Monthly Archives: September 2016

Teaching Climate Change in Rural Kenya

This is a gust blog from our media intern, Lucy Arndt, hailing from the U.K. Contact ask (at) wildlifeworks.com for our many internship opportunities in Kenya and the Congo. 

One of the most surreal things I’ve experienced since arriving in Kenya was being part of a teaching session on climate change with village elders – held entirely in Swahili.

In my first week here, I accompanied the Community Relations Department of Wildlife Works on a series of community visits to the rural communities that are part of the project area. One of these was a focus group discussion with village elders (clan leaders, school leadership, etc.) to explain the project aims and how their personal actions can make an impact.

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Can you imagine explaining the concept of greenhouse gases, how trees take in carbon dioxide and why trees are valuable for anything other than fuel to these folk in this situation? The majority of the people in these rural villages, especially in the older generation, don’t speak a word of English, and many have very low levels of education. When asked how old they are, many have no idea; they pull out national ID cards to show their birthdate but don’t know how to count the years to calculate their ages.

I sat there for the nearly two-hour discussion transfixed by the conversation taking place. Most of it, of course, I had no idea what was being said, but every so often I’d hear random words:

“…climate change…”

“…greenhouse gases…”

“…carbon…”

“…carbon credits…”

And at this point I’d learned a few key words in Swahili like that “ndovu” means elephant, “simba” is lion.

So in a way I was able to vaguely understand what was being said, and I challenged myself to follow the discussion as much as possible. (Thankfully, afterwards a Kenyan intern I’m working with kindly translated the main points and questions!)

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After a presentation to the focus group, including showing pictures of glaciers retreating in the Arctic and a polar bear balancing precariously on a tiny iceberg, there was a general discussion where community members asked questions:

“How do you sell the carbon? You are asking us to save trees, but do you then cut them down to sell the carbon??”

“You ask us to save trees, but elephants knock them down. How is that fair?”

“How are we compensated for elephants destroying our crops?”

All fair questions! And it all was fascinating! I was impressed that Wildlife Works is properly teaching climate change in order to get the community to understand the science, but as Protus (one of the Wildlife Works Community team) said in the discussion, “the change in weather you see is due to this carbon.” People really understand that. It’s getting dryer, hotter, during the ‘rainy’ season I arrived in Kenya to I saw the rain twice. Climate change in action. (I just have to recognize here how surprisingly easy that phrase is to write – as I’ve done countless times for reports and presentations for work or university papers – when the reality of what ‘climate change in action’ means here is so devastating.)

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The way the conservation model here works is that money comes back to the community (for education scholarships or water access projects) from the sale of carbon credits when deforestation is avoided (read more about the overall aims of the Wildlife Works project here). This means that collectively, the community has to buy into the fact that a standing forest and roaming animals are worth more to them alive than as charcoal or bush meat. One is far more intangible than the other.
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The aim with these discussions is to empower members of the community to own conservation goals and be ambassadors for protecting the forest and the wildlife that calls it home. To carry the learning back into their villages and homes and spread the word further. Pretty cool stuff, right?

To read more about Lucy’s adventures in Kenya, visit her blog. 

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Women’s Economic Empowerment Event

Wildlife Works strongly values women in the community and their autonomy to assume influential roles and set their own course. Last week, several members of Wildlife Works attended a women’s economic empowerment speech within our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project area in Kenya. The meeting featured Rachel Chebet, the wife of Kenya’s Vice President William Ruto, and focused on ‘table banking’.

Table banking is a practice that Mrs. Chebet started four years ago in the Taita Taveta region (where our project is based) to strengthen womens’ groups and promote economic stability. Table banking is a practice through which women organize into registered groups where each member contributes to a ‘group bank account’ that is then loaned out to women in the form of unsecured loans. As these loans are paid back with a 10% interest rate, the overall pot of money grows over time, allowing these groups to grow in wealth.

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The talk encouraged women to come together and register in groups of 15-35 people, as money that is given to communities by NGOs and the government is mostly funneled to registered and organized groups. Table banking is also highly important in regions like Taita Taveta because it allows women the ability to attain a loan outside of a microfinance organization, thus reducing the risks associated with missing deadlines on their loan repayments and higher interest rates.

The speech targeted over 2,000 women in Kasigau and Maurungu towns and was attended by nearly 600 women. Those who could not fit inside the community hall spilled out of the doors and watched from the windows. It was a lively affair. The event was strung together by the concept of women in power, with several influential women in attendance including the county Deputy Governor’s wife, prominent businesswomen, and a celebrity singer. From singing and dancing to praying and reflecting, the event had the attention of every last woman in the hall.

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Wildlife Works has helped to facilitate large community meetings like this one through improving the community hall space, including providing nearly 550 chairs to be used at events like this one using money from carbon credits. We believe it is of utmost importance to give the community the tools they need to take charge of their futures and make unified, diplomatic decisions for themselves.

