Category Archives: Community

A Letter from Founder & President Mike Korchinsky on Our No-Gun Policy

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to our supporters and the viewers of ‘Ivory Wars’ for their outpouring of support and encouragement following the initial airings of the series set at our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya. Elephant poaching remains a serious issue, and we’re glad this opportunity has allowed us to more broadly bring to light its devastating affects.

The Wildlife Works rangers

The Wildlife Works rangers

Since the initial airing, we’ve received some questions about the no-gun policy for our rangers. In an effort to ensure transparency and clear communication about our diligent efforts to keep our rangers safe, we’d like to share some detail about this policy, which has developed as a carefully thought out rationale over 18 years in the field. We consider this to be the best way to be effective at protecting the wildlife in the sanctuary while keeping our rangers and the local community safe.

Our Partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service

The ‘Ivory Wars’ series underplayed the fact that Wildlife Works rangers work side by side with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers who are armed, trained in combat, and who are permanently stationed on our sanctuary. Whenever there is an armed poaching incident, our rangers are trained to avoid any confrontation until they have KWS armed support, and even then they are not supposed to be in harms way if shots are fired.

Over the course of 18 years, we have had one incident – described in the show – where our rangers were fired upon. In that incident, our rangers were assisting armed KWS rangers in tracking poachers when the poachers set an ambush. As KWS has a shoot to kill policy, the poachers opened fire out of fear for their own lives and sadly this interaction resulted in the fatality of our ranger, Abdi, and the injury of Ijema.

This incident was very early on in the recent escalation of elephant poaching to armed conflict, and as described in the show, it really shocked us. Prior to that incident and for nearly 15 years, poachers were very rare, came from in and around the local community, and typically set snares or used poison arrows. These poachers never threatened our rangers, even when being arrested.

Protecting the Elephant Habitat

Our primary role at Wildlife Works is to work with the community to protect the habitat for the elephants to pass through in their migrations. There are over 12,000 elephants in our ecosystem in Kenya that roam freely without being confined by fences. This huge setting that these elephants call home makes it impossible to know when and where poachers will strike without informants. There are many other anti-poaching units in other sanctuaries or national parks and in some rangers are armed. Even then, gun battles with poachers are very rare because the areas are vast, the location of an attack completely unpredictable and by the time armed rangers respond, poachers are typically long gone.

Rangers across Kenya – armed or not – are all losing elephants at an alarming rate. We believe we fare as well as any, even with larger elephant populations, because we have such a strong relationship with the local communities who inform us of the comings and goings of possible poachers so we can confront them before they recover their stashed weapons, or alert KWS if they are known to be armed.

Addressing the Growing Demand for Ivory

At the current price of ivory, there is a near unlimited supply of young Somalis willing to come to Kenya to risk their own lives and to take the lives of others to make a fast buck. Killing one or two poachers acts as little deterrent; it simply buys a little time before the next team arrives from Somalia, this time bent on revenge as well as ivory.

This is the real story of ‘Ivory Wars’ – that demand in China supported all the way up to the President himself is causing the death of countless young Africans on both sides of the issue, in addition to the tens of thousands of elephants. We believe that without tackling the demand side, this is an un-winnable war.

The main purpose of the ‘Ivory Wars’ show was to elevate awareness, to build a new generation of indignation about the plight of elephants, and to put overwhelming social and political pressure on the ivory markets to crack down. In the meantime, we choose to keep our rangers as safe as possible by:

  1. making our Rukinga Sanctuary the last place poachers think they can get away with poaching because we have the best intel based on the work we do with local communities, so they don’t come in the first place, and
  2. keeping our rangers out of the firing line if and when they do come.

That was always the mission of the Navy Seals: to help us deploy technologies that could further deter poachers and to train our rangers to avoid any more fatal contacts. The producers of the show introduced the drama of the gun vs. no-gun conflict to make the show more interesting to a US audience, though the Kenyan Government was never going to allow the Seals to bring firearms into the country. In doing so, they had to make our own rangers and our management appear incapable to exaggerate the importance of the role of the Seals. While everyone needs help in this ivory war, Wildlife Works is far from incapable, and as the Seals themselves discovered during the month they were there, we and our rangers are in fact very good at what we do.

Once again, thank you to our supporters and viewers for your passion to protect this magnificent species.

Mike Korchinsky
President and Founder of Wildlife Works

Developing Young Global Leaders at Wildlife Works

We are so proud of our Community Relations Officer Joseph Mwakima, who was sponsored by Barclays to attend the 2014 One Young World Summit and was selected as a Delegate Speaker in the Sustainable Development Plenary Session. Only 36 Delegate Speakers were chosen out of hundreds of applicants.

