Tag Archives: forestry conservation

Kenya Airways and Wildlife Works allow you to travel the world while protecting the environment

Kenya Airways has teamed up with Wildlife Works to allow passengers to offset the carbon emissions from every flight. To help spread the word, Kenya Airways has included Wildlife Works in their in-flight magazine. The following is extracted from the feature in Msafiri magazine:

 

Each time you travel with Kenya Airways, the airline gives you the option to offset the environmental cost of your flight simply by checking a box, and know that you can enjoy seeing the world and help to safeguard the future of the planet at the same time. Choosing to voluntarily offset the carbon emissions produced by your flight is a credible IATA (International Air Transport Association) approved way to take responsibility for unavoidable carbon emissions.

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How it works:

When you book your flight, the inbuilt IATA carbon calculator works out the level of emissions for the flight, based on real airline data, actual fuel burn and travel class, and taking into consideration the load factor, passenger weight and belly cargo for a given journey. Passengers can then voluntarily pay to offset their individual flight. If you’ve forgotten and want to offset your flight on landing, just visit www.climatecare.org.

The KQ offsetting programme was developed in conjuncture with IATA and climate and development experts ClimateCare. Together they ensure that payments made by passengers are directed to support initiatives that protect the environment and improve lives, in this case, a groundbreaking project in Kenya that protects threatened forests, provides a home to multiple species of endangered wildlife and uplifts an impoverished rural community.

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Left: Hannah, Kasigau Basket Weaving Group. Right: Women planting seedlings; Rangers at work; Three generations of elephants; Children at school, Women working in a textile factory.

“The Basket Weavers formed in 2004. Our objectives were to improve the livelihood of women and improve the education standards for our kids and families. We aim to generate money to buy food (the area is too dry to grow crops). We weave together and sell the baskets at local markets. We can now pay for our children’s education, which for women is amazing. Some of our children have even gone to secondary school.” – Hannah, Kasigau Basket Weaving Group

A Landmark Project:

The project was developed by Wildlife Works, the world’s leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) project development and management company, who take a unique approach to the conservation of forests and biodiversity. REDD+ is a United Nations-envisaged climate change mitigation initiative that aims to save the world’s threatened forests. In 2011 Wildlife Works’ landmark Kasigau Corridor project became the world’s first REDD+ project to be validated and verified under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard (CCB) and was awarded the additional distinction of Gold Level status by the CCB for exceptional biodiversity and climate benefits.

The World’s Lungs:

The importance of saving the world’s forests cannot be underestimated. Deforestation now accounts for around 20% of all emissions globally – more than the entire transport sector! Forests are vital to the world’s ecosystem, not only for the people who live in and around them, but also the global community. As well as removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere forests support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people, regulate weather patterns including rainfall, provide a home to over half of the earth’s biodiversity and are the origins of many essential medicines and foods. Given all of these factors, it is particularly worrying that forests are disappearing at a rate of 35 million acres per year, and as a result deforestation produces 7 billion tons of CO2 that go into the atmosphere, making deforestation a lead cause of global warming. The climate cannot be stabilized without protecting the world’s threatened forests.

Kenya Airways are very proud of their Voluntary Carbon Offset programme, because it allows customers to voluntarily support a crucially important local project, as well as mitigating the environmental impact of their flights. Located between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, the Kasigau Corridor acts as a vital wildlife passageway for a fantastic diversity of over 50 species of large mammals, more than 300 species of birds and important populations of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List endangered and vulnerable species, including Grevy’s zebras, cheetahs, lions, African wild dogs and African elephants. The project protects over 500,000 acres of threatened forest and brings the benefits of the carbon credits bought by companies like KQ to more than 100,000 people in the local communities.

Photos clockwise from top: Chief Kizaka of Kasigau; Joel, Plot Sampling Team; Eric, Head Ranger; and Joseph, Wildlife Works Community Liaison Officer.

Photos clockwise from top: Chief Kizaka of Kasigau; Joel, Plot Sampling Team; Eric, Head Ranger; and Joseph, Wildlife Works Community Liaison Officer.