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Through table banking, the women within our project area can finance their business endeavors and partake in economic growth that is profitable, meaningful, and sustainable. It is so great to witness events like these and see their success and impact. Watching many hundreds of women turn to each other and say “you need to fight” in unison was a spectacular example of how women are working with each other to promote economic stability within an area that is also protecting a valuable and beautiful ecosystem.

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Eco stoves Tackling Carbon Emissions

This is a post from a guest blogger, Francesco Mirabito who originally came through the Wildlife Works project area from Italy in June of 2015 as part of the Walk with Rangers event. He fell in love with Kenya and our wildlife sanctuary so he came back again to launch his Eco Stove product in partnership with Wildlife Works.

Eco stoves tackling carbon emissions, benefiting health and improving gender relations

Last summer, I had the opportunity to spend a few days walking through the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project with the Wildlife Works rangers.

During those wonderful days, walking, surrounded by the beautiful landscape of the southeastern highlands of Kenya, I met people tirelessly devoted to the conservation of a masterfully preserved ecosystem and the community linked to it. These people have to deal with many challenges to meet their basic needs in a rural environment that has very limited natural resources.

While in the bush, I discovered how complex it can be to preserve so vast an area. For example, one day we came across piles of wood. The rangers explained to me that these were from illegal loggers cutting down trees within the Wildlife Works project area and we had to destroy the wood. Immediately, I realized that this is an issue even more controversial than poaching.

Everybody has the need to cook food, and the access to a clean and cheap energy resource is a right, making this issue very complex. In my time with Wildlife Works, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about ‘dirty cooking’ and its implications.

In Africa, over 90% of the wood taken from forests is for fuel. The majority is consumed directly as fuel and a substantial amount is also made into charcoal. More than 80% of charcoal is used in urban areas, making it the most important source of household energy in many African cities. In Kenya, annual production of charcoal is estimated to be around 1.6 million tons with households consuming between 350 and 600kg annually. It is estimated that about two million people are economically dependent on the production, transport and trade of this charcoal.

Negative impacts of solid cooking fuels

Health

Cooking with solid fuels, such as charcoal, wood or coal, produces significant levels of air pollution in the home environment. The effects are disturbing. Burning solid fuels produces particulates, carbon monoxide and a set of other harmful aromatics gases. These emissions can cause a long list of diseases, including respiratory damage, lung cancer and damage to the fetus and the growth of infants and children. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these pollutants contribute to the premature death of at least 4.3 million people each year and to more than 110 million developing chronic illnesses (2010 data). The WHO has assessed home air pollution as the fourth highest risk factor for premature death in the world and the second highest in sub-Saharan Africa. Premature deaths as the result of these air pollutants exceed the sum of those for HIV-AIDS (1.5 million), malaria (1.2 million) and tuberculosis (1.2 million).

Climate change

Every year, it is estimated that the developing world produces emissions ranging from 500 million to 1.5 billion tons of CO2. This means that the absence of ‘clean cooking’ produces between 1.5% and 3% of global CO2 emissions, the equivalent, more or less, of the annual carbon footprint of a country like Britain (at the lower end of the range) or Japan (at the top).

You also cannot ignore the impact of solid fuels on open fire stoves which emit black carbon, which account for roughly a quarter of the total. While CO2 remains in the atmosphere for decades, black carbon has an atmospheric lifetime of 8-10 days. This means that their elimination could lead to rapid global warming benefits.

Gender inequality

Collecting and processing fuel and cooking food is, in developing countries, an almost exclusively female activity. The consequence is that women, and their daughters, are bearing the brunt of the social, economic and health effects of the ‘dirty kitchen’. For example, according to a World Bank report, in Kenya women are exposed to particulate emissions four times that of men. It is also hard physically; women carry heavy fuel weighing on average 20kg for long distances between 1 and 10km. According to estimates in circulation, the collection and use of solid fuels for cooking and heating results in time poverty, on average 5 hours a day. This is time that is taken away from other activities potentially productive of income and well being, from childcare to education. All in all, this trend crystallizes existing gender inequalities.

I think it’s easy to see that illegal logging is just the tip of the iceberg. Therefore, intervening by only punishing those who cut down trees does not address the needs that drive people to cut.

A new cooking stove as an innovative solution

It was during a night campfire, watching the fire, that my mind went back to when I came across the work of Professor Peressotti from the University of Udine. It was something that I thought could radically change the way that rangers cooked their food.

Professor Peressotti’s team have developed a clean, efficient, easy to reproduce, but most importantly, sustainable stove, called ‘Elsa stove’. Their aims are to lessen the pressure of the population on their forested environment while increasing soil fertility of croplands and to ensure sustainable development (i.e. reducing the above mentioned health risks). The cooking stove technology uses mainly crop residues as a fuel source, and wood to a lesser extent, in a more efficient process meaning less solid fuel is used. Benefits include that biochar can easily be recovered, which is used as a natural fertilizer to build soil fertility, and that the burning process emits less harmful emissions.