Wildlife Works’ Community Relations Officer Joseph Mwakima speaking

Wildlife Works’ Community Relations Officer Joseph Mwakima speaking


Watch his inspiring speech:

One Young World is the preeminent global forum for young leaders aged 18-30 and gathers the brightest young leaders from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections and develop solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues.

The One Young World Summit has already inspired young leaders worldwide to become change leaders of their generation. We are honored to be able to attract and support such talented minds in Kenyan rural communities!

Joseph writes to us about his experience:

I had the privilege to represent Wildlife Works and the Kasigau Corridor Community at the One Young Summit in Dublin as a Delegate Speaker. The Summit was held on 15-19th October 2014 at the Dublin Conventional Centre and it was attended by more than 1,300 delegates from all over the world. One Young World is an annual international summit that brings together young to discuss different issues that affect us as youth and provide solutions to them.

Joseph in Dublin!

Joseph in Dublin!

We had different plenary sessions and external break out sessions. This year we discussed issues concerning Sustainable Development, Education, Peace and Conflict resolution, Global Business, Leadership, Governance and Human Rights. 

The Event was also attended by high-profile personalities like Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson and others. Having been selected as a delegate speaker for Sustainable Development I had the privilege to tell the world about the work that I’m currently doing and also the programs that Wildlife Works is implementing in the Greater Kasigau Corridor project area. As a Delegate speaker I was supposed to draft a 500-word speech that talks about all that I’m doing to make the world a better place. After many rehearsals I was the first speaker to give my speech to the OYW delegates. This was one of the best presentations that I’ve ever given. I have never presented a speech to so many people.

jm2The OYW created a platform for us to discuss a lot of issues that affect the world. I had a good experience to meet a lot of young people all from all over the globe, young people with different ideas, projects, beliefs, language and experience. It was my first time abroad and I enjoyed every moment that I spend in Dublin. The other good thing that I experienced in Dublin is the good sessions from speakers like Professor Yunus, Sol Campbell, Anthony Jenkins and many others. These sessions gave us the opportunity to discuss in length the role we have as young people and the difference we can create in the world in making it a better place. I remember all the good lectures we had from all the speakers who talked to us. One of the best lectures was from Koffi Annan and Mary Robinson, They talked about Climate Change and the role that we can play in mitigating it.

jm wildlife works one young worldThe other good experience that I had was the socialization and delegate networking sessions. I had the privilege to network with young people from South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and all the other continents. I’ve made a lot of friends from all over the world and this was the best part. We also had the privilege to tour Dublin city, Dublin was one of the best cities that I have ever seen. A city with a lot of young people and a lot of opportunities.

In general the OYW summit 2014 was an amazing experience for me. I’ve learned a lot from it and I will make sure I share it to Kasigau Corridor REDD communities. I thank Wildlife Works and Barclays Bank who sponsored me to attend this very successful event in Dublin.

* * * *

77% of young people feel their country has been affected by extreme weather in the last year – how has climate change affected your country? 

In Kenya, there is massive change in rainfall patterns. We rely on agriculture, so when yields suffer so does our economy. Last year, weak rainfall caused food insecurity, with people in NE Kenya dying.

Major floods in coastal towns have destroyed homes and caused loss of life. In my community, there’s significant drought. There’s no pasture for livestock and women and children walk 10km daily to find water. The situation is worsening: last year local farmers couldn’t harvest any crops.

In what ways are you working to combat climate change or protect the environment?

I am a Community Relations Officer at the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project. We protect 500k acres of threatened forest, generating 1.2 million tonnes of CO2-e offsets yearly, preserving endangered biodiversity including African elephants and uplifting the lives of 110k rural Kenyans. We work closely with communities to find alternatives to deforestation, i.e. agri intensification to fight food insecurity. Deforestation accounts for 20% of global emissions (more than transportation) so I am proud of my vital role in this landmark project.

In what ways do you contribute to making your business/organization more sustainable?

My job is to educate our community of 110k people about the causes of climate change, mitigation and adaptation measures. Local people don’t know the link between deforestation and climate change, so I help them understand environmental conservation and sustainable development.

joseph community

Many people in the community are illiterate, so I use various communication methods: theatre (songs and plays); film viewings; youth football; school programs; informal open-air meetings; focussed small-group discussions and others. I simplify the information so everyone can understand. 

In what ways are you personally involved in education? *

I educate our community of 110k people about climate change. As many are illiterate, my communication methods include songs and plays.

Our bursary programme ensures local students complete the “8-4-4” curriculum. I vet applicants, decipher their finances, manage our bursary account and monitor students in school.

