Category Archives: Education

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.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-12-38-20-pmStudents 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.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-12-37-35-pmThe 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.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-12-37-24-pmAlfred 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

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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Wildlife Works Scholarship Recipient Joins the Team

“I get satisfaction in my job through putting perfection into my work,” says Zanira Kasyoka, one of the lucky recipients of a Wildlife Works’ scholarship that fully sponsored her secondary education. Her talents and hard work stood out and she is now fully employed as an assistant in the Wildlife Works’ carbon-neutral, eco-factory office.

zaniraMeet Zanira, first a scholarship recipient now an employee

Zanira comes from a humble background in the village of Itinyi, Taita Taveta County, within our project area in Kenya. She was brought up by a single mother together with her elder sister. She now lives with her mother and grandmother, as her sister has married and moved out. Zanira finished secondary school in 2011, at Bura Girls National School and scored a grade B- in her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education.

After finishing school, Zanira was very grateful for the support from Wildlife Works and so she decided to apply to work as a contract laborer with us to show her appreciation and gain experience. She worked under a short-term contract in the greenhouse and as an office assistant where she worked very hard, and her sincerity and commitment shone through. After nearly two years, Wildlife Works was able to offer her a full-time job as an assistant in the eco-factory office in 2014. Zanira says she is very grateful and owes all her knowledge to Daniel, our factory manager, and Vicky, our factory office manager, who have mentored her from the beginning. Today, she helps out with processing orders, packaging clothes for shipment, shipping finished goods to our customers and bookkeeping.

zaniraZanira now works for our eco-factory. One of her responsibilities is to help with packaging clothes for shipment. Here, she’s packing an order for our client Globein. 

Ever since she joined Wildlife Works, her family life has never been the same again. Even at only 24 years old, Zanira is now the breadwinner in her family and she provides food and clothing for her mother and grandmother. Despite her main challenge of lack of school fees, she still has hopes and future plans that she will join university and pursue nursing.

zaniraEven though Zanira loves her job, she dreams of continuing her education further down the line

Zanira is one of more than 3,200 local students who have been awarded over $260,000 in education scholarships since 2004. This funding comes through distributing the profit made from selling carbon credits and is one of the ways in which Wildlife Works supports the local community, by realizing the value of the natural world and making the wildlife work for people.

Supporting the Community that Supports Your Production

The SOKO Community Trust is the community outreach arm of the ethical clothing factory, SOKO, that operates within the same Export Processing Zone as Wildlife Works and with whom we share knowledge and implement community projects.

Soko and their clients invest in initiatives that support the community in which they produce: Maungu, Kenya, where Wildlife Works’ Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project operations are based. The SOKO Community Trust’s initiatives aim to provide people with the practical skills needed to lift themselves out of poverty.

On 22th June 2016, The Trust celebrated the launch of two new programs: Stitching Academy Hub and the Pipeline Roadshow

asos foundation kenya soko launchWildlife Works Community Relations Officer, Joseph Mwakima, presents at the Launch event

Stitching Academy Hub

The Stitching Academy Hub is a new sewing machine facility that offers graduates of the Stitching Academy, a seamstress training facility run by SOKO Community Trust, use of industrial sewing machinery for the further development of their sewing skills, career development, and technological skills advancement. The Hub seeks to provide a platform for innovation and creativity in creating viable business ideas as well as strengthen Academy graduates:

  • Entrepreneurial culture,
  • Business education,
  • Financial and computer literacy, and
  • Employability skills.

asos foundation kenya soko launchStitching Academy graduates wave hello from the new Stitching Academy Hub

asos foundation kenya soko launchStitching Academy graduates dancing to celebrate the Hub Launch

The Hub launch ceremony was attended by County administrators, local chiefs, religious leaders, members of the community as well as a team of representatives from the ASOS Foundation, the charitable division of the large online retailer ASOS, which provides funding for SOKO Community Trust’s projects.

The nine students who have so far graduated from the Stitching Academy’s three-month course also participated in the launch. Milka Mwende, who was unable to complete primary school, graduated from the Stitching Academy, said that she loves sewing and she hopes to make a living out of it using the Hub facilities.