“REDD+ brings a positive change to our region with real and direct solutions for poverty alleviation that will uplift our community. This is not charity. Carbon money helps us meet basic needs and improve our lifestyle. The money is earned through conservation activities that afford us the ability to protect our environment.” – Chief Kizaka of Kasigau

“Our job benefits the whole world and leads to reduced emissions globally. We all benefit from protecting the environment. Our animals are protected and our health is improved because we can provide financially for our families. This project should set an example for the rest of the world. We want it to be copied globally and help future generations.” – Joel, Plot Sampling Team

“My aim of joining Wildlife Works was always to be in the bush, as I love trees, animals and conservation and wanted to protect my environment. My father inspired me to aim for this as he worked for the Kenya police. From the moment I knew about Wildlife Works I wanted to join. Now I have my dream job. I love what I do, even the many challenges.” – Eric, Head Ranger and Wildlife Works employee since 2002.

“In Africa, children are told from the start that school is fundamental to life, so you always push for it. We believe educaton is the only thing that can save families. Our parents put a lot of pressure on us to succeed and to be better, so that we can push our lives and our country forward. My parents truly made a lot of sacrifices for me to go to school, but their dream has always been for me to get an education with the end goal of getting a job. They paid for my primary and secondary school and now I pay for both my sisters’ university fees and mine with my job at Wildlife Works.” – Joseph, University student and Wildlife Works Community Liaison Officer.

A Long History in Kenya:

Wildlife Works is no stranger to Kenya, having first arrived over 17 years ago in this very community. Whilst on holiday in the area, founder Mike Korchinsky was shocked to see how local people were forced to destroy their environment to survive. Cattle had grazed the fields into dust and there was little incentive to combat the outside forces that came to kill the elephants for their ivory and slaughter other wildlife for the bush meat trade. 17 years ago it was rare to see any large mammals at all.

Mike witnessed the human-wildlife conflict and decided to dedicate his life to tackling this problem implementing some novel conservation ideas. The first and most vital was community engagement through the creation of wildlife-friendly jobs. This provides people with a viable economic alternative to destroying habitat for farming or killing wildlife for meat or money. With the communities’ support, Wildlife Works employed local people as rangers and forged a partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service to keep outsiders from killing the wildllife. The aim was to find a solution where local communities want to protect the environment because it works for them, hence the name Wildlife Works.

Job Creation:

The team started out by setting up a T-shirt factory in the heart of the project area. The eco-factory originally hired seven local women, but has grown to employ over 75 members of the community. The staff members are proud to produce beautiful garments under the Wildlife Works label, all carbon-neutral and made from organic and fair-trade cotton. They also create garments for Puma.

Many new job-creating activities have since been set up to address other social and economic needs of the local community providing over 400 members of the local community with jobs including conservation rangers, horticulturalists, teachers, carbon monitors, construction workers, community liaison staff and administrative personnel. Wildlife Works sees empowering local people with sustainable livelihoods as the key to protecting the forest in the long-term, and uses part of the proceeds from carbon offset sales to fund entrepreneurship activities and support various local social groups. The carbon offset programme also funds a community trust from which the community makes investments in other projects of critical importance to them.

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Mama Mercy, Founder of the Imani Women’s Group

“Women are supported by Wildlife Works, and this is particularly important, as women are the ambassadors of change. Previously, some of the biggest problems were people cutting down trees for charcoal and killing animals for bush meat. Now, it is very rare to see people doing this. We understand that eco-tourism is very important to our community, so it is necessary to protect the wildlife that people come to see. With over 400 people employed by Wildlife Works, there is a viable alternative with an incentive to protect our environment.” – Mama Mercy, Founder of the Imani Women’s Group

Supporting the Local Communities:

Illegal charcoal production is one of the main causes of deforestation in the area and indeed throughout Eastern Africa, so Wildlife Works has set up a sustainable charcoal production facility. Here, twigs and sticks no thicker than a finger are pruned from specific trees in certain areas, burned to char in barrels, and then compressed into bricks that burn more efficiently and at no cost to the nearby forests. This process directly addresses deforestation in the area and creates a viable economic alternative through a small enterprise business opportunity.

