Working for the future in Kenya’s National Parks and Reserves

Throughout Kenya there are areas that have been designated as national parks and reserves, areas under threat that need to be preserved for future generations. Through our partners, CHASE Africa is working in two of these vitally important areas – the Mount Kenya National Park and Kakamega Forest National Reserve. Both areas face the consequences of Kenya’s fast population growth – the destruction of habitat and increasing pressure on resources.

There are also issues of poverty that are being addressed through the work that is being done by the mobile clinics that we fund. Free access to family planning opens up previously unavailable choices to women – the opportunity to choose the number of children they have and how close together they will be. Choice is the beginning of breaking the cycle of poverty in which many families in these regions find themselves. And families with choices have better futures – better maternal health and better child health.

The Land

Mount Kenya National Park

The Mount Kenya National Park was established in 1949 to protect the Mount Kenya, its wildlife and environment. It covers 276 square miles, centred on Mount Kenya itself – Kenya’s highest mountain. It is the main water catchment area for two large rivers – the Tana, the largest river in Kenya, and the Ewaso Ng’iso North. Mount Kenya’s ecosystem provides water for over 2 million people. The whole area is some 90 miles north northeast of Nairobi.

Kakamega Forest National Reserve

The Kakamega Forest National Reserve lies to the northwest of Nairobi, near to the border with Uganda – it was designated a National Reserve in 1985. It is Kenya’s only tropical rainforest. The whole forest covers about 90 square miles, with the reserves, in the northern part of the forest being only 17 square miles – less than a tenth the size of the Mount Kenya National Park. Despite its size, the reserve is home to nearly 400 different species of plants and is famous for its birds. The forest is also rich in rare minerals such as gold-bearing quartz and feldspar – this makes it attractive to those who would extract and sell these minerals, at the cost of the forest. Logging for timber and firewood is also on the increase.

The People and the Work

Mount Kenya Trust

We have been working with the Mount Kenya Trust (MKT) since 2014, having heard about them from people we already know who are working in the region. MKT itself was established in 2000 and its aim is “to help protect and restore the integrity of the forests and wildlife of Mount Kenya by partnering with Government Agencies, communities and other stakeholder organisations in the region”.

With a team of nine, and working with volunteers, MKT runs a whole range of different projects, including running mobile health clinics reaching out to local communities with healthcare and family planning. These clinics and MKT’s no-nonsense approach are what draw us to work with them.

In December 2016, Henry visited one of MKT’s day clinics. The visit started with a trip to the Timau Sub-County Hospital in Meru Country to pick up a doctor, nurse and supplies for the clinic. From the hospital the group travelled to a small church and setup the clinic. At the clinic they welcomed members of the local community who were seeking healthcare for themselves and their families. The clinic also offered family planning to those who wanted it – counselling and advice are offered to help women make the best decision for themselves and their families.

During the month of December, MKT ran eight such clinics and a total of 1,092 women chose to use their family planning services. Of those women, 472 chose long-term methods and 620 chose short-term methods.

These numbers are typical of a month’s worth of clinics which means that throughout the year MKT is reaching many thousands of people. In family planning terms – with the combination of short- and long-term methods – the clinics provide nearly 24,000 Couple Years Protection every year.

Community Health Volunteers

In the Kakamega Forest we work with Community Health Volunteers to bring mobile clinics to rural communities. CHV in Kakamega was founded in 2006 to “create awareness to the residents on HIV/AIDS, as well as on issues of sexual and reproductive health”. The team of volunteers who all live in the area they serve is headed up by Gabriel.

Before starting CHV, Gabriel was a bird guide, like his father before him. During his work he visited homes around the edge of the Kakamega forest. There he was shocked to see the number of people who had contracted jiggers (Tunga penetrans) – a parasitic insect that burrows into the sole of the foot, where it grows causing itchiness and pus-filled sores that often become infected.

Treatment is easy and costs pennies but treatment was well out of the reach of the poor households that Gabriel visited regularly. Together with other bird guides, Gabriel bought, and gave out, jiggers treatments as he went round forest. Over time he realised that there were more serious health issues in the communities he visited, and from that realisation was born CHV which now runs a clinic in Vihrembe, Kakamega. The clinic is part financed by a church in the UK – a collaboration that came from a chance bird watching encounter! The clinic is now working towards getting a status as a government recognised clinic – which will bring in more funding.