The main benefit of the Hub is to help young people like, Milka, who struggled in school gain practical skills and find ways to sustain themselves.

asos foundation kenya soko launchMilka Mwende practices her newly acquired sewing skills at the Stitching Academy Hub

Rob Dodson, Vice President African Field Operations Wildlife Works, spoke during the launch saying that the Stitching Academy Hub help to bridge the difficult gap between education and finding full time work.

Pipeline Roadshow

The SOKO Community Trust also launched the Pipeline Roadshow, a traveling team of professionals who train, support and offer services to the local community. The launch services provided free eye exams by experts and trained community members from the Kwale District Eye Centre. The Pipeline Roadshow’s goals are to support:

  • Financial literacy,
  • Family health and planning,
  • Young women’s health, and
  • Free eye clinic.

asos foundation kenya soko launchCommunity members waiting to be seen by eye doctor

asos foundation kenya soko launchWoman from the community receiving an eye test from women trained by the Kwale District Eye Centre

asos foundation kenya soko launchElderly woman being examined by the eye doctor

asos foundation kenya soko launchCommunity members receiving eyeglasses and eye drops

The Maungu eye clinic screened over 230 patients, distributed nearly 150 eye drops and 90 glasses, and identified nine patients for cataract surgery. All services were free, except the glasses, which cost 50 Kenyan Shillings, the equivalent of 5 US cents. The Pipeline Roadshow will now continue to a further five villages around the Kasigau area to bring health and entrepreneurial benefits to the local communities.

Wildlife Works, SOKO Community Trust and ASOS Foundation believe these initiatives are a key strategy for stimulating self-employment and creation of jobs and will continue to work together to bring these benefits to the local community.

Motivational Speakers Inspiring Local School Kids

Wildlife Works runs a program of education initiatives for youth within our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project area. We strongly believe that children are ambassadors for change and for environmental stewardship and we work hard to empower them to do so.

One of the programs we run is a series of motivational speakers that deliver talks to local students. They are individuals from the community who have an inspiring story to tell and lessons to share with youth.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 3.59.47 PMA motivational talk given under a neem tree at Marungu Primary School

Since starting in 2014, we have held motivational talks at 16 schools, reaching well over 1,000 students. The aim is to inspire a new generation of kids to work hard, pursue education and to raise themselves out of poverty.

The Kasigau area has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Kenya, and impoverished local people have little alternative than to turn to the land for survival. With education, people have access to more opportunities and, with awareness, can make informed choices that do not degrade their environment.

Apolinari Mwakulomba is one of our speakers. He is a successful businessman originally from a very humble background within the Kasigau region. During one of his motivational talks at Marungu Primary School, he recounted how he used to walk very long distances to school, but that with hard work he managed to attend a national (more exclusive) school and raise himself out of his situation.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 3.59.57 PMApolinari Mwakulomba questioning student during a talk at Marungu Primary School

Apolinari encouraged the students to set goals for their lives. He asked them, “What do you want to be?” One young boy stood up in the crowd and answered in English, “I want to be a pilot.”

“Are you good at mathematics?”
“Yes.”
“Are you good at science?”
“Yes.”
“Then congratulate yourself. If you want to be anything, work hard and you can do it. If you set yourself goals, you have the motivation to work hard.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 4.00.10 PMMarungu Primary School students listening keenly to a motivational talk

Accompanying the motivational community speakers, a member of Wildlife Works’ Community Relations Department, Protus Mghendi, gives a talk about the importance of environmental conservation and the value of nature.

The motivational talks are part of a wider program to raise awareness and enthusiasm for environmental and conservation issues. The highest performing students from the schools visited are offered the opportunity to visit the Wildlife Works site for a tour of the operations, including eco-factory and greenhouse, as well as attend a game drive to spot wildlife. Read about this program here.

