Category Archives: Women

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.

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.

tabletop banking, kenya, women

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.

table banking, micro financing, kenya, women

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.

table banking, micro financing, kenya, women

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.

table banking, micro financing, kenya, women

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

 

Fair Trade USA Certification – One Year On

The Wildlife Works’ factory, on the edge of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, became Fair Trade USA certified in the spring of 2015. We were the first carbon neutral, fair trade factory in Africa! Now, just over a year later, we have been producing Fair Trade USA certified garments for clients around the world, such as Threads for Thought.

Our factory was founded in 2001 on ethical and fair trade policies – back before the fashion industry even had the words to describe sustainable fashion. Buying ethically made clothing is a meaningful way to vote with your dollar for a healthier planet and happier people. Buying Fair Trade USA certified is a way to transparently track the supply chain of your clothes. Our factory in Kenya produces quality made garments that support the local rural population and protect wildlife and trees.

One of the most significant benefits of producing Fair Trade USA that makes a real impact on workers lives is the Fair Trade USA ‘premium’. The premium is 1%-10% of the manufactured price of a garment that the client pays directly into a factory worker’s fund. A democratically elected committee of workers, who collectively decide how to use the money, manages this fund.

Fair Trade USAA meeting of the Wildlife Works’ Fair Trade USA Committee of factory employees to discuss Fair Trade USA matters

Thanks to the vision of our fashion clients and the commitment of their buyers, this money helps to further local empowerment and economic development and has made a big impact on the lives of our workers in rural Kenya. Our workers have used their Fair Trade USA premium money (which to date is a total of around $130 per employee) for things such as paying off school fees for their children, growing or starting small side enterprises and improving their living standards to have luxuries such as electricity and running water.

Read some of the inspiring stories of our fair trade workers here.

fair trade usaElipina
Elipina Wakio is a helper in our factory. Elipina is a single parent and has two children in primary school. With nearly half of this money, she bought six bags of cement to plaster the floor of her house that was previously just a dirt floor. The rest went to clearing her children’s school fees and purchasing new school uniforms for them, clearing her water bill and buying food. “Fair Trade USA orders give me the morale to put more perfection and energy into my work bearing in mind that I will benefit financially at the end of it,” Elipina commented.

Fair Trade USAFestus
Festus Mutua, a sewing machine operator, started working with Wildlife Works in 2011. He is married and has four children, three of whom are already married and one who is in high school. Festus spent his Fair Trade premium money on clearing school fees for his youngest son and boosting his wife’s local boutique business. With the rest of the money he purchased two female goats in order to start a small goat milk business on the side to supplement his income from working in the Wildlife Works’ factory. “I’m so happy being part of Fair Trade USA and I’m grateful to the financial support that I’m benefiting from,” he says.

Fair Trade USAHalima
Halima Chaka is a sewing machine operator who started working with us in 2011. She has six children who are all still in school. Nearly three-quarters of her Fair Trade premium has gone to opening a business in the local village where she sells vegetables, clothes, food, and household goods. With her remaining money, Halima cleared school fees for all of her children. “I’m so grateful for the financial support I have got from Fair Trade USA and it is my wish that these orders come in more frequently!” She added.

Fair Trade USAElipina
Elipina Sezi is a machinist who started working with us in 2012, married and has two children who are both in school. Elipina is a hardworking woman. With her Fair Trade USA money, she has renovated her home bringing to it modern standards of living such as adding electricity and water plumbing. She wishes to have more orders from Fair Trade as it helps her to continue home improvements for her family.

Community
With the last Fair Trade USA order, the Wildlife Works’ Fair Trade USA Committee voted to divide the premium money between themselves and community projects. 75% went equally between the employees and the remaining 25% is earmarked to buy new school uniforms for two local primary schools in the Wildlife Works’ project area – Marasyi and Itinyi. Alfred Karisa, President of the Fair Trade USA Committee, commented, “I want to say thank you to the concerned people who are Fair Trade USA customers. This gives everyone in the factory extra income but also helps us raise the standards of living for our community. Our only wish is that more people chose Fair Trade USA.”

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.

Agriculture Mentor Program for Local Community Groups

Wildlife Works runs an organic greenhouse on-site at our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya. Here, we raise indigenous tree seedlings that we donate to the community to help reforestation efforts as well as test growing techniques for local growing conditions. One of our main objectives is to run tours and training for anyone who wants to learn alternative methods for growing in the semi-arid, drought conditions of the Tsavo region.

Some of the best practice growing methods we teach include water conservation through techniques such as vertical farming (where water trickles vertically down a pod watering more plants rather than draining away into the soil) and introducing people to crops that grow suitably in the local soil and with minimal water. Through this training, we hope to encourage activities that reduce reliance on traditional slash and burn agriculture and assist with water conservation.

In the past year, Wildlife Works has expanded this agriculture mentoring work into supporting several local women’s groups in setting up their own greenhouses within surrounding communities. Two new community greenhouses are now up and running in the villages of Marungu and Bungule where women are growing tomatoes, spinach, beans and more to sell. Wildlife Works’ role was in managing arrangements with suppliers, advising on crop planning and best practice, providing labor for and supervising the building process, nurturing seedlings for planting, and, in the Bungule village case, securing funding.

greeenhouseGeorge Thumbi, Wildlife Works Greenhouse Manager, helps install irrigation

greenhouseWildlife Works employee connects a water barrel on site

greenhouseCompleted greenhouse in the village of Bungule

greenhouseGeorge advising local women on best practice growing techniques

This work is part of Wildlife Works’ efforts to increase the capacity of local communities for self-sufficiency and get them away from depleting the forest.

 

* * * * * * * * *

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.

Reproductive Health Education and Support for Wildlife Works Communities

Within the captivating yet isolated hills of Sagalla, Taita Taveta County, Kenya, 20 women and two men came together to form a self-help group with the objective of improving reproductive health. Rauka Reproductive Health Group meets at the Sagalla Health Centre under the auspices of the Sagalla community health unit.

reproductive healthMembers of Reproductive Health Group

Hygiene is a common concern for people living in poverty in developing nations. Rauka Reproductive Health Group felt the need to address issues that are related to reproductive hygiene, especially menstruation hygiene, to assist women and girls in the area. With this initiative, the group has been able to reduce traditional birth deliveries where now pregnant mothers are escorted to health facilities for safe delivery. This helps to prevent mother-to-child transmission of diseases, particularly HIV. The group also has home-based care where they conduct home visits to HIV patients to ensure individuals take their medication.

reproductive healthMembers of the group making reusable sanitary towels

Wildlife Works supports local health groups in various ways to improve the health status of local people. For example, a major challenge facing Rauka Reproductive Health Group is insufficient raw materials. We provide a solution by providing scraps from our eco factory for this group to make affordable, reusable sanitary towels to help those who cannot afford disposable sanitary pads.

reproductive health Wildlife Works community relations officer, Emily Mwawasi giving out scraps to the group

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.

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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

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.