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

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kate’s Take On Kidong – Part 1

Kate and her husband Jamie have joined GVI in Kenya for 6 months on our Community Internship. Having spent a week on our Tsavo West satellite camp she brings us up to date with what's happening out there...

"After two weeks of counting dolphins and living on Wasini Island, I was looking forward to our trip to Satellite Camp on the edge of Tsavo West National Park and a chance to spend some time getting to know the community who were our hosts. Leaving the island was a bit of a reverse culture shock as we had got used to the simplicity of life with no electricity or running water and were then thrown into the hustle, bustle and general craziness of Mombasa. It was strange to have water come out when you turn on the tap, not to have to use a head torch as soon as the sun goes down and to finally have a cold beer! Strange but definitely in a good way and we spent the night enjoying the amenities in town before heading off early the next morning.

The journey started off on tarmac roads which gradually deteriorated until we were on the red dirt road that took us to the town of Taveta on the border with Tanzania, five hours of bone-shaking ‘African massage’ later. We changed from the relatively plush bus which we had arrived on to a local ‘matatu’ which took us to our final destination and home for the next week, the Kidong Cultural and Education Centre nestling under Kidong Hill.

The centre is at the heart of the community’s drive to move towards more sustainable livelihoods having turned their backs on their traditional livelihood of poaching local wildlife for the trans-border bush meat trade. The centre educates local farmers on reducing the impact of Human – Wildlife Conflict through a variety of initiatives and also helps to provide alternative livelihoods by supporting activities including bee-keeping and soap-making, whilst also providing direct employment through support from the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

The significance of Human – Wildlife Conflict was highlighted when we were greeted by the sight of a herd of dusty elephants lazily picking their way across the opposite side of the valley – a truly magnificent welcome matched only by the enthusiasm and warmth of the welcome from the community. However, night time forays by these huge herbivores can devastate a local farmer’s crops. Our objectives for the week seemed quite daunting given the fact that we only had a total of two days scheduled working with the community but were exciting nonetheless.

The grandly named ‘Product Development Team’ (ironically the department I worked for in my previous life in Financial Services in London!) were responsible for helping the community develop the soaps they produce into something tourists would be willing to part with money for. The soap is currently sold in very simple plastic wrap in the local market so a key initiative was the development of improved packaging. The group were also responsible for developing a logo for the Cultural Centre to give it a recognisable identity to be used on all future products and marketing."

Check out our blog soon for Part 2!