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Scholarship Student Dreams of Medical School

“The greatest danger facing modern society today is not of dying without achieving your dreams but dying without dreaming at all.” This is the motto by which Sophia Tsenge lives. Sophia comes from a humble background in a family of seven, in Sasenyi Village in Taita Taveta County, Kenya, and is one of Wildlife Works education bursary beneficiaries.

One of the core ways in which Wildlife Works supports local development is through distributing the profit made from carbon credits back into conservation project’s communities we serve. Much of the funding programs go towards supporting community groups who submit needs proposals for committee approval.

Another major funding funnel is our education sponsorships. Since 2004, more than 3,200 local students have been awarded over $260,000 in education scholarships, helping to give opportunities to a generation of rural students in our project area.

kenya education, communitySophia Tsenge, Wildlife Works education bursary beneficiary

Sophia is one of these lucky ones. When Sophia’s parents divorced seven years ago and her grandmother took responsibility for the children. Living in a grassy, thatched house with mud floors and a lack of beds, affording the next family meal was sometimes a challenge.

That, however, was not a barrier for Sophia in pursuing her education and the right to education became a strong pillar in her life. “Attending school came with a lot of difficulties. My grandmother had no money to pay for the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) funds but I would still come to school without having paid any fees,” she says.

kenya education, communitySophia outside her old primary school in Sasenyi

Despite all the difficulties, Sophia worked hard and managed to score high marks in her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam. This earned her an opportunity to join Voi Secondary School, a provincial school in the county which only accepts high scoring students.

At this stage, money became a major problem and her grandmother sold a bull in order to pay for her boarding requirements and fees. In Form One, Sophia would be sent home three times a month to collect school fees.

But her perseverance paid off. As a result of her good grades in Form Two, Sophia’s biology teacher connected her to the Wildlife Works Sponsorship Program. She was accepted into the program and Wildlife Works paid her school debts and 100% of her fees up to Form Four. She worked as hard as she could and scored a grade of B- in her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam.

Now Sophia is dreaming of her future; she is aiming to join Mt. Kenya University to pursue clinical medicine in September this year. “In ten years time, I would like to be working to help sick people. I would also like to mentor others on how they can achieve in life, especially girls,” Sophia says.

Sophia has a big heart and she wants to not only help the sick but also her community. As she waits to join university, she is teaching at her old primary school and inspiring the students to work hard despite their challenging circumstances.

kenya education, communitySophia in class teaching

She adds, “I thank Wildlife Works for their firm support and urge to embrace education. If it were not for them I could not have managed to go to secondary school.”

The Wildlife Works community is happy to have supported Sophia in her education and wishes her all the best in her future endeavors.

 

* * * * * * * * *

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.

Wildlife Works On-Site Nursery School Gets a Makeover

No matter where you are in the world, playtime at nursery school sounds the same – delighted shrieking and shouting erupts from tiny voices as soon as the kids are let free.

There is no difference here at Wildlife Works’ on-site nursery school, except that recently the chorus has been extra loud (if that’s possible!) because the school has just had a makeover.

kenya, day care, education, ecofactoryWildlife Works nursery school on site in Kenya

Since January 2012, Wildlife Works has provided a nursery school free of charge for our employee’s children aged 2-5 at our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya. This helps kids get an early start in their education and provides free, safe childcare. It is on site within the boundary of our eco-factory and therefore very close to where many of the students’ parents work, giving them peace of mind that their kids are safely looked after while they work. As the nursery teacher Monica Nchekei says, “the nursery eases the burden for parents, and they now don’t worry about kids being at home while they work.”

