Pg31) Kahindi Charo, a bird guide at Mida Creek. (Credit_ Evelyn Makena)

Why Kenya`s Mida Creek is a haven for migratory birds

By Evelyn Makena I evelynmakena@gmail.com

Carmine bee eaters at Mida Creek in Watamu, Kilifi County.

Between September and April every year, thousands of birds fly through the skies, traversing countries and continents before landing in Mida Creek, a tidal inlet stretching from the Indian Ocean along the Kenyan Coast.

Over 70 aquatic bird species make long journeys from their summer breeding sites in Europe and Eurasia in search of wintering grounds in Mida.

The creek surrounded by thickets of mangrove forest and lined with palms is a paradise for migratory birds that come in search of food and to escape unbearable cold of Northern countries. Migratory birds depend on the creek that offers ideal temporary habitat to roost, and feed for their survival.

The 32 square kilometre creek in Watamu, Kilifi County, has important mangrove forests with a high diversity of crustaceans and fish species, which provide nourishment to the birds. Diverse habitats of mud and sand flats and open shallow waters within the saline expanse of the creek are rich in biodiversity to sustain birds and marine life.

“The mud is like chocolate for birds. There are other places around Africa that birds can use as wintering grounds, but Mida is an exception because of the readily available food,” says Kibwana Ali Bakari, a local bird conservationist.

Some of the migratory bird species that can easily be seen at Mida Creek include mangrove kingfisher, spotted ground thrush, osprey, terek sandpiper, saunder`s tern, robin chats, swallows, bee eaters and shrikes. Mida is also a significant feeding area for greater flamingo, dimorphic egrets, and lesser crested tern.

The presence of migratory birds is an indicator of the condition of migratory sites. Birds stay in places where there is abundant food and minimum distraction.

According to Kibwana, migratory birds also benefit the ecosystem through pest control, pollination of plants, are food sources for other wildlife and source of pride for local communities.

The birds also have a recreational value. They add aesthetic beauty to the environment, bringing in more tourists. Every year, many tourists are drawn to Watamu to visit the pristine beaches and the coastal forest of Arabuko Sokoke.

The tranquility of mangrove forests that surround Mida Creek and the thriving bird life is also an attraction to tourists. Kibwana notes that one bird, the crab plover, is a major attraction to many tourists.

 

“The striking shorebird, with white and black plumage and a unique straight beak, draws many tourists here,” he says. The bird that migrates from Oman and nests in Somalia feeds on crabs that are readily available at the creek.

Apart from aquatic migrants, there are terrestrial birds that migrate through the adjacent Arabuko Sokoke Forest. Other bird species like secretary ibises, yellow bee storks and three banded plovers, live and breed at the creek.

Mida Creek is recognised as an Important Bird Area and together with Arabuko Sokoke Forest form UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

But as we marked World Migratory Bird Day on October 8, experts warned that migratory bird species are in sharp decline. According to the International Union for Conservation on Nature Red List, one in every eight bird species is threatened, including some migratory bird species such as European Turtle Dove and Atlantic Puffin.

Among the threats facing migratory birds and contributing to their decline is human destruction of habitats. Kahindi Charo Katana, a local bird guide, notes that the threats include human encroachment of wildlife habitats, deforestation, effects of climate change and invasive species.

Along the Indian Ocean, for instance, the growing numbers of Indian house crow, which is an invasive species, has led to a decrease in some smaller indigenous bird species.

“The bird is a scavenger and feeds literally on anything, including the eggs of other bird species, thus threatening their survival,” says Kahindi. The crows are not indigenous to East Africa but were introduced by scientists a century ago to control rubbish. Now, their numbers have exploded, threatening the survival of other bird species.

Destruction of key habitats also threatens the population of migratory birds. Due to years of human encroachment, Arabuko Sokoke Forest is currently the only largest remaining fragment of the East African Coastal Forest that stretches from Mozambique to Somalia. Several migratory terrestrial birds still rely on the forest stretch as a migratory route while heading to Mida in search of food.

Deforestation around the creek had in the past also threatened the bird populations but in recent years the community has put efforts to restore critical mangrove forests, attracting more birds.

