Monthly Archives: May 2017

Inspiring Local Kids By Hiking Mountains

Mount Kasigau sits at a moderately impressive 1,640 meters. Compared to Mount Kenya the nears 5,000 meters, this mountain may barely set records as a tough climb. However, heat, elevation difference and either dry or muddy condition make this peak noteworthy.

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The Kiteghe Wilderness and Environmental Club does a big trip at the end of every term, three times a year. Big trips like this one are only made possible through funding and support from Wildlife Works who helps supply guides, adult chaperones, snacks, and water for the trip. Any kid aged 12-16 can join the Environmental Club. They hold a capacity up to 45 members and will fill all spaces most of the time. This year, Kiteghe Primary has 43 members.

As part of the Environmental Club, students learn about different fauna and flora, participate in trash clean up days, and work to beautify their school campus with local plants and posters about environmental
awareness.

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The morning of the end of term hike was brisk. Many students were wearing sweaters and flip flops eagerly lined up in anticipation of that day’s activity. While the other students would be in school, going about their regular day, these 43 lucky students would get to climb Mount Kasigau, the tallest peak in the region.

Kiteghe Primary is located near the foothills of Kasigau. The mountains are covered in lush green that stands out in contrast to the surrounding red dirt hills. Snacks were distributed, group leaders selected and given colorful flags, and volunteers introduced. Then, without so much of a warning, the whole group was off.

As the path sloped up and we passed through the scrambling hills with large gneiss stones dotting the way, I noticed that many of the kids were wearing slippers or simple rubber flats. Even those with shoes were wearing shoes more appropriate for dancing rather than mountain climbing. Still, the kids did not falter. Rather, they kept up a brisk pace that I wasn’t sure I could keep up with!

There were a few stops along the way – Serpent’s Rock and other rest breaks. The kids didn’t seem tired in the least! As we moved our way further up, the trees became thicker, the paths narrow, the trees smooth and no longer thorny. Soon, we reached an area where the air temperature dropped noticeably, the trees were 20 times taller than us, and the ground covered in decaying leaves.

After quite an uphill climb through slightly damp mud, the teachers asked the kids if they wanted to go to the lower peak or the upper peak. Votes were cast with the cry of a yes.

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“Upper peak?” The teacher asked.

“YES!!” The kids shouted in chorus.

“Lower peak?”

Silence.

And so, the group decided to pursue on up, to the highest peak of the mountain. It was a difficult, steep climb, mainly using trees and roots to keep you from sliding back down, crawling on all fours. The kids were getting muddy but laughing anyway.

About 4.5 hours after leaving Kiteghe, we approached the top. The landscape was dotted with bare patches where farms stood. But, as far as the eye could see, we saw green trees. I was amazed at the stark contrast that you see from the road and town. I would’ve never imagined that the land was so green.

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After lunch and a group picture, the team headed down, walking barefooted, losing their shoes, sliding down and getting quite dirty! The kids didn’t care. This was their end of the semester treat and the first time climbing Kasigau for many of them.

Exposing youth to nature and letting them be naturally inspired by the beauty and coolness of trees is an effective way to teach kids to care for it. As the saying goes, to teach a sailor to build a boat, you must first teach him to yearn for the sea.

Encouraging Bright Leaders Through Educational Scholarships

Ambrose Maundu Gerald is looking forward to returning to school. The fourth year university student had a break while professors were on strike these last two months, his Bachelors in Education in the Arts on hold.

“I like studying the environment and land form,” explained Ambrose, who volunteers his free time helping with the Wildlife and Environment Club at his alma mater primary school near his hometown of Kiteghe.

The oldest of 3 kids in his family, Ambrose was raised in a single-parent household. His younger brother is starting university this year and the other is in his last year of secondary school. Their mother died when Ambrose was a teenager, studying in Form 2.

Since he had performed well academically, a teacher brought him to Wildlife Works to ask for assistance and support for his continued education. Each year, he continued to excel and has continued to be supported through the completion of his university degree at the University of Eldoret. Ambrose expresses that there was no way he would have been able to finish his education without the support from Wildlife Works.

“At my age, my background has taught me a lot,” says Ambrose. “I live the life that is based on my background, so I can’t do things that are going to mislead my brothers. I have to do things to show them the right way of life. By doing that, they can follow the same route and succeed.”

ambroseAmbrose explains that he pushed his second brother to pursue a degree different from his, so he is pursuing a degree in Marine Engineering.

After finishing his degree, Ambrose hopes to be a teacher. The Teachers Service Commission assigns Kenyans to specific schools with placements and needs, and Ambrose hopes he will be placed nearby Kasigau so he can continue to help with his brothers’ upbringing, but he will be happy no matter where the opportunity takes him.

“I can teach anywhere provided I do what my heart feels,” expresses Ambrose.

Finding support and inspiration from his religion and church, Ambrose enjoys football and drumming in his church band. His favorite animals are monkeys and baboons because he says, “they are an animal that can make you laugh even when you are in sorrow.”

Wildlife Works has helped support over 3,000 deserving students through scholarships as a means to educate and support children living in our community areas.

Can Carbon Credits and Communities Help Save the Planet?

Every 3 months, women from the community gather for Women Empowerment Trainings. Together, they learn about finance, health, and the environment. Then, they bring this information back to their villages to teach others.

This quarter, the training was held in Mwatate, 42 kms northwest of Maungu where Wildlife Works operates. Fifty women leaders from all over Taita Taveta County are learning to write proposals, how to cope with climate change (the area has been affected by drought for over 18 months), and keeping healthy. Their colorful dress and personalities stand out against the red hills characteristic of the area.

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Community-Based Conservation In Action

The people in charge of today’s meeting are the Community Based Organization (CBO) Board Members and Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) volunteers. The CBO board arranges activities and training for the six community areas adjacent to Wildlife Work’s conservation area. The idea is to give locals access to sources of income that minimize environmental harm, discouraging the hard labor job of charcoal burning and destructive subsistence poaching.

Faraji Mwakitau is the Taita Taveta CBO Chairman. He has worked with the organization since its inception for 6 years. He said his interest in this project stems from his belief that the land is important.

“Usually we see the forest as useless,” explains Faraji, “but in the dry forest, you find these hard trees that absorb more carbon than other trees.”

He said that the government and people think the dry land doesn’t require any management, but he argued that it does. Faraji says it’s important to protect the land from overgrazing and the drought.

“Elephants are our heritage. They are part of humankind,” said Faraji. “If we do not protect them, humankind will be entirely alone.”

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Education As the Solution

Many of the women who sit in this room, learning how plastic is harmful to the environment and how excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has caused a shift in global weather patterns, once practiced charcoal burning. This is the practice of cutting down trees and burning them in a pit overnight to turn them into charcoal pieces that can be used for cooking.

Now, these women have received education and training on applying for grants, finance, opening a business, and understand how cutting down trees for charcoal harms the environment. Making baskets and clothing, running small hotels – these are just some of the new jobs these women have because of loans and support from Wildlife Works.

Trainings like these are held anywhere from month to quarterly, demanding on availability. While at these training days, women are given chai, bread, lunch, and clean drinking water provided by Wildlife Works. They also provide all funding for running projects in local communities, such as installing clean drinking water, renovating schools, and cleaning up the communities. All of this work is done in support by the purchase of carbon credits.

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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.