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/
UPDATES FROM KINANGOP
Sammy Bakari, FoKP, March 2011
Sammy Bakari, FoKP, March 2011
The rains started after the long dry period of January and February. Some of the major activities going on during the period included monitoring and while wool spinning and weaving continue to expand.
Monitoring of Sharpe’s Longclaw and the grassland habitat for the dry season was successfully carried out in Murungaru while it was not very successful in Magumu. Njabini and Engineer were not able to. This brought about the challenge that there is need to have more youths trained on basic monitoring techniques and have the income generating activities support the monitoring. It was evident that there has been steady conversion of the grassland to other uses. Among the recently converted are areas that have recorded good populations of the Sharpe’s Longclaw in the past but are now very small to support any population while others are completely gone. It was evident that South of the Plateau suffered the blunt as crop produce continued to enjoy good market prices. All was not bad as a number of farms that were under cultivation in the Northern side were left fallow and may recover to good grassland although they were not in the coded monitoring farms.
Environment education, a major tool in the conservation through creating awareness, continues to be a major undertaking of the Friends of Kinangop Plateau. Students and pupils from the region continued to visit the Resource Centre in Murunanga. Among the outstanding was the inclusion of activities of Friends of Kinangop Plateau as part of the areas to be visited by McGill’s Canadian Field Studies in Africa. This intends to introduce Canadian students to East Africa (http.//www.mcgill.ca/africa) although the students did not make it to the Fop Offices (they lost direction) and only the Host representative, Dr Mwaura – School of Environment and Geography, University of Nairobi got to the Centre. Other local schools visited the resource centre.
Students during a visit to the resource centre
THE NJABINI WOOL SPINNING:
Spinning and weaving continued to scales, although business is normally down around this time, the uptake of yarns by other weavers continued to be a major source of market for spun wool to the Njabini Wool Spinning. Weaving of scarves also got to another scale with the arrival of the new floor Loom bought with the Funds from American Embassy.
Additional five spinning wheels also from the American Embassy funding arrived in Kenya last week and will be getting to the workshop in soon. This will boost the production and is viewed as turning point of the workshop. Production is expected to be largely improved so will be the sales. For sustainability, there will be some fund set aside for every unit of wool spun using the new wheels and all the products that are woven.
The bigger part of money this will be used to purchase new wheels ones the current ones are worn while some will go to facilitate of monitoring of Sharpe’s Longclaw in Njabini and later to other areas as the fund will allow. This will call for serious marketing.
Purchase of wool from farmers remained constant for the same period but there is expected increase as production and marketing goes up.
There is however a need to train the farmers on the optimum livestock they can have in a patch to allow for maximum benefit while at the same time allowing for maintenance of ideal grassland habitat for the Grassland birds especially the Sharpe’s Longclaw which is very selective on the structure.
ECOTOURISM IN KINANGOP:
This is one of the critical nature-based income generating activities that FoKP uses to generate income and involve the youths as well as the aged. The cultural troupe that entertains people and guest in various occasions continues to be well known all over Kinangop and beyond. Construction of the Bandas (photo below) in the reserve is about to be accomplished. This will offer the missing link in available facilities in Kinangop for tourists and travellers who have to travel to Naivasha which is the nearest that such facilities are available.
Members of FoKP Traditional dancers entertain Kenya’s Prime Minister (Mr Raila Odinga) at a function.