 

 

Big Ship Organisation Project Officer Evelyn Omondi. She says there is a symbiotic relationship between the bees, beekeepers and the mangrove forest. (Credit_ Captain Nyota)

Where farmers use bees to earn a living and keep mangrove loggers at bay

By Ruth Keah

Juma Mnyika checks his beehive at Tudor Creek in Mombasa County. (Credit_ Captain Nyota)

Growing up, Juma Mnyika loved watching monkeys jump up and down mangrove trees in his Ganahola village at the coastal Kenya’s Mombasa County.

However, these beautiful sceneries are only memories now for the 42-year-old, since most of the mangrove forest has been destroyed .“The monkeys ran away due to the mangrove forest destruction. Now we only see one monkey in a month, who comes even into our homestead to look for food,”
says Mnyika.

Mangroves are among the most productive marine ecosystems on earth, providing a unique habitat for many animal species. They provide habitats for birds, breeding grounds for many fish species as well as protection against storms, floods and erosion. Mangrove forests also act as important carbon sinks because they have higher amount of biomass compared to terrestrial tropical forest.

But mangroves have been in danger of human destruction and their global distributions have been on the decline.

Tudor creek in Mombasa has lost 80 per cent of its mangroves over the past 20 years.

However, Mnyika and his fellow bee farmers are now doing their best to restore and protect the endangered trees.

In the project dubbed ‘Asali Mkoko’, the over 100 farmers along the Tudor creek not only earn a living by harvesting honey from the beehives, but also use the bees as security for the mangrove forest.

“We started planting the mangroves, but noticed that people were still destroying them, so we deiced to install beehives along the Tudor creek to act as 24-hour security,” says Mnyika.
“The beehives have been very effective because when one decides to cut down a mangrove tree, the bees attack him/her.”

He says since they started the project in 2010, and have so far seen a big difference. He says almost 90 per cent of mangrove destruction has stopped, and some of the birds, crabs, prawns and fish that had disappeared are now coming back.

Mnyika owns 12 beehives. He says they normally check on the hives at least once or twice in one and a half months and harvest the honey every four months. He says one hive can produce up to 20kg of honey in a good season and eight kilos in a bad season. “Since I left formal employment, I have found a livelihood in the mangrove forest.

We sell one kilo of honey at Sh1,200,” he says. Mnyika says they have a ready market for the honey. A non-governmental organisation called Big Ship, which they have been working with, buys from them immediately they harvest the honey. However, such community projects are not without challenges. Mnyika says during dry seasons it is hard for the bees to find the right flowers to produce honey, and this reduces their harvest.

“Due to the prolonged dry season, this year I have only harvested honey once, and I only got 10kg,” he says. Monitored wildlife populations – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish – have seen a devastating 69 per cent drop on average since 1970, according to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Living Planet Report (LPR) 2022. The report warns governments,  businesses and the public to take transformative action to
reverse the destruction of biodiversity.

Around the world, the report indicates that the main drivers of wildlife population decline are habitat degradation and loss, exploitation, introduction of invasive species, pollution, climate change and diseases.

World leaders are due to meet at the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15) this December for a once-in-a-decade opportunity to course-correct for the sake of people and the planet. WWF is advocating for leaders to commit to a ‘Paris-style’ agreement capable of reversing biodiversity loss to secure a nature-positive world by 2030.

“The LPR report makes it clear that delivering a nature-positive future will not be possible without recognising and respecting the rights, governance, and conservation leadership of Indigenous Peoples and local communities around the
world,” says Alice Ruhweza, Africa Regional Director, WWF-International.


Evelyn Omondi from Big Ship Organisation, a community empowerment organisation that focuses on implementation of local solutions on restoring and protecting the environment, says they decided to partner with the community and some former loggers to set up a mangrove bee farming project to protect the
diminishing Tudor Creek mangrove forest.


“We train them on seedling establishment, bee keeping and monitoring of the beehives, and establish a market for the honey,” she says.


Ms Omondi says they decided to bring together the former loggers because to change their mindset against logging and teach them the importance of conserving mangroves.


