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

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cotton Processing, Food Security And Ex-Poachers

Our latest Tsavo West satellite camp experience is from Mahandakini, a village located close to the border with Tanzania. The village has a population of around 2,000 people, many of whom having given up poaching in nearby Tsavo West National Park and have been seeking to engage in sustainable income generating activities. As volunteers with Global Vision International our role was to assist the community of Mahandakini to provide capacity building support to the alternative livelihood activities which they have pursued since giving up poaching and provide development assistance. During our week long trip to Mahandakini we picked up where our predecessors had left off, on developing a Food Security Program for the community and assisting with the cotton processing industry that Mahandakini is endeavoring to establish.

On our arrival in Mahandakini we were greeted by the Chairman of the group of ex-poachers in the village, Dishon. We later meet with many of the members of the ex-poachers and it became clear that they were eagerly awaiting our arrival and had positive expectations about their future, which was a great starting point for us!

Throughout the week we split into two work groups. The first work group focused on developing the Food Security Program, whilst the second group spent time assisting with the improvement of the Cotton Processing Industry in Mahandakini. I was part of the Cotton Processing work group and spent the week problem solving with the community, providing training on using natural dyes and assisting with financial management of the cotton industry.

The primary obstacle facing the cotton processing industry in Mahanadakini is the lack of funds for the processing and ginning machines necessary to undertake large scale cotton processing. Over the week, however, we managed to initiate a plan for the community to develop the cotton industry by selling the cotton they are already growing, and by buying cotton material which can subsequently be dyed and manufactured into value-added products. In this way the community will be able to start generating profits immediately, some of which can be used to save up for the cotton processing equipment required for spinning and weaving. This was a very rewarding experience and we hope that the with the help of the new GVI Construction Project that Mahandakini will soon have the equipment and buildings necessary to expand their cotton processing industry.

Our week did not only focus on community development, we were also given some time to visit some of the amazing sights in the local area. We visited caves which were used by British soldiers who were fighting in Kenya during World War 2, and are now home to thousands of bats. We also had a picnic lunch and went swimming at beautiful Njoro Spings, the source of which is melt water from Mt. Kilimanjaro. A visit to Ziwani Ranch provided us with a great opportunity to see some local wildlife including elephants, hippopotamus, zebra, antelopes and a vast array of birdlife. Our week culminated with an excellent traditional dinner prepared by some of the women from the ex-poachers group; the community invited us to share a meal with them as a sign of their appreciation for the work we had put in over the past week in Mahandakini. Satellite Camp was an unforgettable experience!