We recently revamped the classroom space to increase teaching aids and improve the learning environment for the 38 kids currently attending the nursery. The improvements included planting a garden plot for the kids to tend, bringing in more teaching aids such as posters and books, new playtime toys, and general classroom improvements such as pegs to hang up school bags, new chairs, new easels made in our on-site workshop and new naptime mattresses with covers made in our eco-factory.

kenya, day care, education, ecofactoryStudent watering bean seedlings in the new nursery plot before class starts in the morning

Along with the makeover of the space, we also ran a series of art projects with the kids, including painting a beautiful mural on the classroom wall of a tree made out of the students’ tiny handprints, all part of helping to instill a love and appreciation of nature.

kenya, day care, education, ecofactoryStudents proudly showing off their handprint tree mural in the classroom

kenya, day care, education, ecofactorykenya, day care, education, ecofactoryNursery students happily doing an art project of crafting their faces out of paper plates

Teacher Monica comments, “The new materials have been so helpful. The new teaching aids in particular have improved the learning of the kids.” You could see the pure joy in the children’s faces when new things were unwrapped and passed around, whether it was art supplies, mini watering cans or seeing bubbles for the first time.

kenya, day care, education, ecofactoryThe delighted kids show off their new playtime toys

As with most other community events and projects, this school is made possible through working with the community to protect our environment from degradation and deforestation and the sale of carbon credits.

Changing Kenya’s Landscape for Wildlife and Jobseekers

Changing Kenya’s Landscape for Wildlife and Jobseekers

Published in the The Opinion Pages on NY Times

By Amy Yee

JUNE 8, 2016 RUKINGA SANCTUARY, Kenya — Twenty years ago, this wildlife corridor in southern Kenya was in jeopardy. A scarcity of jobs in this impoverished, arid landscape meant people were hunting wild giraffe and antelope for meat, and chopping down trees to make charcoal. With fewer trees, desertification loomed. Water was so precious that local cattle herders lit fires at water holes to keep giraffes and zebras from drinking.

The animals had less vegetation to eat and less forest cover. Cutting down trees combined with poaching decimated wildlife in this 500,000-acre swath of the Kasigau migration corridor, which bisects Tsavo, Kenya’s largest national park. Tsavo, roughly the size of Wales, is home to half the country’s estimated 25,000 elephants.

Mercy Ngaruiya, known as Mama Mercy, is a community leader in the village of Itinyi. “People used to come with buckets of meat,” she said. “Everyone was killing animals. People were cutting trees for charcoal. They said, ‘What else are we going to do for money?’”

Against the odds, things have changed. Illegal tree cutting and poaching have fallen significantly. Previously, rangers from Wildlife Works, the local conservation group that initiated the shift, would find 8,000 wire snares in a year. Last year they found fewer than 300.

In 1998 there were no elephants on the 75,000 acres of Rukinga Sanctuary where Wildlife Works is based, said Rob Dodson, vice president of African operations. Now wildlife has returned. One recent evening, a herd of elephants, including babies, gathered at a water hole during a tranquil sunset. As many as 2,000 elephants live in the corridor, depending on the season; so do zebra, giraffe, buffalo, warthogs and several kinds of antelope, from slender dik-diks to impala. Lions had vanished from the area; now there are about 40, including two males seen lounging by a water hole on a hot Friday afternoon.

Illegal activities haven’t been wiped out. In January, seven elephants were poached for ivory. Every week rangers catch people burning trees to produce charcoal. But forest and wildlife in the Kasigau Corridor have been visibly revitalized by conservation efforts. And poaching has dropped. In the last few years, Wildlife Works hired more unarmed local rangers to supplement the Kenyan Wildlife Service, and in 2014 Kenya toughened its poaching laws. Seventy-six elephants were killed for ivory in the area in 2012, in contrast to 21 last year.

The key to preserving wildlife here is human relationships. Impoverished locals need alternatives to poaching and burning. So Wildlife Works has created hundreds of new jobs, including increasing the number of its rangers sevenfold to 85 in the past few years. (Many are former charcoal burners and poachers themselves.) Critically, this expansion won support for conservation from local elders and villagers, and the organization is now their county’s third-largest employer.

This community development work got a much-needed financial lifeline when Wildlife Works started the world’s first REDD+ project in 2011. REDD+, which stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation,” is an international system to combat climate change by preserving forests. It essentially pays communities in poor countries not to cut down trees.

Three United Nations agencies laid the groundwork for REDD+ in 2008. Gas-guzzling cars are commonly associated with global warming. But deforestation — cutting down trees and releasing the carbon stored in them — contributes 17 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, more than the global transportation industry.