As a way of expanding the work and reaching larger numbers of people, in 2016 CHV successfully started running mobile clinics funded by CHASE Africa. Under Gabriel’s leadership they will continue with a number of clinics every month for 2017 and beyond.

Parks, reserves – and people – with a future

We must remember that preserving the national parks and reserves is only one aspect of working for the future, and although it is a hugely important aspect in a country like Kenya, perhaps more important still is giving women choice. Being able to choose the size of their families – the number and spacing of their children – allows women to plan for the future, work their way out of poverty and give the children they do have many more options and opportunities.

By working with MKT and CHV we are able to bring much needed family planning treatments to many communities. Over time this will bring many benefits to those who are able to access MKT’s and CHV’s services– not least that pressure on resources will be reduced as women are given a choice about their families, hopefully contributing to a long term future for these two important national treasures. If the wildlife is given space to flourish, tourists from around the world will want to visit, a great boost to the local economy.

The gift of choice

Anne, our ‘back-pack’ nurse, met Linnet in the Likii slums of Nanyuki town in Laikipia County. Linnet is 26 years old and has twin sons, Solomon and Moses, and a daughter, Stacy, with her husband David.

She has been using the 3 month injection method of contraception protection for 9 years since she learnt about family planning from a doctor when she went for a check-up after her first child was born. She says her husband is aware and very supportive of family planning. Although she loves all of her children dearly she would have preferred to have only had two, and therefore decided to get the 5 year implant to make sure that she doesn’t have any more.

She told us that choosing the 5 year implant contraception protection method will benefit her children and family in allowing her to work efficiently and provide for them, and her children will get all the attention they need from her. She thinks that they wouldn’t be able to financially support more children without ruining her dream of seeing her children finish their education and get well paid jobs. She hopes her family continue being as happy as they are now.

She says most of the women in her area are aware of family planning but they don’t use it because it’s either expensive for them or because they are suspicious of it.

Please help us bring much needed family planning to even more women in Kenya and Uganda like Linnet to allow them to dream of a better future for their families. For just £7 you could allow one women to take control of her body and choose the number and spacing of their children. Just click here to change a family’s future today.

Meeting with David Warburton MP

On Friday 3rd March Robin Witt and Henry Pomeroy from CHASE Africa, Tim Wainwright from ADD, and Caroline Pomeroy from Climate Stewards met with the local MP, David Warburton, to discuss the UK Government’s stance on international aid. David agreed to push hard to keep the UK Government’s commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid, which is currently enshrined in law. The funding from the Department for International Development (DFID) goes towards many areas of fighting poverty, but this year DFID has announced a special focus on meeting the need for family planning, so to have our MP’s support for our work is especially exciting. He’s keen to keep talking as the year goes by and he’s very supportive of our work, and we’re equally keen to be working with him.

A day with a mobile clinic

We’ve really pleased to announe that our latest video is now available on YouTube. Put together with the help of Steve Bown, Wendo Aszed and the team at Dandelion Africa it’s a look at some of what goes into making one of our mobile clinics a success. You can view the complete video on YouTube or watch it below:

The Nomads Tent comes to Nunney

Roll up, roll up for the Nomad’s Tent Roadshow at Rockfield House, Nunney, BA11 4NP. Rugs, lamps, jewellery, furniture, gifts, Christmas decorations and more. Starting this Friday 14th Oct and running through till Sunday 23rd Oct. 10am – 5pm daily. Coffees, teas, cakes and light lunches avaiable daily. Drinks reception both Fridays 6-8pm. Paella supper (£10 per head, booking essential) on Weds 19th. Part of the profits will be split between Climate Stewards and CHASE Africa. Do come and bring your friends!

nomads_tent

Our Partners in Action

CHASE operates through a number of different partners in Kenya and Uganda. We thought we’d tell you what they have been doing over the last couple of months to give you an idea of the impact of our work. We’ll be following up with more detailed stories as we receive reports from our partners.

Crossing the river... almostIn March, Dandelion Africa completed 3 day-clinics reaching 325 women with family planning resources and 872 with primary health care. We were also able to send funding for a further series of 9 day-clinics that will be happening in the coming months.

On their most recent outreach the Dandelion van, unfortunately got stuck crossing a river. Thankfully there was a passing vehicle in the area that was able to assist for which the team were very grateful. However, this incident has shown again the need for a good 4×4 – if you’d like to help, please visit our Donate page (you can add “Dandelion 4×4” as a message on the MyDonate website page).