I’m passionate about education because I understand lacking school fees. I’m a full-time employee at Wildlife Works while simultaneously studying a Higher Diploma in Community-Based Development. It’s tough, but I love learning and working.

In what ways do you contribute to making young people more capable to enter the world of work or start businesses? 

I feel responsible for helping young people get the education needed to find work. I do motivational speaking in schools and for youth around the community, helping children realize the value of education.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 4.07.08 PMI run the programme “InSchool”, educating students about environmental and wildlife conservation. Through our bursary programme, we fund school fees and skills like driving so people can start businesses.

I work and study simultaneously to fund my siblings’ school fees. One recently got employed at an NGO.

In what ways have you succeeded in collaborating with other stakeholders (corporations, government, community leaders) to deliver education in your community? 

I have a strong relationship with every local organization and governmental department.

I collaborate closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure the right students are sponsored through our bursary programme. We share targets and timelines to avoid duplication and to help students get the best service.

I work with many NGOs. I run film viewings with Amara Conservation to educate people on the environment. I collaborate with World Vision Kenya on agricultural education, plus local charities, women’s and youth groups.

How could One Young World help further your education initiative? 

I believe that through OYW I can create a powerful platform to share issues concerning youth and education.

I will learn how other young people who come from different parts of the world view education and what they have done to improve access to it.

When I return to Kenya, I will try as much as possible to share the experiences, information and knowledge I get from OYW with my fellow young people and the larger community.

You can follow Joseph on Twitter @jaymwakima


ASOS Africa’s line is not only inspired by Africa but is also produced in Africa. ASOS has been working with our production partner, cut-and-sew house SOKO-Kenya, for over four years now. The international fashion company’s commitment to working in Kenya (and in other sustainable ways) has paid off; sales from their green line grow with each collection, which has allowed ASOS to invest deeper in their supply chain community. Asos Africa

As a result of ASOS’s continued orders, SOKO-Kenya was able to expand their small coast-side factory into Wildlife Work’s production site in the Kenyan bush located between Tsavo East and West National parks. With our combined resources, we are able to better support both our clients and our surrounding community. Seeing the impact of their orders to sustain jobs in a poverty-stricken area, The ASOS Foundation became interested in donating to the Kasigau communities to maximize their benefaction in 2013. With the help of Wildlife Works’ and our deep relationships with our community leaders, ASOS has been able to effectively and directly put money into areas of most need.

Bughule polytechnic

Bughule polytechnic


The ASOS Foundation’s first donation totaled Ksh 124,755 (US $ 1,430) and was put towards the renovation of Bungule Youth Polytechnic (BYP) in April 2013. The money was designated primarily for the renovation of doors, roofs, windows, door locks, wall paintings, as well as workshop equipment. A later donation of Ksh 1,227,280 (US $ 14,000) was then allocated for the building of office furniture and beds, construction of a water tank, installation of electricity and electrical wiring, and teachers’ salaries. These renovations were essential to providing a safe and comfortable environment for the students and teachers to further their education goals.

Bughuta Secondary

The ASOS Foundation then provided Ksh 224,825 (US $ 2,580) for the construction of 50 chairs and 50 lockers to the Bughuta Secondary School









The biggest donation, however, went towards the construction of the Kula Kila Rock Catchment in Kasigau location. For this project the ASOS Foundation donated Ksh 5,777,269 (US $ 66,200) for the excavation of the site, construction of catchment walls and a 250,000 liter water tank! This project has been an incredible success and will result in a great improvement for the life of the communities.

Kuli Kila water catchment funded by ASOS Foundation





Water is a very scarce resource in this semi-arid environment, but through the new water catchment, communities are able to harvest the rainwater for use in dry spells. During this year’s rains, the tank has already filled up twice, and we hope it will continue to do so.   The latest donation representing the most direct investment in their supply chain in Kenya, was to SOKO’s own charitable trust to open the ASOS-Foundation-sponsored new Stitching Academy, which opened its doors in Maungu in June 2014.

ASOS Foundation Stitching Academy with Soko-Kenya

ASOS Foundation Stitching Academy with Soko-Kenya










With an ever-increasing need for qualified seamstresses, the Stitching Academy is a sewing training facility that offers a 2-month training course to 10 people at a cost of Ksh 3,000 (US $34.00). The curriculum has been designed in-house and will provide students with the technical skills required for the garment manufacturing industry hence improving students’ chances of securing employment and/or setting up small enterprises of their own.