Preserving this swath of forest in the Kasigau Corridor avoids emitting more than 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year for the next 30 years.

Since 2011, Wildlife Works has sold carbon credits and earned millions of dollars shared by landowners, investors, Wildlife Works and the local community. Money for the community finances schools, scholarships, water pipes, reservoirs and other public works that serve 150,000 people. The support was critical for getting the local community to support conservation.

“Now if someone cuts down trees or kills animals, people will report them,” said Mama Mercy.

REDD+ was controversial when it introduced nearly a decade ago. Critics feared fraud, and that the developed world would use carbon credits as an excuse to keep burning fossil fuels instead of curbing them. Supporters said poor countries needed financial incentives to preserve forests rather than cutting them down for fuel, farming and grazing.

At first, locals were also skeptical. Mama Mercy recalled that when people first heard about REDD+ they said, “‘How do we get money from trees? The air? These people are cheating us.’ It was really complicated.”

Educating locals about REDD+ and getting them on board was essential, because REDD+ uses international social auditors to enforce a requirement for informed consent from communities.

From 2009 to 2011, Wildlife Works’ team of local Kenyans met with about 60 elders, chiefs and heads of community councils to explain how the complex project works.

“They thought people were coming to get their land,” said Pascal Kizaka, a retired local chief. “We had to go and talk to them and preach. It took a year and a half to make the people understand.”

Although several tribes live in the area, Swahili is commonly spoken, so language was not a hurdle. Local leaders eventually gave consent to sell carbon credits on behalf of the community.

“People were so desperate,” said Dodson, of Wildife Works. “They had nothing to lose. They said, ‘It sounds mad, but let’s give it a go.’”

The forest was assessed by teams that measured trees in 480 sample plots across Kasigau Corridor. Independent environmental consultants from the United States used analytical software involving 60 algorithms to determine the amount of carbon in the forest.

Results were verified by the environmental audit firms Verified Carbon Standard and Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, both based in Washington. The latter’s social audit includes weeks of meeting with local councils and questioning them independently.

nytimes, amy yee, redd, redd+, climate change, wildlife conservation, forestry conservation

In the early days, critics feared that “carbon credit cowboys” would displace or exploit locals and pocket profits. But setting up and verifying REDD+ is too complicated, expensive and stringent for speculators to make easy money. Rolling out REDD+ cost Wildlife Works about $4 million, each audit costs about $70,000, and verification requires evidence that REDD+ has benefited the community and environment.

The biggest pitfall is managing a multiparty project and building consensus among many community councils. “It’s easy to fail an audit. Getting back on your feet if a project fails is tough,” said Dodson. “Organizationally, it is fraught with danger.”

When Wildlife Works’ REDD+ project was verified, credits were sold on Markit, a London-based financial trading platform. The companies and other organizations that have purchased credits to offset their carbon emissions or fulfill corporate social responsibility policies have included Barclays, BNP Paribas, Allianz, the French postal service La Poste, and Kering, the holding company for Gucci, Saint Laurent and other luxury brands.

Wildlife Works sold $3 million worth of carbon credits in 2012, $2.5 million worth in 2013, and more than $5 million in 2014.

Carbon credit revenues are divided up with one-third going to landowners, roughly another third to Wildlife Works’ projects in Kenya, and the rest divided among the community and Wildlife Works in the United States, including its investors.

Community councils most commonly decide to use their shares for clean water projects or schools.

“People used to go long distances to get water, six kilometers or more,” said 24-year-old Zahira Kastoka, who grew up in Itinyi. Now there are water storage tanks near her home.

“REDD has changed things in so many ways,” she said. Kastoka got a high school scholarship through Wildlife Works, where she now works as an office administrator. Without the grant, her single mother could not have afforded school fees; Kastoka’s older sister had to drop out after fourth grade.

In 1998, few local youths were enrolled in college or in other tertiary institutions; now hundreds are. Over the years, more than 3,200 students have been awarded some $260,000 in high school and higher education scholarships.

