This is a shocking fact: most rural communities that live their entire lives bordering Tsavo National Park (adjacent to Wildlife Works’ Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project) have never seen an elephant before. More likely than not, they have a contentious relationship with large wildlife, who destroy their farms and eat their livestock. Meanwhile, thousands or tourists come from all around the world and pay a lot of money each year to gaze at wildlife that share the same territory as these local communities.
Most rural schools in Kenya cannot afford to take their students on educational field trips due to harsh conditions in the area. Most families are subsistence farmers who don’t have any extra funds to support extra-curricular activities. Conservation education and a positive connection to wildlife is key to instilling conservation values, especially among the youth in poverty stricken, rural areas.
In March 2015, Wildlife Work’s Community Relations department developed a school trip program that sponsored three schools in the project area to attend a learning tour and safari at Wildlife Works.
Education, in addition to jobs is an important strategy to mend this relationship. This student education program was organized for groups of 35 – 40 students and 2 – 3 teachers who were bussed from their schools to Wildlife Works. First on the agenda was to learn about REDD+ and our conservation projects in a fun, interactive one-hour presentation.
After the classroom session, the students got the chance to visit, learn and interact with all the different departments at Wildlife Works including the fair trade factory, screen printing house, the workshop, soap factory, administrative offices and the green house. We hope that our various department team members ignited career aspirations amongst these young children who typically grow up with limited options.
The best moments came when they climbed into a game drive truck to breathe in all the beauty of nature that surrounded them. Many of the students were beside themselves from first-time sightings of lions, elephants, giraffe, bat-eared foxes, and other wildlife. They ecstatically noted all the wildlife they saw in their notebooks.
Lunch break was taken at Tsavo Discovery Center, an education center and eco lodge located between Tsavo East and West National Parks. After their lunch hour, the student divided themselves into two groups for a live debate session. One side raised the motion that plants are more important than animals to preserve, while the other side opposed the argument. They debated until consensus was reached that both animals and plants take priority in preserving Mother Nature’s health!
At the Tsavo Discovery Center, students also had a chance to visit the science lab to learn about different animal skulls, amphibians, insects, and a brief history on the Lions of Tsavo. Lastly, they got to visit the lodging bandas and take photos of themselves around the site to remember this day by.
“Thanks to the Wildlife Works REDD+ project, the forest here has become a saving grace not only to threatened lands in Africa but also to the rare wildlife found in the continent. We are also so grateful for the opportunity to visit Wildlife Works and meet some of our brothers and sisters who have been employed as wildlife rangers, agriculturalists, seamstresses, carpenters, mechanics, drivers and in various other departments in the project area. This motivates my students to work hard and smart in school,” Mr. Ngati a teacher from Mkamenyi Primary says.
Lenjo, Wildlife Works Community Relations Manager, and his team are enthused to continue this program and are targeting more than 80 public primary and secondary schools within the Kasigau Corridor region to sponsor. “Our aim is to inspire and motivate the community to understand that protecting forests results in good things like clean air to breathe, habitat, jobs, community projects, and land beautification,” says Lenjo.