Nature Champions: Mt. Kenya Biodiversity Conservation Group (Mt. Kebio)

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are now part of a new, broader definition of sites critically important for the conservation of biodiversity: Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). All 67 IBAs in Kenya qualify as KBAs. Local environmental groups play a key role in protecting Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) when they become a site support group (SSG).

Mt. Kenya Biodiversity Conservation Group (Mt. Kebio) is the Mt. Kenya forest KBA site support group. Formed in 1999, Mt. Kebio was registered by the Department of Social Services as a community based organization (CBO) in 2004. The need to conserve the environment from which group members earned a living from was the main force behind its registration, with deforestation, solid waste pollution, poaching and charcoal burning as some of the group’s immediate concerns. Most Mt. Kebio members are registered mountain guides, porters and cooks operating within Mt. Kenya. These members earn a living from the mountain, by providing their services to visitors and mountaineers.

The group has been engaged in a number of activities geared towards fulfilling its conservation agenda, including tree planting, environmental awareness, ecotourism and garbage collection. Mt. Kebio organizes bird watching trips every last Saturday of the month, drawing local and international bird enthusiasts. The group holds annual clean ups exercises in towns in the Mt. Kenya area, and distributes environmental reading material provided by Nature Kenya to the local people.

Mt. Kebio manages the Mt. Kenya eco-resource centre located at Naro Moru. The centre has a library, a mini museum, conference facilities, binoculars and guidebooks, and camping ground for ecotourism.

Visting Mt. Kenya? Contact Mt. Kebio at mtkebio@yahoo.com

or Martin Njogu martinnjogu87@gmail.com

Mobile: 0724 690121

Quick response averts poisoning deaths

Poisoning still remains a major threat to wildlife conservation. Efforts undertaken by conservation stakeholders have ensured that communities are more vigilant and quicker in reporting wildlife poisoning cases. A recent occurrence in Maasai Mara is a testimony of how community rapid response to poisoning incidents can prevent secondary wildlife deaths.

In August, a local community member came across a dead hyena at the border of Olare Motorogi Conservancy in the Maasai Mara area. Suspecting the hyena had died of poisoning, he instantly reported the incident. A rapid response team was immediately dispatched to the scene to inspect the carcass. Upon examination, it was confirmed the hyena had indeed died of poisoning. The carcass was then safely disposed of and the scene decontaminated.  Timely reporting of the incident meant there were no resultant vulture deaths.

Poisoning is the biggest threat to Africa’s vultures, accounting for 60% of their deaths. Seven of Africa’s 11 vulture species now face imminent extinction, with their decline being alarmingly rapid: a plummet of 80-97% over just three generations. Four out of the seven species are now listed as Critically Endangered.

 Preventing Poisoning to Save Africa’s Vultures’ is financed by BAND Foundation and jointly implemented by Nature Kenya, The Peregrine Fund and BirdLife International. This work in Kenya is also supported as part of a programme to tackle vulture poisoning running jointly across Kenya, Botswana and Zimbabwe, funded by Fondation Segré.

Working to safeguard Nature

At the AGM in May, a member asked the question: What do Nature Kenya’s projects do? A summary of major project activities is given below:

Nature Kenya’s work to conserve biodiversity focuses on Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). Key Biodiversity Areas in Kenya were first identified as IBAs (Important Bird Areas). Nature Kenya takes practical action by working with and for people – to improve their quality of life as they conserve nature. Nature Kenya collaborates with others wherever possible, at local, national, regional or global levels, linking with community groups, governments, businesses, universities and civil society groups to maximize conservation impacts.

Habitat Conservation

In Tana River Delta and Yala Swamp, two of Kenya’s most important wetlands at opposite ends of the country, Nature Kenya has been championing for better planning of developments in the wetlands to minimize biodiversity loss.

The Tana River Delta KBA is designated as a wetland of international importance (Ramsar site) and is one of the most important wetlands in Africa. In 2011, Nature Kenya led a collaborative effort of various stakeholders in the development of a Tana River Delta Land Use Plan (LUP) that was guided by a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The process was concluded in 2015. The land use plan has since been approved and adopted as a policy by the Lamu County government. The land use plan is now in its implementation phase. Nature Kenya has also been promoting the community conservation areas (CCAs) approach. Community Conservation Areas are biodiversity-rich areas partially or largely managed by local communities.