Lack of water is another major underlying cause of deforestation and poverty in this region, and it lies at the heart of many other nutrition and health issues. Families who are unable to produce a crop on one plot of land because of dry soil will cut down a neighboring area of forest in hope that the next plot of land will provide a better harvest. Wildlife Works has therefore set up a number of agricultural intensificaton programmes and repaired and built several projects that improve access to water. The Sasenyi Rock Catchment, for example, was completed earlier this year and now provides water for up to 8000 people on a daily basis. Women and children no longer have to walk many miles and waste hours on a daily basis in search of water, so their time can be better spent looking for alternative income-generating activities and attending school. With better quality water, the health and hygiene of local families is greatly enhanced.

It is not just the local people that receive help: Wildlife Works has a vast area of animals and birds to look after. Since they have been in Africa, the team has witnessed firsthand the increase in ivory poachers. Over 100 brave rangers diligently patrol the project area unarmed, and regularly come face to face with sophisticated gangs who kill the elephants and sell the ivory to satisfy demand for religious icons, trinkets and jewelry.

It is vital that we all support the next generation of Kenyans. Children in the Kasigau Corrdinor projcect area now the importance of school and highly value education. They are fiercly ambitious, having seen how much their parents have to sacrifice to pay their school fees and having witnessed how education and a job can truly transform quality of life. Prior to this project, it was very rare for students to attend university. Last year alone, Wildlife Works funded more than 1800 promising young Kenyans into secondary school, college and university, and have built and renovated over 20 local classrooms.

“Projects like the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ exist and thrive thanks to the support of people like you, who choose to offset their emissions with projects that protect the environment and improve lives,” explains ClimateCare Director Edward Hanrahan. “This offset scheme gives you a chance to participate and support a project that proves rural communities can sustainably grow, change, improve, and create the future they want while protecting precious environment and wildlife.”

If you are a corporate leader or would like your company to reduce unavoidable emissions, please get in touch: contactus@wildlifeworks.com.

Wildlife Works Voted Best Project Developer in Forestry

Wildlife Works Carbon LLC was voted best project developer in the forestry category of Environmental Finance and Carbon Finance Magazine’s Voluntary Carbon Market Rankings 2013. The first prize honor was decided through a vote of more than 700 members of the voluntary carbon trade.

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The industry rankings recognized the pioneering achievements of Wildlife Works’ REDD+ projects in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where Wildlife Works currently manages the protection of 1.2M acres of threatened forest that generates 5M tonnes of REDD+ carbon credits on behalf of landowners and 150K people from the local communities.

REDD+, an acronym for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, is an essential climate change mitigation strategy envisioned by the United Nations designed to help stop the destruction of the world’s forests. The “+” represents economic alternatives that provide numerous benefits to local communities who are engaged to participate in protecting their forest for an initial period of 30 years.

According to Mike Korchinsky, Founder and CEO Wildlife Works, “We attribute our success in this year’s rankings by focusing on doing the right thing – no matter how challenging – to ensure REDD+ remains true to its promise to make standing forests more valuable alive than dead for the benefit of forest communities, forest governments and for the planet.”

Korchinsky went on to say, “The way to protect threatened forests is through community engagement where local people receive multiple benefits through conservation-related jobs.”

Each year, 7B tonnes of C02 are released into the atmosphere as 35M acres of forest are destroyed due to slash and burn agriculture, legal and illegal logging and charcoal production. Deforestation accounts for approximately 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming. Climate scientists broadly agree that the environment cannot be stabilized without protecting threatened forests.

Protecting threatened forests under a REDD+ program generates offsets or carbon credits that when sold, pay for the cost to leave a forest standing instead of going up in smoke. These REDD+ offsets can be used by companies to counterbalance their unavoidable emissions.

