Developing the community marine conservation project has proven to be a pretty large undertaking. It took a long time and a lot of rewriting, brainstorming and reading through the data to figure out exactly what we needed and what was feasible. Right now, our main focus is Capacity Development. This term is hard to wrap your head around but it is essentially all about people and the process of improving the effectiveness of our conservation organization.
People are both the driving force behind biodiversity loss and the reason for protecting it. Long-term conservation success depends on a developing network of individuals and institutes that are strong and effective enough to address the threats to our natural world.
I see it as foundational in any attempt to find long-term solutions to conservation issues. Just like foreign aid, outside intervention may provide a short-term fix, but it isn’t really sustainable unless it is linked to locally driven action. I would even go as far as to say unless it is linked to locally driven action, it can actually undermine what you ultimately are trying to do. The most effective and long-term solutions to safeguard species and habitats lie in local hands.
The Marine team has been doing a biodiversity census on everything in the Watamu National Marine Reserve for the past few years. They will continue the monitoring of keystone species and coral cover so that in another couple years we know the trend. There are a lot of visual clues and data hints that species are declining, sediment is increasing and overall things are getting worse, but we don’t actually have the data to know for sure.
From there we will conduct a series of PRA’s (Participatory Rural Appraisals). These community meetings and activities will help us figure out where the resources are, what kind of fish they are mostly getting, wealth distribution in the community, worldviews, problem ranking, family food analysis, seasonal calanders ect. This type of info is usually what an Anthropologist would discover in doing fieldwork, but the PRA’s are more a more direct way to figure out what is going on in a community for future sustainable development purposes. From these PRA exercises we will use the findings to develop a course that focuses on an environmental awareness gap we noticed or something that the community has expressed a desire to learn more about. We will also be doing leadership trainings so that these exercises and educational activities can be duplicated in other communities by the local people. . The hope is that eventually, this will have built a foundation for things like alternative livelihood development and a locally managed marine area.
On another note, I also teach computer classes to a few friends that live here. Most of them don’t have email accounts or facebook so it is fun to introduce them to a new way to connect with people. Also, a crowd favorite is pasting pictures into Microsoft word and distorting and shifting them all over the place. I also teach slightly more helpful things like how to save and find files on your computer and create PowerPoint presentations.
Another fun side job of mine is taking the rehabilitating Sea Turtles from Turtle Watch out for a seabath! If we have a quick healthy turtle, we either tie a string to its flipper or just try to keep up with it. If it get’s away, then it is healthy enough to be out on it’s own and escape from predators! Turtles here are a favorite food (The Giriama people apparently make a mean turtle soup). Unfortunately, if you wander through the North side of Watamu, you will find piles of turtle shells and skulls behind people’s homes. Turtle watch’s program was actually started by the community and they provide compensation for fisherman who find and deliver injured (or healthy) turtles to them instead of just removing their head.
I also have made friends with an artist who makes beautiful and strange pieces of art from things that wash up on the shore (mostly flip-flops). He also has an incredible shell collection and has given me two books to read on mollusks in hopes that I will devote my life to studying them.
Ben and I attended the Cultural day at my friend Rose’s church in Malindi! A lot of African tribes were represented in dance, song, dress and FOOD! We were given the traditional Giriama clothes to wear and people couldn’t stop laughing at us 😀
A joined in on the monthly wader bird count at the Sabaki Delta. Thousands and Thousand of Flamingos are here for a pit stop!
We also ring birds twice a month here at Mwamba! Here is Ben with a Yellow-Bill.
I have about three weeks left here to finish my project and then Ben will return from Uganda. We will then head south to Mombassa where I need to renew my visa (fingers crossed- it solely depends on what mood they are in). Ben and I have some friends in Tanzania who we will meet up with and then it is back to Nairobi to work with The Kianga Project Woman’s groups! Ben and a few others started this project back in 2007 and they come every year to work with the ladies and bring more stuff back to the states to sell. You can see all of the items and read more about the project here!
From there, Ben will head back to the states and I will spend a couple weeks during the Christmas Season in Uganda! Sara and Anthony are doing some incredibly work there and I can’t wait to visit and lend a hand.
And yes, today I did actually poke an octopus.