ASOS Foundation Stitching Academy

ASOS Foundation Stitching Academy







SOKO put the word out amongst the local community earlier this year and held numerous interviews in May. Twenty-four men and women attended this recruitment process, amongst which SOKO selected the first 10 students. SOKO held an official opening ceremony on the 19th June at the Stitching Academy’s site in Maungu, together with three official visitors from ASOS. Joanna Maiden, SOKO’s founder and Director, is extremely excited about this new project and sees this as having an empowering impact on the local communities. It is planned to hold four courses per year, with the next course due to begin in September this year. We applaud ASOS for producing against the tide of fast fashion. Their sustainable supply chain strategy has proven to align with their profit goals and their customers are responding.

A Letter from Our Head Ranger


Elephant and rhino poaching has recently been declared a “national disaster” in Kenya by former head of Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) Richard Leakey. The magnitude of poaching has reached terrifying levels and poachers are  operating with outrageous impunity, backed up by an extraordinary network of organized crime.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 10.26.53 AM

Unfortunately the Kasigau Corridor has not been immune from this increase in elephant poaching. Whilst the year started relatively calmly, March and April saw a significant rise in poaching incidents, totaling 30 elephants by mid May. The worst incident to date saw six elephants shot dead on Dawida Ranch, four of which were youngsters not bearing tusks. A further three elephants were lost on Amaka Ranch in March. This indicates the indiscriminate nature of killing that the poachers engage in, as well as the ruthlessness of the individuals involved.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 10.27.03 AMTo combat this, Wildlife Works has been working closely with KWS and other official organizations to tighten security in the area. We have increased patrols and security measurements significantly. In particular, we have drastically increased aerial surveillance throughout the project area thanks to the support of an additional aircraft pilot. Weather permitting, Keith Hellyer, a Canadian conservationist, has been lending his time and the use of a gyrocopter to patrol the 200,000 ha large project area and beyond at least twice a day. This helps the security team to locate illegal activities, carcasses or charcoal camps early on and respond accordingly.

Furthermore, Wildlife Works has also employed six additional wildlife rangers from the surrounding communities in order to increase manpower. The new recruits have already been orientated with Wildlife Works’ security operations and they have all been posted to the various ranger camps where they are taking up their patrol and surveillance responsibilities. Wildlife Works continues to be committed to the protection of wildlife and will do everything in its power to prevent the further slaughter of these majestic animals.


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Dear Readers,

I wish to express my personal and sincere gratitude to all of you who have helped make the Kasigau Phase I and II REDD+ Project a success for the past few years! Despite the challenges we are facing inside the project area, especially regarding a recent escalation in poaching incidents, my ranger teams are working tirelessly with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to ensure the culprits involved are caught and remain in police custody, so that justice can be served. In the first five months of 2014 alone, we have lost 30 elephants to poaching. Whilst this is a shocking figure, let me assure you that we are using every measure, in conjunction with KWS teams operating in various ranches, to ensure that we have intensified security in terms of patrolling and monitoring.

I still admire our ‘no arms’ policy, since it serves to deter violent confrontation. I wish also to bring to your attention that elephant poaching is increasingly carried out using sophisticated weapons, as well as poisoned arrows. I kindly urge community members to share with us any information, however seemingly small, which they might have regarding the menace so that we can channel it into the relevant authorities, especially KWS.

I wish to honorably recognize all members of the community who have responded to our call to protect our wildlife and surrounding environment. As a result, we have witnessed a drastic reduction in charcoal burning, with the exception of a few ranches in the Project Area. Whilst some cases remain unreported, I would like to highlight that community feedback is happening more and more with assistance from the Wildlife Works community outreach team. I encourage all community members to help in the protection of the environment and wildlife, which is possible through our hotline: +254 (0) 727 957 482.

I would like to take this opportunity to salute all members of the community for their effort in helping us to achieve our goals. Conservation is for us all, it does not belong to only one party, and requires the involvement of everyone. Let us keep our heritage safe for the future; our beautiful environment is a valuable resource, which must be preserved.

I am also happy to report that we have increased our ranger force and now number approximately 120 wildlife rangers, all of whom are patrolling the project area on a daily basis. Around twelve of these are operating on the hills and land corridors. Three quarters of my ranger team are members of the community who were selected during the 2010/2011 recruitment exercise. I understand that not everyone who was present at this selection was recruited, and I would like to inform community members that there will be further opportunities for employment following the expansion of the carbon project. Being part of the ranger team is a highly sought after position however, and realistically we are not able to offer positions to all young applicants. Our recruitment process offers a fair way to select individuals who are suitable for this physically and psychologically demanding work.

Thank you all,

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Wildlife Works Marks World Environmental Day With Town Clean Up and Climate Change Education

At this year’s World Environment Day, some of our employees at the Wildlife Works Kasigau base station put down their tools and left the offices to commemorate the day with the community at Kamtonga, a small village located in Mwatate about 50 kilometers from our station. Those who attended the event included the head community Relations Officer, Mr. Laurian Lenjo, Mrs. Emily Mwawasi and Joseph Mwakima (both working in community relations), and the agribusiness manager, Mr. George Maina.