For example, Mwolo Muasa, who grew up near Wildlife Works, had to drop out of school after his mother died when he was 10. But a few years later, he got a Wildlife Works scholarship, without which, he says, “I would have ended up a street kid.” Now 29, he helps lead Wildlife Works’ forest plot sampling, having studied environmental science at Kenyatta University in Nairobi.

Carbon credits have also financed precious new jobs. Before REDD, Wildlife Works had 65 employees in 2010. Now it has more than 300 who work in a small garment workshop, greenhouse and tourist lodge and as rangers, mechanics and office staff members. Before carbon credits there were 12 rangers hired from local villages; now the 85-strong force patrols a much larger area.

Wildlife Works was founded in 1997 by Mike Korchinsky, a California-based entrepreneur. While on vacation to Kenya that year, he noticed armed guards aggressively separating wildlife and local people. To create jobs and support the community, he established Rukinga Sanctuary and set up a tourist lodge and clothing workshop with a few employees. Keeping the businesses afloat was difficult.

In 2009, Korchinsky read a magazine article about REDD+ and wondered if Wildlife Works could sell carbon credits. At the time, there was no method with which to measure the carbon in Kasigau’s shrubby drylands forest. So Wildlife Works hired independent environmental consultants to design one.

One challenge today is planning for the future and managing expectations if carbon credit sales slump. In 2015, sales of Wildlife Works’ carbon credits fell to about half that of the previous year. Hesitant buyers were awaiting the outcome of the United Nations’ climate change summit meeting in December.

As a result, there were fewer scholarships. “Some people had to drop out of school,” said Mama Mercy. “Some girls married early. Parents want to educate children but there’s no work.”

“Last year was difficult,” she continued. “We hope this year won’t be the same.”

REDD+ agreements span only 30 years, so it’s uncertain what will happen when the contract expires. Dodson hopes that by then there will be enough economic development and jobs to sustain the community and preserve the forest and wildlife.

Ivo Mulder, the REDD+ green economy adviser for the United Nations Environment Program, said large-scale national initiatives that span entire counties or provinces and better control deforestation are a model for the future.

Worldwide, there are many REDD+ projects. However, the carbon credit market is limited and there are not enough buyers driven by corporate social responsibility. An oversupply of voluntary credits “reduces prices and makes it difficult to make REDD+ projects financially viable,” said Mulder.

Selling carbon credits from large government-backed REDD+ projects to other governments can make a bigger dent in combating global deforestation, though they are complicated to set up.

Nevertheless, the market for carbon credits could grow after 2020, when countries that signed the climate agreement in Paris last December must start reducing emissions. That pact recognizes REDD+ as one way to do that.

Back on the ground in the Kasigau Corridor, this environmental framework has already changed the landscape for flora, fauna and humans alike.

Kizaka, the retired local chief, recalled that big trees sheltering wildlife and cattle were being destroyed every day for charcoal. But now, he said: “If we show you photos before the carbon project and the present situation, the vegetation has changed. It has blossomed.”

From beneath the acacias in the Kenyan bush, one can still see the forest for the trees.

Amy Yee (@amyyeewrites), is a former correspondent for The Financial Times who has written for The New York Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and NPR.

© 2016 The New York Times Company

World Environment Day Celebrations: Go Wild for Life

Happy World Environment Day! Each year this United Nations day is celebrated on 5th June to raise awareness on taking action to protect nature. The 2016 theme was ‘Go Wild for Life’ promoting zero tolerance for the illegal wildlife trade.

World Environment Day parade in Taita Taveta CountyWorld Environment Day parade in Taita Taveta County

Wildlife Works took part in the celebrations in Taita Taveta County in Kenya, where the 2016 theme particularly resonates. Kenya’s wildlife is severely affected by the illegal wildlife trade. It is estimated that each year around 30,000 elephants are killed worldwide as a result of poaching and the illegal ivory trade. Grevy’s Zebra, which are found on our Rukinga Sanctuary in Kenya, are endangered with only around 2,000 remaining in the wild. It is thought that at current poaching rates elephants, rhinos and other iconic African wildlife may be gone within our lifetime.