So, this was the situation… I was sitting watching the fire thinking about how this technology could perfectly fit the needs of the community that was hosting me.

My time in Kenya had almost come to an end; in less than a week a flight would carry me back in Europe. I met with leadership of Wildlife Works, Rob Dobson and Jamie Hendriksen, to share the idea with them. Rob, VP of African Operations, said only: “Hmm, interesting, would you be able to create a prototype before you leave?” I thought: “Wow, finally someone pragmatic and direct.” My answer was: “Yes, of course.” The day after I was introduced to Nick, a really nice and clever guy that is in charge of the workshop. Together we found an appropriate metal sheet, cut six patterns and assembled a stove burner.

eco stove kenyaWildlife Works workshop guys cutting and assembling the first new stove design

The result was a small (cute, even!) burner that I tested with employees that Saturday. Even if it was just a prototype, the reaction of the crew was amazing. It was immediately clear to everybody that those small burners had the power to be a life changer for them and their community.

After returning to Italy, I prepared a project proposal and eventually I flew back to Kenya to put a plan into action. In early 2016, I arrived back at Wildlife Works to huge smiles and manifestations of joy for my return. The workshop guys got started on building the new stoves right away.

eco stove kenyaWildlife Works workshop guys proudly displaying the first batch of eco stoves

After two days of cutting, drilling and bending, we were ready for the first test. I was really worried, because that was my first full-scale test. So I decided to do the first test in a private way. Just Nicholas and I attended the test. It was a huge success; we obtained a strong and hot smokeless flame that lasted for almost two hours. That success pushed us a lot so we continued to assemble burners with renewed excitement. The day after we were ready for a real cooking test, which I did with Joyce and Pauline two of the lovely Wildlife Works employees. We perfectly cooked rice and beans and we did it without smoke, such a surprise for them.

Right away I started the deliveries of the stoves to the rangers’ camps and within two weeks we finished assembling all the stoves. When they were complete, I gave one to each of the workshop guys as a thank you. They were thankful and happy to have the opportunity to use this new technology in their own homes.

eco stove kenyaFrancesco delivering one of the eco stoves to a team of Wildlife Works’ rangers

After delivering stoves to all of the rangers, Samuel, one of the workshop guys, and I started doing demonstrations in the local villages. The people showed a lot of interest about this new way to cook and the most common questions were: “how much it cost?” and “where can I buy one?” I was really excited and had a strong sensation that the project was a big accomplishment. We are now in the process of rolling this technology out further with the local community.

At the end of my trip, I came back to Italy with my heart full of hope for the future, and I think that this was thanks to all the great people I met but especially for the incredible results obtained by Wildlife Works in the region.

I’m already working on the next step of the project. The idea is to use the same principle, the pyrolysis technology, to obtain clean and tenable energy.

Stay tuned!

Francesco Mirabito

 

Meet Alfred, Master Tailor and Leader

At Wildlife Works, job creation is central to our success as a community. The Wildlife Works eco factory is one of our larger departments here at the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project, with more than 60 current employees. In such a large group, we love to set aside the time to realize some of the very special individuals we are lucky to have on our team.

fairtradefashionMeet Alfred

Alfred Karisa works as a machinist on the skilled tailor team that produces for our high-end clients such as LaLesso and Raven and Lily. Before joining us in 2012, Alfred worked for a private firm as a tailor. He brings several years of experience to our team, including studying dressmaking and tailoring. Alfred is 26, unmarried, and is responsible and disciplined. Brought up from humble backgrounds, Alfred and his three siblings were raised by a single mother. As a result of his steady income through working for Wildlife Works, Alfred has been able to help fund his younger sister through school at Laikipia University.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-04-06-pmAlfred is one of Wildlife Works’ skilled tailors at our eco factory in Kenya

In addition to being one of our skilled tailors, Alfred is also the President of our Fair Trade USA Committee (read our one year anniversary story of being Fair Trade USA certified here). His personality, along with his ability to get along with just about everyone, was responsible for his election to president of the Fair Trade Committee – everyone trusts him. In this role, he represents the rest of the employee body in matters relating to Fair Trade and also organizes and facilitates meetings of the committee.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-04-14-pmAlfred is the President of the Wildlife Works Fair Trade USA Committee

We sat down with Alfred as he recalled his experience with Wildlife Works. “Wildlife Works has greatly helped the community, in the construction of schools, giving bursaries to students, building water tanks, and creating jobs,” says Alfred. He is proud to hold a position within his community that allows him to make positive change for his friends and family, coworkers and neighbors. “I feel empowered by working here, and am empowered to help my family and community,” continues Alfred. We hope the eco factory here at Wildlife Works continues to inspire and empower Alfred and the community for many years to come.

 

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.