Community members and pupils gather at the Kamtonga Primary School for commemoration of World Environment Day.

From the moment we arrived in Kamtonga, it was very clear that we could not have chosen a better place to commemorate the 2014 World Environment Day. The Mwatate community has been one of our major partners in the implementation of Phase II of the REDD programme, and we found an eager audience waiting to mark the day that was themed, Raise your Voices Not the Sea Levels. Young school pupils and aged grandparents sat side by side with the youth.

As with every other occasion we have to interact with the community around us, we took the opportunity to pass on the conservation message that we have been preaching since we started operations in the Kasigau region 17 years ago.  The theme for this event was to educate the audience about rising sea levels.

From the puzzled look on many faces, it was clear that not many had heard about the rising sea levels but when one of the speakers mentioned the possibility of Mombasa being submerged in the next 20 years, any lingering doubts started to vanish.


Wildlife Works Rangers lead the procession to the communal cleaning of Kamtonga Primary School.

Joseph Mwakima gave a concise explanation of the rising sea levels phenomena to an audience that was very eager to listen. Laurian backed it up by explaining how everyone has a role to play in ensuring that we mitigate such an occurrence. Other speakers also echoed the same concerns.

Some of the other issues that were addressed at the event included the persistent issue of child labor in Kamtonga which draws the majority of its income from sisal farming, mining of precious stones and other supporting businesses. Pupils from the Kamtonga Primary School recited heartrending poems about how their peers are vulnerably recruited into the mines and sisal plantations and end up dropping out of school. Our community outreach team members have been doing in-school outreach campaigns to educate students on their rights. Several government administrators, including the town’s chief have made promises to crackdown on any businessperson who were found abusing children’s rights.


School kids reciting a poem about the Child labour.

After these important discussions, everyone armed themselves with latex gloves and joined in a communal cleanup of the small Kamtonga town. Plastic bottles and bags that littered the town were collected for appropriate disposal.

The event hit a climax with the planting of more than 100 trees in Kamtonga Primary School. The Wildlife Works greenhouse supplied all the tree seedlings for free. 30 trees were planted by the various guests in attendance and assigned to pupils who will be taking care of them. 70 tree saplings were left to be planted by the pupils and teachers later on. We have already received confirmation from the headmaster that the remaining seventy trees have been planted and are thriving!


Pupils of Kamtoga Primary School set a heap of plastic bags and other debris on fire.


From left: Community Relations Manager Laurian Lenjo, Head Ranger Eric Sagwe and Community Relations Associate Joseph Mwakima join the community cleanup exercise at Kamtonga Town.



















We are grateful for the Kamtonga Community for hosting us during this special day and for giving us an audience. If we can all take action now, we can effectively mitigate the effects of climate change. It all starts with you and me, and the Kamtonga community!

The chief with the school kids planting a tree around the school compound during the event.

The chief with the school kids planting a tree around the school compound during the event.

May Grace Kanini Wambua Rest in Peace

It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of Grace Kanini Wambua, who worked with us at the Wildlife Works factory for two years. We deeply appreciate the dedication she put into her work with our company and into the community’s commitment to conservation. Although she was young, she lived a full life and provided a good life to her two young daughters. The illness that took her life in just 2 months was not able to be diagnosed. Below is the eulogy that was presented at her funeral by Monica, one of our nursery school teachers. We send our blessings to her family.

* * * * * *

Grace Kanini Wambuaand daughter
A light has gone out, without so much as a flicker, and all we are left with is the precious memory of how brightly it burned and the warmth it gave us.

Grace’s appreciation of the simple uncomplicated things in life was reflected in her lifestyle. She was very simple and reserved.

Although Grace enjoyed a quiet life, which revolved mainly around her family and her work, it didn’t prevent her from living life to the fullest. She had always worked hard all her life, often more than one job at a time.

Grace was much more than a mother to her children. She was someone you could really trust and rely on, someone you could talk honestly and openly to, knowing you would be neither judged nor criticized, and you could count on her support whatever the problem.

Grace joined Wildlife Works Eco Factory on April 16th, 2012 as a machine operator. She specifically worked with the overlock and straight machines. She was very keen in her work making her the ideal person to work with us on our major client orders. Her contribution to Wildlife Works Eco Factory was magnificent and her time was very much appreciated, not only by the people she worked alongside, but the entire Wildlife Works family and her Maungu friends.