Notable corporations who reduce unavoidable emissions through support of Wildlife Works REDD+ projects include; Microsoft, Allianz, UPS, La Poste, Kering (Gucci, YSL, PUMA…) Barclay’s Bank, BNP Paribas and Marks & Spencer.

Proceeds from the sale of Wildlife Works REDD+ carbon credits are shared with landowners and the local community. “We have established a sustainable and scalable business model that delivers unprecedented environmental and social benefits to seriously impoverished parts of Africa and the world that are in need of the transformational change that Wildlife Works REDD+ projects can bring,” said Korchinsky.

Community members work as seamstresses making organic cotton T-shirts in the Wildlife Works eco-factory

 

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In addition to winning first place in the forestry category, Wildlife Works won second place for Best Project Developer in the overall category that included developers in renewable energy, energy efficiency, forestry and health.

Wildlife Works looks to the birds to better understand climate change

As part of a long-term study to determine whether climate change is affecting bird populations, a Wildlife Works team hiked up Mt. Kasigau in Southeast Kenya to monitor the local wildlife and collect data on the many species of native and migratory birds. Wildlife Works has been conducting these expeditions three times per year for the past two years. The thinking behind this, is that global warming could cause birds to abandon their natural homes and move higher up the mountain or perish.

Mt. Kasigau

Mt. Kasigau

Hiking up Mt. Kasigau’s iconic humpback outcrop to conduct a bird monitoring expedition is no simple matter. A small team traveling at a leisurely pace with no luggage could reach the top of Mt. Kasigau in roughly 3 hours, but when you add bird-ringing equipment, bamboo poles, mist nets and camping equipment the journey becomes much more cumbersome.

The Wildlife Works team began their climb from the foothills of a small village called Kiteghe and set up four ringing stations from the mountain’s base to its peak.

Bird ringing, also known as bird banding, is a technique used in the study of wild birds by attaching a small, individually numbered tag to a bird’s wing or leg so that various aspects of the bird’s life can be measured and studied. Ornithologists use the tags to identify the same bird over a period of time and gain information on migration patterns, population studies, feeding behavior, territoriality and more.

Wild birds are carefully captured in mist nets, which are typically made of a fine nylon mesh suspended between two poles and resemble oversized volleyball nets, and fitted with a lightweight ring of suitable size. The rings are designed to have no adverse effect on the birds, in fact the whole basis of using rings to gather data is that ringed birds behave identically in all respects as the non-ringed population.

Eurasian Scops Owl

Eurasian Scops Owl

The Wildlife Works team began their first day by setting up 12-meter nets at the base of Mt. Kasigau at 6:00 in the morning, ringing birds until noon, and packed up the equipment to travel up the mountain to the next station. For over a week the team carefully caught, ringed and released a total of 119 birds of 25 different species.

During this expedition the team got to see Nightingales, Eurasian Scops Owls and Spotted Flycatchers, which all migrate to Africa from Europe. They caught many Plain Nightjars and Ashy Flycatchers, which are species native to Kenya. The highlight of the season was seeing a huge number of fledged young chicks wearing their very first coats of un-molted feathers!

Peters's Twinspot

Peters’s Twinspot

According to our Wildlife Works’ team, any changes will take place over a period of ten years, so it is important that we continue to collect data. In the meantime, this research is a great indicator of biodiversity levels on Mt. Kasigau. We will continue to study the wildlife in and around our REDD+ project area, and continue to fight against climate change.

Students from Marungu Secondary School take a walk on the wildlife side

Part of Wildlife Works’ community enrichment strategy includes ensuring that underprivileged students get a chance to view their beautiful ecosystems and see wildlife in their natural habitat.

Students in rural areas do not enjoy the comforts and opportunities that the more privileged students in urban areas regularly experience. The schools surrounding Rukinga, including the Marungu Secondary School, are located almost two hours inland from Mombasa, deep in the Kenyan bush. Students at Marungu are boarded for four years, and many of them never get the opportunity to travel or visit the most picturesque parts of Kenya.

