Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Jojoba Project: Cosmetic and beauty plants benefit rural communities

If you check the ingredient label on your favorite shampoo, lotion or lipstick, it’s very likely you’ll see jojoba listed. The oil pressed from the seeds of this shrub can be used “as is” to soften hair and skin, or can be mixed into different cosmetics as an added moisturizer. Jojoba oil is unique in that it is chemically a liquid wax, not a triglyceride, making it more similar to the natural oil on human skin (sebum) than traditional vegetable oils.

Jojoba shrubs are hardy and can survive in arid climates and rangelands. Plantations of jojoba have been established in a number of desert and semi-desert lands including Argentina, Australia, Israel and the Sonoran Desert covering large parts of Arizona, California and Mexico. The arid savannas of our Rukinga project area have the ideal conditions for jojoba plants to thrive.

Cosmas pruning seedlings

Cosmas pruning seedlings

As part of our greenhouse program, Wildlife Works has devoted roughly one hectare to growing jojoba, making Wildlife Works the largest producer of the plant in Kenya!

Currently, oil from the jojoba plants we grow is used in our soap production and is sold to hotels in Kenya. We hope to begin exporting the handmade soaps to sell in the U.S. in the near future.

The supervisor of The Jojoba Plant Project, Cosmas, is a 56-year-old married man with four children (three girls ages 21, 19 and 16, and one 14-year-old boy) living in Maungu, an adjacent town to Wildlife Works. Since 2009 when Cosmas took on the role of supervisor for the plant project, the number of facilities and employees dedicated to the project has risen, and quality of jojoba shrubs has increased. He says the project team is putting in a lot of hard work, knowing that the community will benefit from their success.

Cosmas with the team

Cosmas with the team

Cosmas has been working for Wildlife Works right from our company’s beginning. At first he worked as a casual laborer, then was assigned to the jojoba project. Cosmas was promoted to Jojoba Plant Project Supervisor 2009, after the success of the Kasigau REDD+ Project.

Cosmas is a role model for other workers who wish to grow within the company. Before coming to Wildlife Works he worked in Mbololo, a town 55km from his current home in Maungu, crushing stones and selling them as home construction materials to help support his parents. He completed secondary school levels and wanted to study medicine, but could not afford to pay the school fees. Cosmas used the small amount of money he had saved to pay for driving lessons in hopes of getting a job for one of the driving companies in Mombasa, but even after getting his license he had trouble finding work due to lack of experience. He visited Wildlife Works hoping to find a job as a company driver, but there were no positions available. At the time, our company had openings for casual laborers, so rather than continue searching for a position as a driver, Cosmas accepted the job and began work the very same day.

Cosmas spends his days pruning the jojoba seedlings, attaching tags to the plants in order to identify different growth rates and building micro-catchments around the shrubs. Micro-catchment is a practice to harvest rainwater in arid lands. The workers build up a mound of dirt surrounding the plants in order to trap rainwater close to the roots.

In addition to supervising the jojoba plant project, Cosmas’ responsibilities also include ensuring that all work equipment is well serviced and available for the other workers.

With a supervisor position at Wildlife Works, Cosmas’ life has really changed. He is now able to provide for his family’s needs including food, hospital bills and school fees for his three youngest children. Cosmas has been supporting his father who still lives in Mbololo since his mother passed away.

Micro-catchment

Micro-catchment

Micro-catchment

Micro-catchment

Cosmas hopes to see the jojoba plant become a global leader in producing oils and cosmetics.

Watering the seedlings

Watering the seedlings

Cosmas has formed friendships and good relationships with his colleagues, and says he enjoys working at the safe environment provided by Wildlife Works. He has learned a lot about the importance of conserving the environment, including planting and protecting trees, and educating fellow community members on the importance of protecting wildlife. We are proud to have Cosmas leading our team!

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About Wildlife Works Carbon:

Wildlife Works is the world’s leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), project development and management company with an effective approach to applying innovative market based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity. REDD+ was originated by the United Nations (UN) to help stop the destruction of the world’s forests.

Over a 15 year history Wildlife Works established a successful model that uses the emerging marketplace for REDD+ Carbon Offsets to protect threatened forests, wildlife, and communities.

The company helps local landowners in the developing world monetize their forest and biodiversity assets whether they are governments, communities, ownership groups, or private individuals.