Grace became sick on April 7th, 2014. She complained of severe backpains which later affected her spine and soon her legs became paralyzed. She sought for medical care in Mombasa but her illness turned acute and she had to be transferred to Nairobi for special treatment. Grace succumbed to her illness in Bagadhi Hospital while undergoing treatment and passed on June 6th 2014 at 3pm. It surprised us to learn that she died on her birthday. She left behind two beautiful young girls.

Grace her daughter and Nora
We can’t even begin to imagine the grief and devastation that Grace’s family is bravely facing at the moment. It’s at such times when we are at our lowest ebb that we need the bosom of our family. We help and support each other and in time, the veil of mist and numbness gradually disappears. WE see a light at the end of the tunnel, we step out and we look back, thankful that despite their own grief and sorrow, we had someone to lean on when our own strength failed us. I know Grace would be very proud to see how her family are supporting each other at this very difficult time.



Grace will be greatly missed by everyone who knew and loved her.

Name. Grace Kanini. Job. Eco factory. IDno 13731654. EMPno WW04.45

Margaret Mschai Rises Above Life’s Challenges and Shares Her Future Aspirations

Margaret Mschai, a mother of two, makes her living by completing various tasks at the Wildlife Works eco-clothing factory, and is wholly grateful for it. Her tasks include trimming, folding and packaging the fabric and finished clothes.

“I love what I do mostly because it is an important part in the chain of events that creates unique outfits for export,” she says, adding, “We cannot all be machinists or designers. Someone has to trim the loose threads and fold the clothes so that they are presented neatly for the final consumer.” As Margaret never had the chance to continue her education past primary school, she was therefore unable to accomplish her dream of becoming a nurse. Like countless girls growing up in rural Kenya during the 1970s, Margaret’s parents did not see the need to educate a female child. Upon completion of her primary school education, she was left with the options to either get married or begin working to sustain her everyday needs.

In her free time at the factory, Margaret learns how to use the company's electronic sewing machines

In her free time at the factory, Margaret learns how to use the company’s electronic sewing machines

Against her parent’s wishes, Margaret chose to spend a term at the high school she had been admitted to. However, before she could take exams at the end of her term, she was sent back to her parents for money in order to pay her tuition fees. Sadly, she was unable to obtain the funds and was forced to leave school and abandon her hopes of becoming a nurse.

Unable to fulfill her ambitions, Margaret found herself moving from job to job until 2002 when she got news of the clothing factory near Maungu that was hiring.

“I had a strong conviction that this was the long-term opportunity I had been looking for when I heard about the Wildlife Works eco-clothing factory,” Margaret, who had learned a few basics of sewing through the years, recalled.

Unfortunately, the machines at Wildlife Works were electronic, as opposed to the manual ones she had been used to. Instead of the sewing job she had hoped for, Margaret was hired as a factory assistant. Among the first to be employed at Wildlife Works eco-factory, Margaret was unfortunately laid off in 2008 when the factory closed for a temporary three-year period.  She describes these years as the hardest period of her life.

Daniel Munyao, the factory manager, calls Margaret one of his most hardworking employees

Daniel Munyao, the factory manager, calls Margaret one of his most hardworking employees

In developed countries, laid off employees are typically able to find a new job and move on with their lives.  However, in a country like Kenya, where the unemployment rate has reached a staggering 40%, this is far from the reality. After the closing of the factory, Margaret learned first hand the hardships faced by those who have no job prospects in their area.

“I had a child to feed and no one was willing to employ somebody who had not gone past primary school- not even as a lowly paid house help,” she laments. Luckily for Margaret, her husband was employed elsewhere and so they were able to survive on the little that he earned.

Despite having never advanced past primary school, Margaret love sewing and hopes to one day be promoted to seamstress

Despite having never advanced past primary school, Margaret love sewing and hopes to one day be promoted to seamstress

Fortunately, Daniel Munyao, the factory manager at Wildlife Works, re-employed Margaret and others when the factory resumed production in 2010. According to Daniel, Margaret is one of the most hardworking employees at the factory. Even when there are no orders being processed, she spends her time learning how to operate the electronic sewing machines.

“I love sewing and I hope that I will one day get a promotion to become a seamstress,” Margaret says.

With what she earns as an employee of Wildlife Works, Margaret hopes to start her own local fashion shop, selling imported second-hand clothes.  Her enthusiasm is apparent as she speaks of her future ambitions.

While Margaret might not have completed her secondary school education, she has undoubtedly lived a life full of valuable lessons. One of these, which she would like to pass on, is to never give up on life, to learn to rise past your challenges and make the best out of every opportunity.

At Wildlife Works, we wish Margaret all the best for her employment, dreams and future aspirations.

