It has been over a year in the making, but on August 11th, a much awaited KUAPO program will begin trials in the Taita region of Kenya. Dubbed “Tamaduni Za Kiafrica Zaboresha Uhifadhi” (roughly translated as African Traditions & Culture Make Conservation Better”), this program is an attempt at reintroducing age-old conservation practices that have been overlooked for decades as we in Kenya adopted a western philosophy towards conservation and turned our backs on age-old traditions that had enabled our people to live in harmony with wildlife and the environment for centuries. It is also an attempt at giving back the management of wildlife and the environment to the People of Kenya so that they can work side-by-side with the state authority, Kenya Wildlife Service, to ensure that our national heritage is protected for years to come.
Yes, we do have lofty ambitions…and what we are doing in Taita is but one small step in that direction, one we hope will lead us closer to realising our vision. At KUAPO, we firmly believe that the future of wildlife conservation lies with actively involving communities that live with wildlife and that have borne the brunt of wildlife conservation practices for all these years and with that hope we continue to forge ahead. In this regard, we have partnered with grassroots organisations that uphold the same values, ethics and overall vision as KUAPO.
The program in Taita is being spearheaded by Amara Conservation, an NGO that has been working in this region for many years and specializes in conservation education. Together with the Njavungo (Taita Council of Elders), the Kenya Wildlife Service and Tsavo Pride, they will be holding structured conservation education sessions in Bungule, Buguta, Miasenyi, Kajire, Mwashuma/Godoma, Maktau, Manoa, Landi, Kishushe and Mbulia over the next ten days.
Figure 1: Map of Taita-Taveta region (outlined with dashed red line) showing locations of program (star denotes a location)
These sessions are structured as follows:
1. Introductory questions will be asked which will help us evaluate at the end of the session whether our messages have been understood.
2. The Tamaduni Za Kiafrica Zaboresha Uhifadhi program will be introduced as well as all the key players and why we believe the involvement of communities and the use of traditional methods of conservation have a role to play in the management of our wildlife.
2. The Elders will brief the communities on the age-old practices including historical taita methods and practices to protect wildlife and environment and the traditional penalties associated with not following these age-old practices. They hope to touch on areas such as illegal charcoal burning, poaching, overgrazing, mining etc and will be tailoring their talks based on what is more pertinent given the location of the session.
3. Amara Conservation will then talk about ecosystems and how everything is inter-connected and linked. They will also expound on the direct and indirect benefits of wildlife and a healthy environment including but not limited to the tourism industry.
4. The Kenya Wildlife Service will then talk about their role and specifically address issues of Human-Wildlife conflict in Taita/Taveta as well as penalties in the new Wildlife Conservation & Management Act.
KUAPO will also be distributing posters in each of these locations detailing the penalties section of the new Wildlife Conservation & Management Act. The cartoons in these posters were very kindly designed by Jess De Boer (a conservationist, tri-athlete and much much more) and we thank her again for her efforts. If you are in the taita/taveta area and would like this poster for use in your area – please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see how to get you a copy.
Once the main presentations are over, the participants will be given time to ask any of the above questions. The proceedings will conclude with our evaluation questions which will be codified so that we can understand the effectiveness of the program on the day. Furthermore, specific actions will be asked of the participants including seed gathering of indigenous trees for replanting, tips on known poachers etc. These specific actions will also help us to gauge the impact of the program on and ongoing basis.
These 10 days are a trial run in what we hope will be the first of many efforts to return wildlife conservation to our communities and inculcate age-old practices into the fabric of conservation. Please wish us luck as we embark on this adventure. We will keep you posted on the progress and next steps.
Please note that we are also currently working on similar efforts in Meru and Samburu region of Kenya. As things progress, we will keep you updated.
Finally, we would like to take this moment to thank all our supporters who have made this first effort possible with their generous donations – in no particular order:
THANK YOU: Nirmal Jhunjhunwala, March for Elephants, Panari – Feed a Child Program, Mira Patel, Lois Olmstead, Susan Babka, Jon Wesenberg, Trevor Tay, Amar Varma, Iva Goula, Sarah Madalene, & Sheel Gill.