The show must go on: Environmental film festival educates community about conservation

Wildlife Works in collaboration with Amara Conservation, an NGO promoting sustainable livelihoods through education, organized an environmental film festival for the communities surrounding our project area in Rukinga.

WW Community Relation Officer Joseph Mwakima organized the program along with local teachers, the chairman of Location Carbon Committee (LCC) and the leaders of 5 villages in Kenya (Marungu, Mwatate, Mwachabo, Mwatate and Sagalla). The three-week-long program visited 13 different primary and secondary schools and traveled to 9 different communities.

Community members watching the films at night

Community members watching the films at night

Using the Amara Mobile Film Unit, the team was able to show three different conservation films from the African Environmental Film Foundation (AEFF). The first film, “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” showcases the current threats posed to both humans and animals by the illegal international ivory trade. “Wanted” also illustrates the financial benefits that rural communities can gain from sustainable, wildlife-based tourism.

Students watching the films

Students watching the films

The second film, “Black Rhino on the Brink,” travels back thirty years to cover early attempts to save the Black Rhino from extinction. It contains footage from Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The film illustrates how people in different countries have worked together to save this seriously endangered animal. Although the number of Black Rhinos has plummeted to a fraction of their original numbers, they are slowly climbing back up due to the efforts of many people, some of whom have given their lives to protect these animals.

Students watching the films

Students watching the films

The final film “Mizoga,” (which means carcasses in Swahili) was written by the Born Free Foundation and produced in 2004 in Kasigau by students from Kenyatta University of Nairobi, Kasigau community members and Wildlife Works rangers, including our Head Ranger Erick Sagwe. The film has not yet been added to the AEFF’s list of conservation films, but was chosen for this festival due to its emphasis on protecting the environment and its use of the Swahili national language, which many residents understand better than English.

7,565 people attended the festival, making it a huge success! The goal of this program was to sensitize the community towards REDD+ projects and large wildlife species, as well as to open discussions and highlight the important role of wildlife in the ecosystem.

Joseph Mwakima talking about REDD+ projects in Mwatate secondary school after the film.

Joseph Mwakima talking about REDD+ projects in Mwatate secondary school after the film.

After watching the films, many residents and teachers talked about starting environmental clubs within their community. We are thrilled with the success of this endeavor, and plan to schedule more events for the future!

Fashion Designers Without Borders

By Joyce Hu, Creative Director, Wildlife Works

Last month, Wildlife Works was honored to be part of Supply Change’s first annual Fashion Designers Without Borders’ sourcing safari that introduced participants to artisan groups and social enterprises located all over Kenya from Mombasa to the Rift Valley.

A group of 6 U.S.-based fashion industry professionals traveled halfway around the world to meet some of Kenya’s most passionate social entrepreneurs that represent what change could mean in the global supply chain.

Fashion Designers without Borders

The Wildlife Works team members who joined the group included our Design and Production Manager Yugala, our Kenya Office Manager Cara, our Kenya Production Supervisor Liesl and myself, the Creative Director.

Joyce, Yugala, Cara, Liesl

Joyce, Yugala, Cara, Liesl

Here are some of our highlights:

FlipFlop Recycling Company (FFRC) collects flip flops from the Kenyan coast and makes them into all kinds of wonderful, whimsical accessories. Founder Julie Church is a marine biologist and one of the world’s experts on coral fish.

It’s a beautiful thing when science and social entrepreneurship collide! Julie employs a team of full-time Kenyans to clean, sort, sculpt and bead the flip flops into products that are sold in their store, Marula, located in the Karen district in Nairobi. FFRC also pays any flip flop collector by the kilo, which can help supplement the income of local coastal Kenyans.

Each year, FFRC recycles up to 70,000 flip flips that are washed up onto Kenyan shores from areas as far away as Indonesia. Their products get more and more innovative each year as they expand into more categories from jewelry to housewares.

marula

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Wildlife Works Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project achieved so much in 2012, including solidifying partnership with PUMA, which allowed us to double our factory capacity, relaunching our own fashion collection, and opening our on-site children’s day care center. We were proud to share these successes with like-minded individuals who are dedicated to spreading Consumer Powered Conservation.

WW

 

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Our production partner Soko Kenya, who just moved their factory onto our project site, also presented to the group. We’re so proud of the work we do together, especially because some of the styles we’ve produced for ASOS have been worn by Michelle Obama!

