Category Archives: Community

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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Keeping the Kasigau Wildlife Corridor Litter Free

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The Rukinga wildlife corridor is a pivotal crossing point for several different types of wildlife, from elephants to baboons. Unfortunately, it is located next to the A109, also known as the Mombasa Highway. Thousands of cars and commercial truck drivers pass through this area on their way from the coast to Nairobi. It isn’t uncommon to see someone chucking a plastic drink bottle out the window.

This practice has led to an area cluttered with colorful drink bottles and discarded tire rubber. The wildlife and domestic animals living in the animal are susceptible to ingesting these pieces of plastic and risk dying. Not to mention, how much of an eyesore it is for passers-by, an indication that littering is the norm.

Well, the young leaders at Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) were tired of seeing this area filled with trash.

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How do you clean up and make an area litter free?

“Litter is a huge problem and it’s a problem along the whole highway, but the wildlife corridor has been deliberately kept clear of development to aid the movement of wildlife,” explained Alys Penfold, a VSO volunteers who organized the cleanup in collaboration with Wildlife Works. “We thought that if we cleaned up this one area, it would show the difference of what the area looks like without litter.”

On Saturday, April 1, 2017, a group of over 120 people showed up to help. Volunteers, community members, secondary students, rangers, and WW employees banded together to clean up the 2.3 km stretch of highway dubbed the wildlife corridor next to Rukinga Sanctuary.

“We thought that many people would not show up, but we had 120. We never expected that,” said Mercy Marigo, Hadithi Project Assistant. Hadithi works with women artisans to help empower them and sell their hand-made products to global markets. Alys was assigned to Hadithi as her project for her 3 month volunteer period. “It was our first project with the volunteers and we hope to organize with the community to clean up litter once a month from now on.”

Wildlife Works employees came to volunteer their time to help pick up trash and Wildlife Works Rangers handed out water and insured the safety of all participants working in close proximity to vehicle traffic. Each of the 3 participating secondary schools received organic-cotton shirts sewn and printed in the Wildlife Work’s eco-factory.

In 4 hours, the team collected over 250 garbage bags of trash from the area, removing plastic bottles, plastic bags, scraps, and other litter from this important conservation area. This amount of trash will be responsibly disposed of and recycled, beautifying the area and improving the lives of wildlife in the area.

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How to prevent littering in the future?

VSO held a community meeting to educate people of the dangers of plastic, how long it takes to break down in the environment, and it’s negative impact on wildlife and our planet. They also posted a large banner, urging drivers to keep the wildlife corridor free of litter.

“The idea was that you can’t put up a sign asking people not to litter, when there is litter, so the first thing we wanted to do was clean it up, so people can see the difference,” said Alys. “Then put up the sign to encourage people to keep the area that way.”

This event was the launch of the Taka Sitaka Taka campaign to help improve parts near the Wildlife Works project areas. In the future, the team plans on reaching out to truck companies to educate their drivers on the dangers of littering, bringing a recycling center to the town of Maungu, and spurring further clean ups along the highway.

While only a small portion of the trash found along the Mombasa Highway was collected on Saturday, we hope the message will become clear to passing drivers that litter along these roads will not be tolerated.

Fair Trade USA Committee Uniform Donation

Last week, members of the Wildlife Works’ eco factory Fair Trade Committee had the pleasure of making a trip to two local schools within our project area. As part of the eco factory’s Fair Trade USA certification, each of our Fair Trade USA certified clients contribute a ‘premium’. This is around 5-10% of the overall production cost which is paid directly to our factory workers.

fair trade USA fashion Students at Itinyi Primary School holding up their new school uniforms

Our Fair Trade Committee then decides how this money is spent. This time, they allocated a portion of their premium to the community for worthy causes. (Read here stories about how our employees have been using their Fair Trade money for projects such as education for their children and home improvement.) In instances where money is given to the community, education is a top priority.

Itinyi and Marasi primary schools are two local schools that were targeted by the Fair Trade Committee as particularly at risk and in need of assistance. Between the two schools, the committee donated over 100 school uniforms to vulnerable children ages 6-14.

FT USA Fair Trade fashionThe head master and Alfred, the head of the free trade committee, distribute school uniforms at Itinyi Primary School

The Fair Trade Committee visited both schools to hand over the uniforms and meet the children. During their visit, each member of the Fair Trade Committee spoke directly to the students and their parents about how they were able to donate these items.