She says so far, they have engaged more than 200 former loggers in the beekeeping project. The over 500 beehives are set up at various strategic points along the forest.


She says they normally sell seedlings at Ksh100 each. From the sales they buy beehives and give to farmers they have recruited. The farmers then plant the seedlings along the creek.


Their long-term plan is to make sure that each community member in the areas they cover can get at least 10 beehives.


According to Ms Omondi, the mangrove has so many benefits in the ecosystem.

She said there is a symbiotic relationship between the bees, the beekeepers, and the mangrove forest. The bees feed on the mangrove flowers, making highly desirable honey free from commercial additives.


One of the challenges Ms Omondi says they encounter is that most farmers have no enough knowledge in bee keeping, hence they spend more time and resources on training them. She says despite the challenges, they have now restored 67 hecaters of mangroves along the Tudor Creek.

As almost 200 nations are expected to gather in Egypt’s resort town of Sharm el- Sheikh from November 6-18 for COP27, Ms Omondi called on leaders to look into strategies to improve such community initiatives to mitigate climate change.


“The COP27 meeting is very important because people will get to know how community initiatives have improved matters of climate change and the need to support them,” she says.


She estimates that mangroves in Kenya store between 600 and 1,500 tonnes of carbon per hectare. This means the 3,371 hectares of mangroves in Mombasa County store an average of 3.94 million tonnes of carbon.

Wetland in Dunga area along Lake Victoria.

Lake Victoria: Bigwigs encroaching on wetlands

Lake Victoria’s wetland area is battling to find a balance between saving its unique ecosystem and surviving the massive encroachment from human beings.

Of interest is that the wetland in Kisumu County is not gazetted, and remains unprotected despite its vulnerability to encroachers, making it a disaster in waiting, according to environmentalists.  

Being an unprotected area, the wetland faces unprecedented threats from economic development, pollution, alteration of its water bodies and conversion to other land uses.

Wetlands are essential to a healthy environment. They filter water, provide habitat for wildlife and offer recreation opportunities. Over the past 10 years, Lake Victoria has lost slightly more than half its wetlands. However, the fact that there is no single wetland Gazetted in Kisumu County, on the shores of the lake and away, makes it difficult for mandated authorities to protect the fragile ecosystem.

For instance, Dunga wetland is home to 60 bird species and covers 10km South East of Kisumu. Massive infrastructural investments are slowly taking over the wetlands. The wetland is being chocked with raw sewer and solid wastes, even as a few residents fight to preserve it.

Prof Raphael Kapiyo, an environmental scientist at Maseno University, reckons the wetland is a habitat and breeding ground for most of Lake Victoria’s indigenous fish species like lungfish, mudfish and tilapia.

“Destruction of the wetland is fast removing a buffer that stops it from being poisoned by sewage and industrial waste in return risk killing the lake,” Kapiyo says.

The scientist says the state of Dunga wetland risks losing its potential for eco-tourism due to its diverse plant and animal species for bird and botany as well as its other aesthetic values.

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) reports that the lack of gazettement of the wetlands is a major challenge in the conservation efforts.

Tom Togo, the Kisumu County Director, NEMA, observes that the wetlands within the county legally belong to people.

“We have stopped quite a number of development applications within the areas we consider wetland, but it has been a tall order,” says Togo, adding that once areas are protected, it becomes easy to manage them, but wetlands within the country are people’s farmlands.

“It was a grave mistake to issue title deeds for people to privately own pieces of land on wetlands. Now it is hard to stop them from utilising the pieces of land,” Togo said.

He faulted the community living at Dunga wetland for not being supportive of protecting the wetland.

 

He said unsustainable farming in the wetland has led to papyrus destruction through burning and cutting, killing several other lives.

The proximity of the Dunga swamp to the lakeside city puts strain on it through pollution in form of sewage and solid wastes, yet the country is slow in the implementation of wetlands development and management policy.

This is unlike their counterpart in Migodi wetland sanctuary in the city’s outskirts, the serenity of Kibale National Park between Kamwenge and Fort Portal in western Uganda.

It is protected land and as a result, the wetland has thrived and is home to more than 200 bird species, including the Gray-crowned crane, with varied plant species and it is primates’ favourite feeding ground.

