case where we will be granted the orders.

Generally, campaign costs are high, but we have no option if we have to seek justice. I estimate the conservative figure of Kshs. 500,000. We must mobilise these reasources to enable us proceed with the application.”

We are therefore appealing to all readers of this blog who care for special places on our planet – we have only this chance to save the Tana River Delta. Please help us by donating through this blog site towards the costs of the campaign. Ksh 500,000 is approx US$8,100. We are doing all that is possible to raise these funds, but your contribution however large or small will be hugely valued. Please reference any donation through this blog as being for the “Tana River Delta Campaign”. THANK YOU in advance and we’ll update you with progress as things unfold – and for those who pray, I believe it is hugely powerful to ask God to take action here too as he cares for his world more than we can imagine, so do join us in this too.

Just on a general note and to put things in perspective, A Rocha Kenya also has strong links with two other WildlifeDirect blogs – ASSETS which is our main community conservation initiative and a project in its own right, and David Ngala (Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest) who assists with a lot of our research and monitoring work alongside his specific FoASF work. David is also someone I have supported and helped in his work for over 10 years.

This A Rocha Kenya blog will focus on the research & monitoring and environmental education aspect of our work together with life and activities at our field study centre, Mwamba, in Watamu – about which more will be written. It will also deal with the various projects we’re involved with such as the fight to save the Tana River Delta. It’ll be good to share with you what’s going on in our part of the conservation world.

…to finish todays blog I thought I’d show you what sunset at the mouth of the delta can look like. Awesome.
Sunset at the Delta mouth