Through explaining about Wildlife Works, including how the eco factory is responsible for job creation and describing the importance of fair trade production, the committee showed these families the benefits of community organization and mobilization.

By protecting the environment and community through making clothes within a fair trade framework, the committee now has the resources to donate these uniforms where the school would otherwise have gone without.

In instances like these, due to local customs, it is important to assure the families that these uniforms were given strictly as gifts and that nothing was expected in return.

fair trade USA Alfred and the rest of the committee distribute uniforms at Marasi primary school.

Both school visits were tremendously happy occasions. It was wonderful to see the excitement on the students’ faces when they received their new school uniforms. For many of them, it had been a long time since they received a new uniform and nearly every student had some kind of rip or tear in their clothes.

Wildlife Works strives constantly to work within the community to build strong and active families that can become vehicles for change. By bringing together the parents and students when donating these uniforms, the Wildlife Works Fair Trade Committee further promoted the idea that education should be valued and that parents must be a part of the process of enabling each child to reach their full potential.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-12-37-49-pmStudents at Mirasi primary school try on their new school uniforms.

It is these weekly community events, which often go undocumented and without discussion, that make Wildlife Works a strong social driver here in the Kasigau Corridor. Within a community that has decided to place environmental conservation at the forefront of their lives and careers, we see repercussions that run deep within the community. How wonderful to witness everyone benefiting, even the students at Itinyi and Marasi primary schools. Huge congratulations and thanks to our Fair Trade USA certified customers (such as Threads 4 Thought!) for committing to fair trade and our employees for delivering such a great and necessary donation!

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-12-38-06-pmParents were present at both schools to witness the donation of the uniforms and share in the excitement with their kids

Empowering young girls through GLOW training

Wildlife Works is committed to supporting community projects as we feel these can be the most important tools to developing self-sufficient and self-governing communities. One of our main focuses is on education, especially for women and girls.

This past weekend, a sexual health and sanitation session for young girls at Kiteghe Primary School within our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project area in southeastern Kenya was funded through Wildlife Works. This program is called GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), and is run by Monica, a local Kenyan lady who volunteers her Saturdays to run this training session in local primary and secondary schools across Taita Taveta County.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-56-41-amMonica writes essential goals for girls attending the training

50 girls over the age of 12 attended the event. Each girl was selected to serve as a peer educator to pass along the teachings to two others in the school. The session was held on a Saturday morning and the girls showed up eager to learn. The day started with a review of issues that were important to know, from child pornography and prostitution to female genital mutilation and incest. The girls scribbled feverously in their notebooks as soon as they were given a new concept and asked questions and voiced their concerns.

Oohs and ahhs and quick inhales of breath could be heard throughout as the girls learned terms that were often harsh and scary. A common theme was the concept that girls should avoid relations with boys so as to fully focus on their studies. Currently at Kiteghe Primary School, five girls from the school are pregnant. Once they have their children, it is unlikely these girls will resume normal studies.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-56-50-am50 girls above the age of 12 attended the training

After the morning session, two of the seminar leaders, Monica and Happiness, began a discussion of sanitation in which they showed the girls how to properly clean themselves. Amid some giggles and laughter, the instructors demonstrated how to insert a sanitary pad into a pair of underwear. This demonstration was very important in expressing to the girls the normality of a woman’s menstrual cycle, and aimed to reduce the stigma associated with it.

In Africa, the biggest cause of absenteeism from school for girls is due to girls being on their period. Seminars like these are important in educating young women and giving them the tools they need to attend school all month long.

One of the main events of the day was a lesson on how to make your own reusable sanitary pad by sewing together pieces of towel, cut outs from plastic bags and cotton scraps (provided from our eco-factory, thereby reducing waste and becoming something useful!). Using a needle and thread, each girl sewed her own pad, which for many was her first one. The design is one used by Wildlife Works and other organizations that has proven to be successful in serving as a pad that can be cleaned and reused.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-56-58-amOne girl completes her handmade, reusable pad

After creating their own sanitary pad, the girls were given a gift of two pairs of underwear that had been donated through Wildlife Works to be distributed at the seminar. It was great to be able to show these young girls how to manage their period through creating their very own sanitary pads using commonly found materials.

This program is one of several here in the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project area that works to enable girls to take charge of their own lives and education. Next year, Monica and the other instructors are hoping to expand the program to boys.

These sessions are largely funded by donations to Wildlife Works. Please get in touch with our Conservation Office Manager, Cara Braund at cara@wildlifeworks.com if you are interested in contributing to a similar girls or boys seminar.

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.