Nature Kenya, in collaboration with partners including the national government, County Governments of Siaya and Busia, non-government organizations and local communities, has been working to put Yala Swamp KBA, Kenya’s largest papyrus wetland, on a sustainable footing.  The Siaya and Busia County governments, through Nature Kenya facilitation, have formulated a land use plan for the Yala Swamp informed by a Strategic Environmental Assessment. The Yala Swamp land use plan is a negotiated document which provides a framework on how land within the swamp and the surrounding areas will be used – for small-scale and large-scale agriculture, livestock rearing, nature-based industries and protected conservation areas.

In Mt. Kenya, Nature Kenya has partnered with the private sector and community forest associations (CFAs) to plant 100,000 indigenous trees to restore degraded sections of Mt. Kenya Forest KBA. This initiative seeks strategic commitment and support from the business sector to enhance the quantity and quality of water flowing from Mt. Kenya. The concept is that water consumers should help pay for protecting the sources of water. Other forest conservation initiatives have been undertaken by Nature Kenya in South Nandi and North Nandi, Kakamega and Cherengany Hills forests KBAs. These projects have enhanced community participation in conservation of forests through the CFAs.

Saving Species

In Taita Hills forests KBA, Nature Kenya has leased a 6-hectare piece of land at Msidunyi for the conservation and protection of the Critically Endangered Taita Apalis. This small forest fragment is expected to provide habitat for six per cent of the world’s Taita Apalis population. The Taita Apalis is on the verge of extinction with only an estimated 150 individuals remaining in the wild, in the Taita Hills.  In 2010, Nature Kenya also secured the purchase of 20 hectares of land at the Kinangop grasslands KBA to protect the Endangered Sharpe’s Longclaw’s habitat.

In Maasai Mara KBA, Nature Kenya together with partner organizations in collaboration with Narok County Government and Kenya Wildlife Service, have been actively involved in vulture conservation activities. Currently the main effort is to reduce poisoning of wildlife through awareness creation, identification of poisoning hotspots and engagement of local communities to appreciate the key role that vultures play in the ecosystem.

Empowering Local Communities

Nature Kenya has been empowering local people to promote conservation with development at key priority sites. There are now 25 local conservation groups that serve as Site Support Groups (SSGs) for KBAs, especially those that are without official protection. Site Support Groups are community-based organisations of local people working for conservation and sustainable development in and around a KBA. Site support groups help Nature Kenya to engage with communities living adjacent to KBAs.

Resource centres in Mt. Kenya, Dakatcha Woodland, the Kinangop grasslands, Kakamega Forest, South Nandi Forest, the Kikuyu Escarpment and the Taita Hills KBAs serve to educate and inform children and the public, with awareness events reaching 10,000 children annually. The public have been made aware of unsustainable development options.

Nature Kenya has been linking livelihoods and biodiversity conservation. Communities living adjacent to the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest KBA in Kilifi now engage in butterfly farming as a source of livelihood. The communities are getting paid for raising butterflies on forest plants. The butterflies are sold (as pupae) to butterfly exhibits at home and abroad. Bee-keeping, handicrafts from local plants, fish farming, tree nurseries and on-farm forestry also raise incomes while reducing pressure on the forests.

Eco-tourism and bird-watching tourism in high potential sites that are not well known, such as Kakamega Forest, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Kinangop grasslands and Dakatcha Woodland KBAs is another source of income. Nature Kenya has also been championing the use of energy efficient stoves to further reduce dependency on forests for fuel wood.

Advocacy for Ecological Sustainability

Advocacy is key to keeping conservation issues on the national priority agenda. Nature Kenya has been enhancing public knowledge of nature’s values, contributing to national environmental policy and legislation processes and collaborating at national and international levels to advocate for conservation of important sites like the Tana River Delta and Dakatcha Woodland KBAs. Nature Kenya’s projects also support building the capacity of local communities to actively participate and positively influence decisions on biodiversity conservation. Nature Kenya has had significant input into national policy and legislation, including the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act, the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, the Forest Act and Forest Policy and the draft Wetland Policy.

