One of the most rewarding conservation initiatives I’ve been involved with in recent years is supporting the efforts of friends, colleagues, and members of the Friends of Kinangop Plateau (FoKP)to halt the conversion of natural grasslands around Nairobi (Kenya) – home to the rapidly-declining and Endangered Sharpe’s Longclaw Macronyx sharpei – into cropland.
I’ve posted many times about the project and the work I did on visits to the Kinangop Plateau over the last few years and have created a ‘gateway page’ which explains the project, looks at the participants, and goes into more detail about the very real threats to the beautiful Sharpe’s Longclaw: please go to http://www.talking-naturally.co.uk/fokp/
The following is a report written by Dominic Kimani, a Kinangop local and a good friend of mine who is doing remarkable work in local schools funded – in the main – by a grant provided by FoKP supporter David Fox.
Dominic Kimani (National Museums of Kenya, Zoology Department and Friends of Kinangop Plateau (FOKP): April 2011
Lessons covered during interaction with the student and local community
Water conservation and Harvesting – World wetland day
As most of you would agree with me, Kinangop has changed a lot especially in the last two decades and it has become very dry in most part of the year. Water conservation and harvesting is therefore inevitable.
This year’s World Wetland Day was commemorated on 2nd February 2011. We selected Ndaracai-ni Primary school to host the event. The schools within this area came here for the day’s activities. This event attracted the parents, teachers and students of this area to mark this important day worldwide. The occasion was used to create public awareness on the importance of wetlands in the area and how they are connected to the large water bodies like Lake Naivasha and even oceans.
The farmers and general public expressed their worries about the declining treads of waters quality and quantity in the nearby Turasha river. We used the event to explain the alternative water harvesting techniques that people could use. Roof and small ponds catchments were highlighted as the most applicable in the area.
Threats facing the riparian land in the middle catchment where Kinangop plateau is found were explained to the people gathered. The threats are mainly caused by poor cultivation close to the river banks. Results from previous research that we have been involved before indicates that the Sharpe’s Longclaw prefers nesting close to the river riparian land especially in Ndaracai-ini area. The conservation of riparian will protect the soil erosion and preserve the habitat for the Endangered Sharpe’s Longclaw Macronyx sharpei among other biota.
Teaching conservation in Kinangop grassland must be holistic, touching most of the life aspects that affect people in Kinangop. Having worked in Kinangop before, I have realized that the problems here need local solution that are well integrated with best examples and practices that have worked well in other parts of the world.
Mugumoi-ni and Murungaru Primary school after the world wetland day event.
Sustainable Agriculture: an example of Kimuri secondary school.
Action in Kimuri secondary school
Students are the best ambassadors and vehicles through which conservation messages get to reach a wide coverage. Together with their teachers they have a higher multiplier effect because they interact with many people. Teachers especially in Africa scenario command respect among their communities.
In our teaching, we are targeting the issues that affect the local people in Kinangop, and the most prone i.e. the farmers. In Kimuri secondary school, we are liaising with wildlife club patron and his counterpart from the young farmers club (YFC) to demonstrate the best practices in farming. The main practice is the organic farming, this is because it utilizes small piece of land for maximum yield. This helps the majority of the students who come from the Kinangop farming community to learn the best farming techniques that are sustainable.
By so doing we are able to explain why it is important to leave some patches of grasslands for soil conservation, livestock grazing fields and for birds’ habitats. We are also engaging the students in comparisons of the economic aspects of cultivation and livestock rearing based on Kariuki Ndang’ang’a’s findings, two years ago in his social economic studies in Kinangop.
Livestock rearing is proving to be more economically viable especially in spreading and coping with risks that farmers face in their undertakings. Our goal as stipulated in the proposal is to change the behaviour and general perception o the local people (farmers) and enable efficient sustainable land-use.
Kimuri School has set aside a portion of land for demonstrations. The school has also allowed other schools and group of farmers to use it. This will ensure that once the students learn the best practices, they will teach their parents and the whole population will change for better. In this activities, Mr. Andrew Mwangi, who is the Sharpe’s Longclaw reserve manager is helping in coordinating and making follow-ups of the demonstrations in Kimuri.
Dry season grassland birds monitoring in Murungaru with selected school’s students
On 19th February 2011, the selected students form various schools, participated in this years’ dry season grassland monitoring. The schools were; Murungaru, Kimuri, Hajo and Ndaracai-ini. 7 students from each school were selected.
The students learnt the monitoring techniques and census methods that FOKP monitoring team uses during the biannual grassland birds monitoring. This kind of teaching is aimed at passing basic research principles to the youngsters who will be helping the FOKP group to ensure sustainability of this important activity.
Three sites were visited, namely; Kirima, Githunguri and Ndaracai-ini. The result of the census will be made available to the blog after the FOKP office finalizes compiling the report. The next monitoring exercise will be done in August this year.
Launching of the Important Bird Area (IBA) book in Kinangop.
A book titled: A Review of local conservation groups in Africa. This book was launched on 8th April 2011 in Sharpe’s Longclaw Nature reserve. The launch ceremony was led by Mourad Amari of Tunisia and Mark Anderson of Birdlife South Africa, Paul Matiku of Nature Kenya among others. Details of the book and the Launch can be found at Birdlife International website.
FOKP was honoured to host this important event. The same occasion was used to launch the third nature Reserve for Sharpe’s Longclaw. David Fox has been an ardent supporter of World Land Trust (WLT) which together with others has helped to purchase this new nature reserve. The reserve is called Leleshwa. On behalf of the group and the schools that we work with, we would like to thank WLT and its entire supporters for this bold initiative.
During the event, the neighbouring schools notably the famous Mugumoi-ni primary school that has previously received support from David and Family, Hanjo and Murungaru primary schools coloured the occasion with poems, dances and songs. This provided and opportunity to showcase the group’s activities for instance; wool spinning, Environmental education, conservation agriculture among others.
As mentioned in the introduction, most of the activities in School were conducted outdoors. Environmental game was introduced in three schools namely; Murungaru, Kienjero and Wheatland secondary school.
This game is an improvement of a traditional game called “Bau” which originated initially from central Africa but has been improved by University of Leicester and tried in Bogoria schools in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Two or more people playing using beads/ grains and dice. The beads or grains represent different natural resources. The game demonstrate how resources to be utilized sustainable without depleting others.
The students in these schools liked the game and its meaning hence more schools will be involved in future and do regular evaluations to measure the effectiveness on the game as a teaching aid.
I would like to register my appreciation to all people who helped in one way or the other.
I know that I was supposed to give this report earlier but due to unavoidable circumstances most of them beyond my control, I delayed, and I regret this and assure you to try my best to be timely.
This work would not be possible without you immense support especially the financial support from David and Luca. I salute you and thank you for everything, you support is highly appreciated by my entire family who are the primary beneficially and the entire community that I serve. Dr. Muchai has always been there to ensure that all is going on well and providing the institutional support and facilitating the timely stipend for this fellowship, I thank you sir. Charlie, whenever we need your assistance you have always been there for us and making Kinangop known globally, I say Asante sana and thank you for the beautiful Talking Naturally website. I also want to thank my colleague Sammy Bakari for always working closely with me especially this time when I was facing some personal problems.
Last but not the least I thank all the schools that we work with, for sure you make my life comfortable and I feel indebted to you in everything.