“The community came together to protect the wetland, which was initially threatened by encroachment. And because it’s protected, it now acts as a tourism hub in the region,” said Edward Asalu, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) area Conservation Manager, at Kibale Forest National park.

Shelton Were, an officer at Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), noted that there had been close collaboration to protect wildlife with the community at Dunga wetland.

However, he said unsustainable papyrus harvesting by the locals was destroying bird and Sitatunga habitat.

He said poaching of declining species such as the Sitatunga, otter and hippopotamus was also on the increase. 

“As the ecosystem comes under greater pressure, human-wildlife conflicts are worsening. Hippos invade farms, destroy crops and even cause human deaths as their grazing range becomes restricted,” says Were.

Michael Nyaguti, chair at Magnam Environmental Network, says one of the threats Lake Victoria is facing is the encroachment of riparian wetlands.

“Currently, we have people who after purchasing land next to the lake stretch and own the entire land into the waters,” Nyaguti said.

Environmental Management and Coordination Act 2006 defines riparian land as being a minimum of 6m and up to a maximum of 30m from the highest watermark.

In addition, there are other nine laws to protect riparian lands, including the Water Act 2002, Agriculture Act, Water Resource Management Act 2007 and the Environment Management and Coordination Regulations of 2006.

 However, Nyaguti said a number of ‘big-wigs’ had encroached on the wetlands, destroying vegetation and releasing raw sewer and other substances into the lake. 

“This has completely negated the efforts of conservation that has been accomplished around the lake, and now some species face extinction,” he stated. 

He challenged law enforcement agencies to ensure that before any development is done around the waterfront, all laws are adhered to for the justice of the environment.

“Most of the vegetation along the shoreline is being destroyed. We have hippos around Lake Victoria. These hippos need grazing and resting ground, which is no longer there,” said Nyaguti.

Patrick Otuo, a researcher and scientist with Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, argued that the destruction and shrinking of Lake Victoria wetland account for  dwindling fish stocks as “wetlands are breeding ground for many fish species and if they are not protected then the lake is facing immense danger.

NEMA Boss Kisumu, Tom Togo

Nema calls for Kisumu wetlands gazettement for easy conservation

By FAITH MATETE 

The National Management Environmental Authority(NEMA) has called for the gazettement of wetlands within the county to protect the areas that are currently in grave danger according to experts.

Nema Boss Kisumu county Tom Togo noted that this was a serious challenge and it was very hard to protect the wetlands since there was no single one within the county that has been gazetted.

Togo challenged both the county assembly(incoming) and the county government to ensure that the wetlands are gazetted so that they can become protected areas to make conservation easy.

 

“Once they become protected areas, it becomes easy to manage them. But when wetlands appear in people’s farms or lands where they have titles sometimes it becomes very hard to stop them from utilizing those people of the land.”

He noted that his office had written to the county government severally on the needs and importance to gazette the wetland within the city or county as a whole.

Some of the wetlands in Kisumu include, Dunga, Ombeyi, Nyando, Kusa, Namthoi, Koguta, Chiga, Kisat amongst others.

Togo further gave an example of Dunga areas, saying the riparian community have not been supported in conserving the area.

He said in most occasions, they have witnessed the burning of the wetlands when they are preparing their farms for planting which is not good.

“If we clear the ‘bedroom’ we won’t have fish so let communities living around the lake take wetland conservation as something that is key in their life and should learn to coexist with this important resource.”

He was speaking in Kisumu during a media science cafe by Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture(Mesha) themed, How management of Riparian Lands Impacts tourism along Lake Victoria.

The function brought houralist from Kisumu and other regions to Dunga swamp, a wetland situated on the shore of Winam Gulf Lake Victoria.

However, Environmentalist Michael Nyanguti said there is a lot of human conflict within the wetlands particularity encroachment around Lake Victoria.

 

Nyaguti chairman of Magnum Environmental Network encroachments of riparian wetlands of Lake Victoria is a threat to lake Victoria, fishery and biodiversity today.

He said there is a lot of illegal fishing going on in Lake Victoria with many people using illegal gears, even those using the right gears are using illegal fishing methods.