Soko

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Representatives from the Kasigau women’s basket-weaving groups came to Wildlife Works to show us how they make their baskets. There are many weaving groups in the area that provide a supplemental income to its members. Currently, their baskets are only sold in small quantities to visitors who come through the area. Wildlife Works is actively engaged with them for product development. Look for some basket products come Holiday 2013!

baskets

 

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CTC International (Comfort the Children) was founded ten years ago on the mission of creating a holistic solution to poverty, starting with creating an environment where all children can thrive. For CTC, this means developing programs for education, environment, economy (commerce), health and community. We were inspired to see an organization taking on the same holistic approach as Wildlife Works and succeeding at it.

ctc

What touched me the most was their dedication to special-needs children, who are seen as cursed by some Kenyan tribe cultures so many are ostracized by their communities. Caring for a special-needs child is a full-time job and most rural women in Kenya, who are many times the sole breadwinners in the family, can’t afford to do both. You can imagine the fate of many of these children.

CTC established the first special needs school in the area and staffed it with an education and occupational therapist in addition to daytime care takers, all this in a remote, poverty and disease-stricken area in Kenya – amazing.

You may have seen their Life Line coffee cup jackets and change purses at Whole Foods. Now you know where they come from and who they supporting!

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Bombolulu, which means “treasure” in Swahili, is located in the coastal city of Mombasa and employs local disabled adults, who are a severely marginalized group in Kenya. Esther Manyama, the program manager traveled to Wildlife Works to present the range of products and quality of work they produce in their factory.

They’ve come a long way to become a member of the World Fair Trade Organization and to be able to produce over 250,000 pieces per year, made by the hands of physically disabled craftsmen and women. Maybe there will be some job opportunities here for the children of CTC in the future!

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 3.51.42 PM

 

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Kila Siku, which means “every day” in Swahili, employs over 40 female embroiderers in the DRC and over 30 embroiderers in Rwanda. The quality of their hand-embroidery is incredible and good enough to land one of Belgian’s oldest luxury linen companies, Libeco, as a client.

Last February, our production partner Soko teamed up with Kila Siku for embroidery training. A few women from Kila Siku DRC, who have never traveled outside their area, flew to Kenya to train Soko’s women in embroidery. The women were sad to part after having spent nearly a month together. It was such a sweet intercontinental connection!

kila

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Banana Box has been working with Kenyan artists and craftsmen and women for almost twenty years. Their products are made from sustainable and recycled materials (like banana leaves that are made into boxes) and employ local artisans who they train to create some really unique products. I walked away with a hippo sculpted from soapstone that I use as a doorstop. I absolutely love it!

They also invite any freelance artisan from anywhere in Kenya to submit products for purchase. Hats off to the founder, Sarah, who has been at it for two decades.

bananabox

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Uhunzi, which means metal work in Swahili, was created six years ago by the son of Banana Box’s founder. Uhunzi melts down scrap metal to create all kinds of custom household and jewelry items from frames, trophies, metal beads, wine openers to decorative sculptures. Every step of the process is done using recycled materials. It was impressive to see the craftsmen handling liquid metal wearing just plastic slippers – their precision is not to be overlooked!

uhunzi

The Wildlife Works team walked away from this trip inspired, connected and activated to further the voice and reach of the organizations and artisans we met on this trip. We experienced a lifetime’s worth of bonding with the rest of the U.S.-based group who are just as excited and inspired to apply what they learned into their work.

For more information on the next trip for Fashion Designers Without Borders, contact the founder of Supply Change, Chrissie Lam. I promise you, the journey and people you meet will make an everlasting impression.

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About Wildlife Works Carbon:

Wildlife Works is the world’s leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), project development and management company with an effective approach to applying innovative market based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity. REDD+ was originated by the United Nations (UN) to help stop the destruction of the world’s forests.

Over a 15 year history Wildlife Works established a successful model that uses the emerging marketplace for REDD+ Carbon Offsets to protect threatened forests, wildlife, and communities.

The company helps local landowners in the developing world monetize their forest and biodiversity assets whether they are governments, communities, ownership groups, or private individuals.

WHAT IS WILDLIFE WORKS?

Protecting + Forests + Wildlife + Community since 1997.

Wildlife Works is the world's leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), project development and management company with an effective approach to applying innovative market based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity. REDD+ was originated by the United Nations (UN) to help stop the destruction of the world's forests.