500 local primary and secondary students participate in a roadside litter pick
world environment day, Kenyaworld environment day, Kenya
world environmental day, KenyaGeorge Thumbi, Wildlife Works employee, links arms with students in the World Environment Day parade

The World Environment Day celebration in Kenya included a roadside litter pick and parade by 500 local primary and secondary school students, tree planting and speeches by notable figures from local government, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forestry Service, World Vision and Wildlife Works. The day centered on urging young people to take action and ownership of their wildlife heritage. George Thumbi, Wildlife Works Greenhouse Manager, spoke about our efforts to prevent poaching and protect habitat in the area.

world environment day, KenyaGeorge Thumbi, Wildlife Works employee, speaks about Wildlife Works efforts to prevent poaching and protect habitat

Arika Michael, Assistant County Commissioner, said, “children are agents of change. It is critical that we instill environmental conservation in young minds. Our wildlife is our heritage.”

If you would like to take action to commemorate the 2016 World Environment Day, offset your carbon through Wildlife Works. You can be a part of the solution by protecting threatened forests and the wildlife that call them home… Help them go wild for life!

Assistant Director of Kenya Wildlife Service planting a tree seedlingAssistant Director of Kenya Wildlife Service planting a tree seedling

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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.

Miasenyi Secondary School Gets Conservation Education Tour and Safari

Part of Wildlife Works community empowerment strategy includes ensuring that underprivileged students get the chance to view their beautiful ecosystem and see wildlife in its natural habitat. Since March 2015, the Wildlife Works Community Relations Department at our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya has been running an education program for local students to tour the Wildlife Works diverse operations, learn about conservation at our Tsavo Discovery Center and experience wildlife firsthand.

Since the program started just over a year ago, over 25 schools have participated, bringing over 750 students through our curriculum. The aim is to eventually reach 80 schools in the area.

On 20th May 2016, Wildlife Works ran a trip for top performing students enrolled at Miasenyi Secondary School to attend one of our learning tours and safaris at Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary. There were 28 students and two teachers making a total of 30 that visited the site from the school.

On their arrival at Wildlife Works, the students had the chance to interact with and learn from many of the departments such as: greenhouse, screen printing, eco factory, workshop and soap factory in a fun, interactive way.

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsMiasenyi Secondary School students getting a tour of the greenhouse

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephants, eco factory, fair trade fashionStudents getting a tour of the eco factory

The students were later taken out on a game drive across the Sanctuary in the enormous 1962 French ‘Berliet’ Truck, now baptized ‘Beba Kuu’. From the height of this ultimate discovery vehicle, we spotted a whole herd of buffalo at the edge of a watering hole, a family of elephants including several young, many antelope species from one of the smallest (dik-dik) to the largest (eland), a few zebra, giraffe and warthogs which scuttled across the road in front of ‘Beba Kuu’.

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsStudents aboard ‘Beba Kuu’ start their safari

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsStudents looking out for game at the watering hole

The students were very excited at having seen so many different animals in their natural habitat, and all stood up in their seats pointing every time we came across a new species. You could feel their anxiety when seeing wildlife like buffalo and elephants during the trip.

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsFamily of elephants spotted on the safari drive

The group also stopped at the Tsavo Discovery Center, an education center and eco lodge located between Tsavo East and West National Parks. Here, the students had a chance to visit the science lab and museum to learn about different animal skulls, amphibians, insects, and also the terrible consequences of poaching.

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsChecking out the museum at the Tsavo Discovery Center

Most rural schools in Kenya cannot afford to take their students on educational fieldtrips and most families cannot afford to pay extra funds to support extracurricular activities, therefore these trips that Wildlife Works has been running are critical for local youth to learn about and appreciate their environment.

You could feel the excitement from the Miasenyi students on the trip especially when they caught their first glimpses of wildlife, and they left promising to be part of wildlife and environmental conservation.

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsHappy Miasenyi Secondary School students at the end of the day

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.