Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Journey to Jimbo – Swahili Wedding and Community Based Conservation

Saturday morning wasn’t a promising start... pouring rain in which I had to drive Squirrel, our little wooden dinghy, between Shimoni and Mkwiro... I jumped overboard just to keep warm in the sea!

The next stage of the journey was more comfortable; after drying off and dressing up, our small party of staff and volunteers climbed in to the car and headed south, to the coastal village of Vanga on the border with Tanzania. Leaving the car behind for fear of getting stuck in the mud, we walked the final leg, at times bare foot through the mud, to the smaller village of Jimbo. The reason for our little odyssey was an invitation to a traditional Swahili wedding. A niece of Athumani, our friend from Shimoni, was marrying the son of Mchasa, boat captain with Paradise Divers, our neighbours in Mkwiro.

The rain came down once more as we joined the procession of men escorting the groom from the mosque where he had been married, to the house where he would be united with his new wife, but the excitement running through the jostling crowd clearly wasn’t about to be dampened by the weather.

Meanwhile, the ladies in our party had taken up their positions, along with the other women, beautifully wrapped in bright, bold patterns, at the bride’s house, to witness the union. In contrast to weddings back home, this is not meant to be a time for beaming brides – tradition expects her to appear sad as she prepares to leave her family behind. As a result, photos of the ‘happy couple’ can appear anything but... however it was reassuring to see that this particular bride was clearly struggling to keep a smile from her face, even if it did go against protocol!

With our party reunited, we were ushered in to one of the family homes, sat on colourful hand-woven mats, and presented with vast plates of lemon-coloured rice and richly flavoured beef dishes. With no disrespect to the bride and groom intended, our traditional Swahili lunch was probably the highlight of the day, and we all ate our fill. Then down to the beach to wave off the bride and groom, as their dhow set sail for the bride’s new life on Wasini island.

But conservation in Kenya is found even in the remotest villages and before setting off home myself, I was privileged to spend time talking to Hassan and Mwichambi of Jimbo Environmental Group. With support from Kenyan organisations including East Africa Wildlife Society and Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee (KESCOM), the group of nearly 50 have been busy these last few years restoring mangroves, protecting turtle nests, planting trees and keeping bees.

It was obvious that this was a team of bright, environmentally aware and dedicated community conservationists that had already achieved great things for their small community. One more group of unsung heroes, conserving Kenya simply because they understand it’s the right thing to do. We talked about the possibility of GVI Kenya returning in the future to share some of our knowledge with them, and they were eager to learn about the dolphins they see... it made the journey incredibly worthwhile and one I hope to repeat in the not too distant future. Watch this space!




Sara Mayer said...

that sounds like an amazing trip! you were so lucky to be invited - i can only imagine athumani's beaming face :) hope you get to return to jimbo for a little dolphin education

GVI Kenya said...

Hi Sara, it was a real pleasure to venture down and explore the Vanga area, and exciting to meet a community group there that has so much going on. I definitely hope we can run education with them in the future and have them collect information on dolphins for us.