This he said has led to depletion of fish stock in lake Victoria and now they see fishermen moving into the riparian areas targeting fish that is breeding.

“This is a dangerous trend that must be curtailed. We are urging like we always do all stakeholders to come on board to ensure that we can conserve our fisheries which is the source of livelihood for many of us.”

Dunga Boardwalk in Kisumu

He noted that currently there are people who after buying or purchasing land next to the lake, think they own all that land in the waters.

“They are encroaching into the wetlands and destroying wetlands vegetation, and even releasing raw sewer and other substances into the lake hence negating the effects of conservation that is supposed to happen around the lake.”

He added that they have been always calling upon the enforcement agencies to ensure that before anyone carries out any development on the waterfront, all laws are in place and people don’t go against them.

“We also have human-wildlife conflict as a result of this. Most of the vegetation along the shoreline are being destroyed, we have hippos along lake Victoria who needs restring and strolling ground, and if this vegetation is destroyed by encroaches then we can’t even attract tourist.”

In February this year during the celebration of World wetland day, Kisumu city manager Abala Wanga put on notice wetland grabbers saying their structures will be brought down and activities stopped to conserve such areas.

He said the wetland serves a huge role in society as they act as a fish breeding ground, water purifiers, carbon filters, sources of different materials, water storage and food control.

Abala noted that Dunga faced a lot of challenges including but not limited to water pollution in the city and surrounding slums, encroachments (main problem), over-harvesting papyrus, cattle grazing and overfishing.

“This is the third notice we are going to issue once the county government does approvals on the wetlands and gazette them. Whether you hence a storey building in there we will bring it down to conserve this area.”

Marco Lambertini_WWF_DG

Lead conservation group calls for strong African leadership for protected areas

By Aghan Daniel.  


A leading global conservation group, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has called for ambitious commitments to create effectively managed, governed, and well-funded conserved areas that safeguard the livelihoods of the people around them.

In a rallying call towards enhancement of protection of protected areas, the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame has said that the African Conservation agenda should be owned and driven by Africans. “Our people stand to harvest the benefits and it is also our responsibility,” he added.

While speaking on the eve of the opening ceremony of the IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) taking place in Kigali, Rwanda, Alice Ruhweza, WWF Africa Region Director, said, “Africa is on the front line of the crises in climate and nature. Africa’s protected and conserved areas are of great ecological, social, economic and cultural importance, providing resources that support communities and enable pathways for adaptation to climate change. We are calling for stronger recognition of the role of protected and conserved areas in climate change adaptation and mitigation and consolidation of scientific, traditional knowledge and best practices on the nexus between protected and conserved areas (P&CAs), biodiversity, people and climate change.”

The overarching objective of the Congress is to position Africa’s protected and conserved areas within the broader goals of economic development and community well-being and to increase the understanding of the vital role parks play in conserving biodiversity and delivering the ecosystem services that underpin human welfare and livelihoods.

Happening from 18th to 23rd July 2022, the Congress is the first-ever continent-wide gathering of African leaders, citizens, and interest groups to discuss the role of protected areas in conserving nature.
Experts believe that protected areas must contribute to nature conservation, climate adaptation and mitigation and advance the well-being of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. 

On his side, Marco Lambertini, WWF Director-General, noted that loss of biodiversity is one of the critical challenges the world faces today.

“Conserving, restoring and sustainably managing the natural spaces left on the planet, are all key elements of becoming a nature-positive society. WWF is committed to refining and strengthening its support for area-based conservation, particularly protected area management, at a time when governments are discussing a global target of protecting at least 30% of the world’s land, ocean and freshwater systems,” he said.

To deliver such an ambitious conservation target, WWF is also committed to promoting an inclusive rights-based approach to conservation that balances the needs of people and the planet through local engagement, ownership, and joint accountability.

“We welcome and share the objectives of the Congress, looking at protected and conserved areas as a key tool to address climate change and support the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.

Managing protected areas is a critical tool for conserving the world’s biodiversity and combating climate change and also forms the basis of the organisation’s goals and initiatives.