Last month, the Wildlife Works’ Human Resources Department organized a group of 30 Form Four students and two teachers from the Marungu Secondary School to travel to the Wildlife Works’ student camp for a wildlife conservation expedition! The event took place a few days after students had finished their national examinations and holiday break had already begun.

The participants traveled from their respective homes to their school compound at 4:00 p.m. where they were picked up by four Wildlife Works’ Land Cruisers and driven to their accommodations at “Camp Kenya.”

Wildlife Works’ Human Resources Manager Laurian Lenjo, Community Relation Officer Joseph Mwakima and Environmental Officer James Mwangongo welcomed the students to camp and filled everyone in on the adventures that lay ahead of them over the next two days.

After supper on the first night, the core organizers spoke to the students about carbon awareness and the importance of planting trees. Mr. Mwangongo encouraged students to take this new information home, plant trees in their neighborhoods and educate their community about conservation. Mr. Mwakima gave a motivational speech in which he encouraged students to wait for their exam results, with a promise that if they performed very well Wildlife Works would sponsor them on their next tertiary school level.

On the second day, students watched a film about the importance of conservation, then put their new knowledge to action and planted five trees. Finally, the group went for a game drive where they spotted beautiful wild animals including elephants, zebras, giraffes and lions.

Mr. Lenjo said, “[We came up] with this activity for the students who have been studying hard for four years, and are unable to [afford to go] on any trips. [We want them] to be exposed to the environment and what it offers in terms of flora and fauna. This also puts them in a position to make better career choices if they are confused about which field to venture into after [getting] their results. We are always happy to expose them to new things and give them something to ponder career-wise.”

Growing Responsibly Through the Use of Sustainable Material and Means

The battle between development and environmental conservation can often be a fierce one.  With the natural progression towards growth, the environment is often left tattered in the wake.

Wildlife Works has certainly grown in the last few years, and will hopefully continue to do so. We’ve increased the number of jobs in the local area twofold from a year ago. We are very aware of the effects of development on the environment, which is why we’ve opted to use simple, eco-friendly architecture wherever we can.

The newest sector in the company requires a base from which they can run their field operations. The concept of their new building involves using traditional architecture from the local community. The construction of circular buildings (‘rondavels’) is carried out using the “Finniemore” technology which involves an extremely simple “rammed earth” method.

The “Rammed Earth” Method is Used to Construct the Walls

“Rammed earth” compacts the soil excavated on site, thereby dramatically reducing the need to import materials. Why? There is no stabilising compound needed as long as the footings are well drained. Once the roof is in place, voila! It stands up to the test of time!

Once the outer walls have been constructed, another rammed earth construction method is used to build the interior dividing walls. These blocks are compressed in a simple hand-operated machine which produces Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks, more commonly known as ISSB. Three unskilled labourers are able to use this machine and create either curved or straight blocks. The shape of the blocks allows them to interlock, meaning that there is no need for a cement mortar between courses. This method is not only cheaper than buying, transporting and installing a plastic tank from a large corporation, but is also longer lasting and increases employment of local unskilled labourers, as well as further reducing imports.

The roofing for the research centre is made from the coastal-style Makuti, which is the same roofing style we used in our dining area, as described in our previous blog entry. The Makuti sections (coconut leaflets wound over the mid rib of the coconut leaf) are often made by mothers and grandmothers, while they sit on their stoops watching over their children and chickens. Not only is this a great roofing method that keeps the building cool, which is ideal for housing and meeting areas, it also provides a small additional income for Kenyan women in their own homes. During their spare time, the women are able to convert a by-product of a tree found locally into something useful for extra income.

Makuti roofs are all natural and sustainable, and they create local jobs and decrease the importation of alternatives such as metal and other non-compostable materials.

Wildlife Works Research Center Close to Completion

The Wildlife Works team is very happy with the construction so far! We are always on the lookout to use materials that are as local and sustainable as possible. We appreciate methods that create jobs and increase the skills of the local population. If you know of any innovative ideas that you believe will work in the area, then please do not hesitate to contact us.

