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, March 2, 2012

Conservation through Education

Growing up in the United States I was always taught about conservation. I grew up by the ocean where the developers constantly encroached on the marsh. Like a typical teen, I realized the importance, but rarely gave it much thought about how the marsh played a role in my life. Maybe it was the fact that most the things I ate were packaged imports, or the fish I ate was prepared for me, either way it was easy to remove the importance of the environment from my mind. Here in Kenya the disconnect between the environment and the community is large but has a quicker and very real local impact. As you walk through the mud hut lined winding roads of Shimoni, trash seems to be a constant distraction. Even when you walk through the beautiful forests looking for monkeys, it is quite easy to stumble over a charcoal pit. Why are these things here? For me it seems like a simple idea to recycle and use alternatives to charcoal. Unfortunately bad habits are hard to break, and even harder with a lack of education.

Christina pounds coconut husks as part of an SEA workshop,
creating alternatives to Charcoal 

GVI does a great job of bridging the gap between their objectives for conservation and community by working on sustainability education projects with the local community; this week I was able to see a couple of such projects at work.

After coming off of two weeks of forest and seeing the beauty of what we are conserving in Shimoni forest, I was able to have a fresh pair of eyes on the community projects. I absolutely loved working with S.E.A. (Shimoni Environmental Association) with some kids after school. We spent an hour with the kids jamming to some music and crushing coconut shells with a large mortar and pistol. The coconut shells are then used to make briquettes, an alternative to charcoal. The kids had a great time making the briquettes and were all very informed about the importance of the forest in their lives. The next day we spoke to Shimoni Primary Wild Life Club about recycling. They were so shocked to hear the crazy statistics about what happens when you do or don’t recycle. We showed them some things that were made from trash and sold for a hefty price. You could see the seed of sustainability and entrepreneurism being planted in their brains.

Teaching local school children environmental education 
Don’t worry, we include the adults in the campaign for conservation and sustainability as well. This week a large focus has been on recruitment for the Adult Environmental Education classes. This program will give an opportunity for the local people to learn and discuss about the issues that affect their livelihoods. They will earn certificates for attendance as well as a better knowledge of living sustainably. We walked around the village to the shop owners to advertise and recruit for the class. The response was great with many adults extremely enthusiastic about learning more. Conservation, sustainability, and progress all overlap. These things don’t just come with passing regulation and conducting studies. It’s the programs that help educate that put the plans into action. I have had such a great week watching everything we work on overlap and create a positive effect on everyone. 

Christina Kennedy, Community Intern