Friends of Kinangop Plateau Update: Dec 2011

One of the most rewarding conservation initiatives I’ve been involved with in recent years is supporting the efforts of members of the Friends of Kinangop Plateau to halt the conversion of natural grasslands around Nairobi (Kenya) – home to the rapidly-declining Sharpe’s Longclaw – into cropland. I’ve posted many times about the project and the work I did on visits to 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/

 

FRIENDS OF KINANGOP PLATEAU: 1ST QUARTER REPORT
prepared by BAKARI SAMUEL

 

INTRODUCTION
The Friends of Kinangop Plateau (FOKP) for Biodiversity conservation is a CBO in the wider Nyandarua in Central Kenya, but with active group and offices in Kinangop District at Njabini ATC and Nyandarua South at Murungaru Community Learning Center. FOKP is a site support group (SSG) supporting Important Biodiversity Area (IBA) number 4, the Kinangop Highland Grassland that neighbors IBA number 1, the Aberdare Forest.

Site Support group approach is a method used by Birdlife International to deliver sustainable environmental conservation globally. The group is committed to biodiversity conservation and particularly of the Endangered Sharpe’s Longclaw Macronyx sharpei that is a specialist of the highland grasslands of Kenya. These and other fauna are losing habitat through human activities including change of land use, subdivision and recently planting of exotic tree species.

“These challenges are daunting because almost the entire plateau is under private ownership, with strong social and economic forces driving grassland degradation, conversion and fragmentation. An increase in human population (from immigration as well as intrinsic growth) is leading to sub-division of farms.” Says Dr. Muchai the Head of Zoology department-National Museums of Kenya on his research publication paper ‘Habitat selection and conservation of Sharpe’s longclaw (Macronyx sharpei), a threatened Kenyan grassland endemic’- Biological Conservation 105 (2002) 271–277.

This is evidenced in all the locations where the Kinangop Highland Grasslands fall. There has been a constant change of land use. Grasslands fields have been converted for cultivation of potatoes, wheat, cabbages and exotic plantations especially eucalyptus.

However, all is not lost. Kinangop have continued to get attention locally and internationally.
Efforts of the group members have continued to bear fruits as awareness levels have continued to rise. Current partnerships have continued to strengthen with new ones established. David, Luca, Janice and Charlie have continued to give support to the groups’ activities. DOF have been on the ground to document what the members are doing; this will be published through DOF’s website and Nature Kenya’s. It is expected that this will reach out to more people. US Embassy have invited the group to exhibit at the Embassy after successful implementation of the funded project to purchase modern equipment. NABU (Birdlife German) and Nature Kenya have supported the marketing of the products through facilitation of the Crafts of Africa annual fair. World Land Trust have made follow-up after helping purchase the third Sharpe’s Longclaw Reserve in North Kinangop.

 

ACTION
Members of Friends of Kinangop Plateau have continued to run environment conservation programmes. Of most importance is the annual monitoring of the Sharpe’s Longclaw and the habitat. Wet season monitoring was done in August in the different sub groups. From the visits, coded farms have experienced changes of land use. For instance four farms have been completely converted in the last one year in Magumu including more than 100-acre-plot along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway which was stop over for tourists. It is not clear the trend of the individuals from the raw data but there is reasons to suspect persistent decline.

Njabini Wool Spinning and Weaving workshop have also continued to reach out to the farmers as well broadening its network and market scope. Over the last four months, they have been able to participate in two agricultural field days. One on the 6rd-7th Oct at Njabini Agricultural Training Centre, this is always a good platform to meet with the local farmers and exchange views. In the two day event more than 2,000 attendants are recorded each year. This includes local school kids and secondary students. A regional for the Nyandarua County followed on the 24th Oct at Olkalou.

On a national level, two representatives Jeff and Lucy went to exhibit at the 6th Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Scientific, Technological and Industrialization Conference themed “Science, Technology and Innovation Towards Sustainable development” This was as after one professor at the university saw the work of the Njabini Workshop at Olkalou. Here other than meeting out people, there were sales of scarves and two rugs.



This was on the 17th and 18th Nov which was followed by the annual Crafts of Africa at Sarit Centre on the 23rd -27th November. This is was made possible courtesy of NABU who paid for the stand (KES 20,800) and Nature Kenya who supported the upkeep of the two participants for the five days. This was one of the most challenging fairs and yet very critical. With more than five other weavers who had rugs to compete with, the Workshop managed to sell one big rug and attract many people who expressed interest in making orders. This is because it was very clear that that was group work and there were no middle men. Connection with the conservation of the Kinangop was a very unique selling point. Scarves attracted most people with a peak over the weekend where buyers turned in good numbers. This was very helpful in understanding the weaknesses of the group as well getting to know the strengths. There is potential in big sized rugs but there is a weakness in designs. There is more that needs to be done on dying and colour combinations.



To encourage bird watching as a hobby, the youths of Friends of Kinangop Plateau have continued to organize bird walks in and around Kinangop. In the last months, the youths have done bird watching in all the different habitats and around Kinangop. This improves the members’ bird identification skills as well as nurturing interest in nature.

 

HIGHLIGHTS
In a bid to improve capacity of the members with the growth and development of the Njabini Wool spinning and Weaving Workshop, Margaret have just concluded a two weeks training in business management which was kindly supported by Mr. David Fox and the family. With just few weeks after completion, there has been marked improvement in maintaining and tracking the records of the workshop. At individual level, Margaret has undergone a transformation that was not expected of the training. She has developed a huge interest in learning basic use of computer which she has all along ignored even after endless persuasion, now she is learning computer at her free time, thanks once again to David and Family for availing one to the workshop. This will go a long way in improving communication and management of the workshop.

From the training she learned general book and record keeping, preparation of profit and loss account, fixed asset registry, cash flow and projection, trial balance and financial statement. We also bought all the books of original entry as advised by Margaret after training. We also bought a reference book; “Management Accounting” by Terry Lucy.

Njabini Workshop is also starting a small garden that will be based on the three principals of the dyers garden; economy, ecology and education. This garden will be used primarily as source of natural dye which will be used to dye wool, thereby improving the uniqueness of the products. This will be largely used for scarves, hats and other small products. Several other gardens will be established in schools and other institutions. In this case, the gardens will be used to educate children in color extraction and arts. This will help preserve the cultural knowledge.

To enhance networking and reaching out for more people and potential buyers, we have developed a simple website to market the products. This is after a two days training by Google Kenya. http://kinangopwool.kbo.co.ke

 

THE BAD
As you are aware, the Njabini is housed by the Ministry of Agriculture under the Njabini Agricultural Training Centre. This has been a very good set-up but the current principal does not seem to like our presence. We are required to move from the area by Feb. In a letter dated 28th Nov, we are given a three months’ notice. This has left us with a lot of concern since we had created a very good foundation. We are still consulting as the group leadership to see the best way forward. This we shall try to communicate as soon as possible. However, the options are quite limited considering that moving to a rental house may not an easy option. With that we welcome suggestions and ideas that we can try to pursue.

 

We take this opportunity to pass our heartfelt gratitude to all the individuals and organization who have continued to encourage FoKP and the Kinangop community through their continued support either in cash or kind.



 

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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I birded the world for twenty years before quitting my airline job and am now freelance. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores

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