Restoring Rukinga

Rukinga, the home of Wildlife Works in Kenya, has seen many human-influenced changes to its landscape. Once a pristine wilderness with a small hunter-gatherer population, the last century or so has been witness to a depletion of natural resources due to an increase in population and the transformation into a cattle ranch. Now, Wildlife Works is working with the people of Rukinga to restore the land to its former glory as a paradise for a huge range of fauna and flora.

Up close and personal with an acacia tree.

The end of the 19th century saw the construction of the Mombasa-Uganda railway, which runs within a kilometre of the north-eastern boundary of the wildlife sanctuary. Throughout the construction, an abundance of resources, such as trees was stripped away from the land to fuel the construction of the “Iron Snake”, which is what the locals called the railway at the time. Due to its new-found accessibility, the land was then used as prime hunting ground for many years, dramatically reducing the wildlife in the area. After its hunting heyday, the land was left more open to cattle herders before being converted into Rukinga Ranch in 1972.

As well as losing the majority of the wildlife, the failing cattle ranch slowly lost a good share of trees to charcoal production, and parts of the land were severely degraded by overgrazing until Wildlife Works took over in 1998. For more than a decade, Wildlife Works has been steadily restoring this cattle ranch back into a haven for wildlife. Cleaning up and regenerating Rukinga is part of the key to the balance of the area, as it is one of the ranches that make up the Kasigau Corridor, a crucial wildlife corridor between two of Kenya’s National Parks: Tsavo East and Tsavo West.

Aerial view of our surrounding protection area.

The first steps in the restoration process were to remove the cattle enclosures, unwanted fences, the cattle dips, and decaying water butts that were dotted throughout the 80,000 acres of Rukinga. Also, the massive amounts of rubbish, such as old tires, unused piping and metal barrels, that appeared everywhere needed to be removed. Along with cleaning up the wildlife sanctuary, Wildlife Works and the local community are working to reforest the degraded areas of Rukinga by planting indigenous hardwood trees. The team has now decided to take their regenerating efforts one step further from planting indigenous trees to removing invasive plant species.

First, in the metaphorical cross-hairs, is Opuntia engelmannii – a spiky cactus introduced from Mexico and the southern states by colonists.

Small clusters of Opuntia – How big your spines are!

Opuntia was planted on many ranches and farms in Kenya to create dense hedgerows which were sometimes used to protect cattle from predators. It was also used around the outside of houses for ornamental purposes, as well as to help prevent unwanted visitors at your window! It was popular because it grows quickly, is resilient, and is fairly efficient as a barrier due to its one-inch-long spines growing from its pads. After spreading from the Marungu Hills at the north-east of the ranch, the cactus is now growing all over Rukinga which prevents indigenous shrubs from growing.

There are several stages in the removal of Opuntia engelmannii, which grow in clusters. First, the plants are cut down and then cut into smaller pieces, after which herbicide is carefully applied to the stumps.

Bernard and Rob painting herbicide on the stumps

The shredded remains of the plant are placed in a hole two feet deep and buried. Opuntia, however, continues to fight every step along the way, and the properties that made Opuntia useful on farms are some of the reasons why it is so incredibly difficult to prevent it from propagating – let alone removing it completely! So, the biggest issue with Opuntia is its incredible ability to grow back after being cut down, and not just from the roots, but also from pads that may have dropped or have been removed from the plant. This means that when cutting down the cactus, you have to be very meticulous and pick up every piece of the plant, as well as very efficient at painting herbicide on every part of the remaining root.

As mentioned earlier, Opuntia grows quickly, which is why we have taken the GPS coordinates of each cluster, and they are checked on a regular basis to ensure we are curbing any regrowth. This may sound extreme, but it is necessary if we are to ensure it is removed from the wildlife sanctuary.

Opuntia regenerating from a small, fallen and broken pad

At the moment, the road seems long when it comes to envisioning an Opuntia-free Rukinga. We are constantly trying new methods of removing it as environmentally-friendly and efficiently as possible. In the meantime, we are finding methods in which to use the Opuntia that we are cutting down in various ways that help to restore the sanctuary and benefit the community at the same time. But that’s another story…

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.