Marie Stopes Brings Reproductive Health Services to Wildlife Works Employees

Marie Stopes Kenya, a non-governmental organization that conducts free family planning programs across the country, recently conducted a tremendously informative workshop at our community in Kasigau. More than 100 employees attended, 22 of which benefited directly from the free reproductive health services offered by MSK.

Wildlife Works employees at the family planning outreach workshop

Wildlife Works employees at the family planning outreach workshop

These reproductive health services, including family planning services and cervical cancer screenings, were entirely sponsored by Wildlife Works. Although made available by other members of the health industry, the cost of these services often prohibits employees from being able to take advantage of them.

Apart from the high costs associated with most family planning services, lack of information and access to birth control methods propagates a cycle of poverty for many communities across Kenya. This is especially evident among families in rural areas who are dependent on a declining agricultural livelihood and struggle to raise larger families. Wildlife Works was happy to invite Marie Stopes into our community to provide access to health education.

Employees who attended the reproductive health workshop waiting for their turn with the doctor

Employees who attended the reproductive health workshop waiting for their turn with the doctor

Lessons taught in the workshop included various long-term and short-term reproductive options available for both women and men.  For instance, the use of implants was particularly recommended as opposed to the use of injectables, as they contain less artificial hormones and carry far less side effects. Use of intrauterine devices was also discussed among the list of safe methods. For families searching for a permanent solution, health officials from Marie Stopes recommended the use of tubal ligation or a vasectomy. The training session was largely interactive and effective at diminishing some of the myths that surround family planning methods in Kenya.

One of the Marie Stopes outreach doctors standing next to the makeshift family planning clinic at Wildlife Works

One of the Marie Stopes outreach doctors standing next to the makeshift family planning clinic at Wildlife Works

Peninah Wavinya Kyonda, a single mother of 32 who works as a machinist in the Wildlife Works eco factory, considers the workshop an eye-opener in her quest for a safe and effective birth control method. “I have been thinking about family planning for a long time but doubts and fears of which family planning method is the safest to use always made me hesitate. I can now make an informed choice after the workshop conducted by Marie Stopes,” she said.

Peninah would also have liked to get screened for cervical cancer. Unfortunately, there was insufficient cervical screening equipment on that day and only a few employees were able to get the free test. She hopes she will have a chance to get a test through Marie Stopes in the future.

Peninah Wavinya- one of the machinists at our eco factory

Peninah Wavinya- one of the machinists at our eco factory

Dr. Nickson Nyakundi, who was leading the Marie Stopes team, was impressed by attendance and declared the program an immense success. He also said that additional similar workshops are essential if the country is to realize Kenya’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include environmental sustainability, improved maternal healthcare, reduction of child mortality rates, achievement of universal primary education and eradication of extreme hunger and poverty.  Fortunately, Dr. Nickson Nyakundi assured us that the organization will be conducting a similar workshop in July.

Eco-Loans from the Zawadisha Fund to Boost Women Entrepreneurship in Kasigau Corridor

At Wildlife Works, we believe in empowering women to overcome societal limitations imposed on them by continuously supporting and investing in projects that enable women to make an independent livelihood.  We are proud to announce the inclusion of our newest partner in these efforts.

The Zawadisha Fund, a non-governmental and non-profit microfinance organization that provides affordable loan facilities to groups of women around Kenya, began work in the Marungu area of the Kasigau Corridor late last year and is already tremendously influencing the lives of marginalized women in the area.

Water tanks used to harvest rain water during the rainy season being transported to the Neema Women's group in Kasigau.

Water tanks used to harvest rain water during the rainy season being transported to the Neema Women’s group in Kasigau.

On their arrival to Marungu, leaders of the organization met with us to discuss the scope of their project in order to avoid overlapping and conflict of services. They also held meetings with women groups in the area to ruminate on what financial help they needed the most.

Monica Makori, one of our employees, welcomes the tanks at the Neema Women sGroup base

Monica Makori, one of our employees, welcomes the tanks at the Neema Womens Group base

As of now, Zawadisha is working with two women groups in the area, Neema and Tumaini. The two groups have already received eco-loans in the form of water tanks and solar lights.

“Traditionally we have provided loans for small businesses. However, it became clear after our visit in October to Marungu Town that what women needed and wanted was solar lamps and water tanks — that is what they asked for instead of loans for businesses,” says Jennifer Gurecki, who is the chief innovation officer at Zawadisha.

A smiling woman in the Kasigau Corridor

A smiling woman in the Kasigau Corridor

“By providing loans for items such as water tanks, we are helping women mitigate a changing climate in a sustainable way. Rather than drilling a well that will deplete aquifers over time, rain water catchment tanks are a sustainable way to obtain water – we are working with the environment rather than against it,” she added.