 

Singing and dancing to stop wildlife poisoning

Nature Kenya’s Simon Shati speaks about the dangers of wildlife
poisoning during a community outreach at the Naikarra market, Narok
County. PHOTO: REBECCA IKACHOI
Nature Kenya’s Simon Shati speaks about the dangers of wildlife poisoning during a community outreach at the Naikarra market, Narok County. PHOTO: REBECCA IKACHOI

Songs and dances are effective awareness tools. These two mediums, often used to entertain, communicate and transmit culture, have a strong appeal to the public, particularly at the community level. Through such performances people are not only entertained but also get to learn a thing or two.

An awareness campaign aimed at sensitizing communities on the dangers of wildlife poisoning through song and dance took place in Maasai Mara in June. The outreach, involving shows by a troupe of traditional Maasai artists named the Buffalo Dancers, staged a series of public performances at seven markets in seven days. Using songs, choral chants and drama the performers visited Ngosuani, Naikarra, Ewaso Ng’iro, Olpusimoru, Nkeneji, Oloolaimutia and Aitong markets, delivering powerful anti-poisoning messages aimed at discouraging the public from engaging in retaliatory wildlife poisoning.

The markets were targeted as key venues for the performances since they serve as meeting points for people from various areas seeking to exchange livestock and purchase food. Unlike holding public meetings in villages and manyattas, the performances attracted huge crowds, leading to a higher rate of message transmission. Members of public thronged venues where the performances were held, some of them even recording the proceedings on mobile phones to share on social media platforms.

Gauging by its popularity, it appears that the outreach is having a positive impact as an awareness tool. Over 6,000 people were reached through the awareness campaign that was undertaken jointly by Nature Kenya and the Mara Predator Conservation Programme.

Nature Kenya is implementing the “Saving the African Vulture” Project in the greater Mara Ecosystem. The project seeks to reduce poison related vulture deaths as a contribution towards the halting and long-term reversal of vulture declines in Africa.

United in beating plastic pollution

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Plastic pollution is a global problem that many nations are grappling to address. Plastic waste is a major pollutant of our environment and poses a serious threat to the marine ecosystem as well as our very own well-being. This year’s World Environment Day (WED) theme “Beat Plastic Pollution”, with the rallying call: “If you can’t reuse it, refuse it”, sought to promote sustainable initiatives aimed at reducing plastic pollution. Nature Kenya joined the rest of the world in marking this day at various locales across the country.

Kenya became a leader in this effort last year by banning the manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags. A few practical exceptions were made, such as labeled bags for waste disposal. There is still a lot of plastic used in packaging, however, requiring further action.

In Dakatcha Woodland Important Bird Area at the Coast, the event was marked at the Bore Singwaya Primary School on June 9. Vivo Energy Kenya, for the fourth year running, sponsored the event which kicked off with a clean-up exercise at Marafa town. Students from Marafa Polytechnic and Marafa Primary School joined members of the Sauti ya Kina Mama community-based organization in collecting waste materials around the town.

The exercise netted a substantial amount of plastic waste, which included discarded water bottles, containers and bags.

After the clean-up, students from Bore Singwaya, Baraka, Kandunguni, and Kundeni primary schools joined in for the celebrations. Living up to the theme, students from Bore Singwaya Primary School demonstrated how discarded plastic bottles could be innovatively used to drip-irrigate tree seedlings planted to mark the event. The students also showcased other creative ways of reusing plastic bottles.

The event was graced by the Kilifi Assistant County Commissioner Dominic Kinyanjui, who was the chief guest, Kilifi County Environment CEC Kiringi Mwachitu, Garashi Ward MCA Peter Ziro, representatives from the Kenya Forest Service, Bore Green Umbrella, Dakatcha Community Forest Association, Dakatcha Woodland Conservation Group and Action Aid, among others. Over 250 students and 150 community members participated in the event.

The Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Park was the venue for the WED celebrations in Siaya, where over 300 people participated in the event. A clean-up exercise, tree planting session and a bird walk were among activities held to mark the day. Nature Kenya was actively involved the planning for the event. In the Taita Hills, the event was held at the Dawson Mwanyumba stadium, Wundanyi, on June 6, with Nature Kenya participating.

This year’s national celebrations were held at the Kwale Baraza Park, Kwale County, and were presided over by the Deputy President William Ruto on June 6. Nature Kenya was among organizations involved in the planning of the national event.