On Thursday 5 December a group of 40 from the Mount Kenya Trust visited the forest. The group was welcomed at the Gede entrance, by three members from the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Guides Association (ASFGA), in their recently donated uniform; Kenya Forest Service (KFS) acting ecosystems coordinator, KFS Gede forester, Kenya Wildlife Service’s (KWS) Sargent Tinga, KWS education officer and the Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest’s (FoASF) scouts, liaison officer and field and administrative manager.
After a short briefing the group walked through the forest to the Arabuko swamp, learning about its unique plants and wildlife. At the swamp Sammy Safari – FoASF committee member gave a talk on the forest adjacent communities and projects that have been implemented to halt their need of capitalising on illegal products from the forest. Sammy gave the group some freshly harvested cassava crop from the Songa Mbele self-help group.
Members were driven back to the KWS education centre for presentations. FoASF liaison officer gave a presentation on the work FoASF is undertaking in the forest. The short educational film, created with funding from African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, was shown at the end and received a wonderful reaction from the audience. This was followed by a short talk from Local Ocean Trusts (LOC) project manager Justin Beswick. The Mount Kenya Trust ended the visit by showing their film and giving a presentation on their incredible and broad work. Thank you to KWS and KFS for facilitating the trip and providing rangers and briefings and to LOC and Mount Kenya Trust for involving the forest and FoASF in their expedition.
The Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke’s 10 scouts, liaison officer and field and administrative assistant, visited the Bio-Ken snake farm, Watamu to refresh their memory of the many species of snakes found in Kenya and how to responsibly respond to snake bites.
Clare Taylor and head handler Bonnie covered the dos and don’ts of snake bite treatment and practices and how to handle these situations if encountered when on patrol in the field.
Thank you to the Bio-Ken team for the trip and for the incredible work you do saving lives of so many.
In August 2018 funding was received from Blue Marmalade Supermarket, Watamu, to rent two acres of land by the Arabuko swamp, on the edge of the forest.
Sammy Safari, FoASF committee member and project manager, planned to use this land to grow crops; offer seeds and cheap produce to the forest adjacent communities and to provide a place for people to learn about permaculture and biodiversity conservation issues.
The land was ploughed and planted with maize, green grams and cowpeas. The green grams and cow peas were planted as cover crops and nitrogen fixers to enrich the soil in humus and to provide nitrogen support to the other crops planted there.
In December 2018, the crops began to produce their first harvest and seeds. Maize and cowpeas were sold for 200/- per two kilograms to the local communities (usually sold for 480/- and 500/- respectively in the local stores). Sales of green gram and cowpea seeds started in January, with some being set aside for replanting during the long rains in March. The seeds were also sold at a lower than retail price, to encourage the forest adjacent people to plant their own food and resist the need to harvest illegally from the forest.
The main challenges included unpredictable rains, pests and disease. The long rains arrived two months late and in June 2019 there was an outbreak of disease which devastated the green grams, maize and moringa crops. Sammy Safari informed and consulted the agricultural extension officers from Msabaha research centre in Gede, who stated that the same problem was being observed this season in the area. He advised that the plot be reploughed to stop the spread.
Green gram and cowpea seedlings were set aside for planting in the short November rains. In September 2019, Sammy Safari personally renewed the lease on the two-acre plot. Heavy rainfall in October/November has left the farms near the Arabuko swamp flooded and so the seedlings have not been planted. Sammy hopes for a more productive 2020.
Thank you to Blue Marmalade for their support and moreover for their recent donation of 10,000/- on a monthly basis.
In October FoASF received funding from Nature Kenya for the purchase of 35 fence posts from Komaza in Kilifi. The posts were delivered and handed over to KWS on 22 November.