Where Neema Womens Group normally holds their meetings.

The entire Tumaini Womens Group poses for a group picture

Water captured in the water tanks will be sold to the community during droughts when all the water reservoirs have dried up in Kasigau. This will prevent members of the community from having to walk huge distances for access to clean water, both for domestic use as well as in their farms and to grow tree seedlings.

The structure where Neema Women's Group normally hold their meetings.

The structure where Neema Women’s Group normally hold their meetings.

As most in the region do not have cell phone charging capabilities in their homes, the solar lamps are significant to the community.  By using the enhanced solar lamps to charge phones for other members of the community for a small fee, the Tumaini Women Group will be generating income in one of the most ecological ways available- harnessing solar energy! These loans are highly viable to the women of Kasigau and it could prove to be a colossal step towards structuring a life of financial stability for their families.

A solar kit that Tumaini Women received from the Zawadisha Fund.

A solar kit that Tumaini Women received from the Zawadisha Fund.

According to Jennifer Gurecki providing loans to fund eco-friendly ventures is a break from the norm. Before they made their way to the Kasigau Corridor, the Zawadisha Fund had been providing small business loans to women groups in other parts of Kenya including Eldoret, Nairobi, Kilgoris and Kitale.

A lesson in self-defense: Zawadisha collaborats with Dolphin Anti-Rape and AIDS Control Outreach to teach the women of Kasigau some vital self-defense tactics

A lesson in self-defense: Zawadisha collaborats with Dolphin Anti-Rape and AIDS Control Outreach to teach the women of Kasigau some vital self-defense tactics

Apart from providing eco-loans to the two groups of women, Zawadisha has also been offering very lively and well-attended seminars and workshops that offer financial literacy and self-defense lessons to the women.

The Neema Women

The Neema Women

We feel honored to work in partnership with Zawadisha and support their funding of the eco-friendly projects of the two women groups. It gratifies us to see the women of Kasigau obtaining loans related to environmental conservation and we hope to continue working in close partnership with Zawadisha and the surrounding community. It is our joy to see the women of Kasigau empowered in ways that advance our environmental conservation ideologies.

Marasi Primary School Renovations

Many people in the Kasigau Corridor view Marasi Primary School as the symbolic center of Maungu, which is the town nearest to our Wildlife Works REDD Kasigau Headquarters. Many of our employees, including the Human Resources Manager, Laurian Lenjo, completed their primary education there.

Unfortunately, a visit to this school, started by parents in 1974, revealed crumbling roofs, peeling paint and door-less classrooms. Students who are fortunate enough to obtain a seat during class must sit at unstable desks that are shared with at least four others, while the remaining children sit on the dusty floor.

One of the renovated classrooms. There are two other blocks that still need renovation

One of the renovated classrooms. There are two other blocks that still need renovation

Several months ago, the school received critical funding through the sale of carbon credits generated through the Wildlife Works Kasigau REDD Project. Using these funds, the school was able to renovate four classrooms and will soon be purchasing desks as well.

Laurian Lenjo, the community relations officer at Wildlife Works, Rukinga, addressing wananchi during the official handover of the renovated classrooms at Marasi Primary School

Laurian Lenjo, the community relations officer at Wildlife Works, Rukinga, addressing wananchi during the official handover of the renovated classrooms at Marasi Primary School

The renovation included painting, floor reconstruction, and reroofing among other minor improvements. While this is a colossal step towards bringing the school to acceptable standards of learning, there are still areas of the school in extremely poor condition. Additionally, the classrooms are extremely overcrowded, with each one accommodating 65 children or more.

Mary Mbuga, the head of Marasi Primary School addressing pupils during the handover ceremony

Mary Mbuga, the head of Marasi Primary School addressing pupils during the handover ceremony

The school’s management team, led by Mary Mbuga, is confident that they will continue to benefit from the REDD Project and the sale of carbon credits by furthering improvements on the school infrastructure.

Nick and Gift, two  employees who supervised the renovation of the classrooms at Marasi Primary School

Nick and Gift, two employees who supervised the renovation of the classrooms at Marasi Primary School

Mrs. Mbuga envisions a bright future for the school and says that if possible, she would love to establish boarding facilities so that students are no longer required to make the long trek to and from school on a daily basis.

The block of classrooms at the Marasi Primary School before the renovation

The block of classrooms at the Marasi Primary School before the renovation

We are optimistic that the future sale of carbon credits in the Kasigau Corridor will enable Mrs. Mbuga and other community leaders to implement their projects to the fullest. We will continue to remain appreciative of the positive impacts carbon credits are bringing to the Kasigau Corridor communities.


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.