The CHV clininc near KakamegaOur new partner, Community Health Volunteers (CHV), has completed their first mobile day-clinic near Kakamega forest, Kenya’s only tropical rainforest which is the last remnant of the ancient Guineo-Congolian rainforest that once spanned the continent and renowned for its 376 species of birds. During the first day-clinic 625 patients were seen and 195 of the women who attended chose to use family planning.

Community Health Africa Trust (CHAT) completed a mobile clinic outreach to West Laikipia and Baringo East in April. Over 2,000 people came to hear CHAT’s talk on how to lead a healthier life and ecological awareness and 903 women choose to have family planning.

On the environmental side of our work, our partner, Mount Kenya Trust, is working on a pilot schools tree planting project in co-operation with One Tree Per Child and we’re looking forward to seeing the results from that soon. It’s an exciting opportunity for MKT too with school children planting trees.

Unloading trees at the IDP settlementIn April, Community Food and Environment Group (COFEG) planted over 10,000 trees at the Asanyo IDP settlement which, at over 8,000 feet, is a cold and windy spot. The trees will provide shelter and, in the future, a source of firewood and construction material as well as helping to increase local bio-diversity.

Africa Drives Global Population Growth

africa_drives_global_population_growthScientific American’s February issue has an interesting though alarming graph. There is a key thought in the accompanying article with which we agree wholeheartedly:

“Population can never be ‘controlled’ – that would violate fundamental human rights and probably still would not work. But population can be influenced, indirectly yet powerfully. A smart suite of strategies can ease pressure on resources, reduce conflict, and make life more worthwhile for girls, boys, women and men.”

The Moral Maze

If you get a moment listen to the Moral Maze.

Very odd that two of the panel just don’t seem to think population numbers are relevant. Maybe they haven’t been anywhere in the world where women have no access to family planning and go on having kids until they can’t have any more. I wonder how the panellists would cope with 8 children on a few pounds a day.

No mention either of where the rest of the wonderful creatures we share this planet with are meant to live if we have destroyed their habitat. Giles Fraser got my vote!

Irangi Forest Restoration

DSC_3448Since October of last year CHASE has been working with the Mount Kenya Trust (MKT) on a restoration project in the Irangi Forest. Because of the generosity of our donors we have been able to fund three planting phases – the first in October 2014, the second in March 2015 and a third which is due to happen in October 2015 (though they’ve been able to start early because the rains have come).

MKT supports, trains and equips local community groups to enable them to raise seedlings which MKT then buys for planting. They currently work with a women’s group in the Magacha area which borders the Irangi Forest which itself lies to the south east of Mount Kenya.

Reforestation (2)The women’s group nurtures the seedlings until they are mature and ready to be transported to the reforestation sites – degraded areas where many trees have been lost to illegal feeling and poor government resource management. The women are also employed to prepare the site and do the actual planting – because of their involvement with the Irangi project they have been able to purchase a plot of land from the proceeds of their work. They use this land as a plant nursery, which means they have more capacity to grow tree seedlings.

The women’s group members are passionate about looking after the trees they have planted and by the time they have finished in October they will have planted more than 10,000 trees on 10 hectares of land.

Note: the photos are from previous plantings.

Where Has All the Litter Gone?

Have you noticed how every year the roadsides look dreadful in February and March, littered with discarded rubbish chucked from cars whose owners appreciate a clean car but have no concern for our beautiful countryside?

And by May it has all vanished. Have the councils been out in force in a massive spring clean?

Sadly not. Nature has once again burst to life and covered up the trash we discard. It’s still all there but we won’t see it until next autumn when nature pauses for the winter, retreating into the soil and exposing once again our callous disregard for the natural world.

rubbish_bagWe have been out litter picking in the quiet somerset lanes near our office and on average we fill a black bin liner for every 50 metres of roadside. The government estimates that there are 245,000 miles of roads in the UK – and if they’re anything like the ones we’ve been clearing that means there are nearly 8,000,000 bags worth of rubbish littering our countryside.

So if you want to give yourself that warm glow of satisfaction why not organise a sponsored litter pick for CHASE. Most people hate litter so seeing their neighbourhood cleaned and also supporting a good cause is something people are happy to support.