Globally, scientists have recently confirmed that as many as 1 million species are at risk of extinction, across the globe, including average population declines of 68% globally and 65% in Africa.

Up to 50% of the wealth in most African countries comes from natural capital and assets, with around 70% of Africa’s population dependent on nature for their livelihoods, say experts.

Marco Lambertini further said, “WWF joins many other groups, governments and businesses in advocating for the world’s leaders to adopt a nature-positive global mission at the forthcoming COP15 of the UN Convention of Biological Diversity. A mission that commits to have more nature at the end of this decade than at its start, through conservation, restoration and sustainable management of species, habitats and natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations, and all life on Earth”.

Experts at the Congress and beyond have reached a consensus that to address the biodiversity and climate change crisis, and to protect and restore ecosystems, the support and scale of solutions indigenous people are key because local communities, and grassroots initiatives offer a lot of reliable knowledge and goodwill which must be tapped into.

During the Congress, indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), will be featured prominently as they own and use roughly 50% of the land. Conservationists say they are a critical part of the solution, despite not always having legal rights over their territories.

 

A MESHA Features, July 2022

IMG_20220513_093619_465

Hunger for sand takes a toll on endangered Mudfish in Embu

About 15 years ago, Alfred Musyoki led a thriving business trapping fish in River Tana, he would hawk his daily catch to vendors who supplied their trade as far as Machakos and Kitui.

Musyoki comes from the Kiromboko area in Mutuobare, across the Embu-Kitui border. The border is marked by the River Tana, which according to the Freshwater Ecoregions of the World(FEOW) study, flows through extensive wetlands and mangrove stands, creating an ideal habitat for the mudfish species.

Mudfish are identified through their small size, tubular, highly flexible, scaleless body with rounded fins, well-developed flanges on the caudal peduncle, tubular nostrils, small or absent pelvic fins, and mottled brown coloration is becoming extinct despite dominance in rivers in the past.

However, as the waters reduced, perhaps due to deforestation upstream, a new crop of business people, raided the region with trucks and shovels.

Musyoki says due to sand harvesting, the waters flow fast and fish are unable to thrive.

“Most fishermen have opted out because it is difficult to continue with the trade,” he told The Star.

“The fish market is facing a challenge of lack enough fish leading to vendors opting to outsource their fish from other regions outside the county,”

The fishermen sell a kilogram of fish at Sh200 to vendors, who then sell it at a set price according to demand.

Infrastructural demand

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), sand is the second most used resource worldwide after water.

Sand is not only the source of infrastructural raw material but also a base resource that supports life.

Sand harvesting which has been going on for 20 years now in this part of river Tana, has seen the river’s aqua life degrade due to diverted waterways and cleared vegetation.

Reeds lining the river banks have also been disturbed, affecting the habitats of mudfish, which dwell in areas rich in dense vegetation with slow-flowing water.

Gideon Musyoki says the reeds and branches are used to trap sand and prevent it from flowing downstream.

“My work is to trap the sand using branches to prevent it from flowing downstream,” said Gideon.

The demand for sand in recent years has been catapulted by the rapid infrastructural growth within the country.

The sand harvested in Kiromboko is mainly used for economic purposes which include construction sites in the neighbouring and distant counties of Kiambu and Nairobi.

Tata Nzule the Kiromboko the sand harvesting site coordinator, says the area can produce over 500 lorries of sand a week during the dry seasons when the water level decreases.

“During the dry season, we load close to over 70 lorries a day, because we work for 24 hours or until late at night. We have the potential to load over 100 within 24 hours and thus in a week we can surpass 500 lorries,” said Nzule.

Despite infrastructural growth playing a major development role in the country, the impacts of the unhealed wounds left behind by sand extraction in rivers are immensely affecting aqua life.

Besides fish, crocodiles, hippopotamus, and birds which play a role in promoting tourism are also affected.

Already, Mudfish are fast migrating from these rivers due to sand harvesting.

These rivers serve as the home for most fish species which have been a source of food, income, and the most coveted health nutrients of omega oil necessary for brain development.

A study from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) shows that the annual fish demand in Kenya is 600,000 tonnes while the current production lies at 400,000 tonnes, yet the country boasts of vast aquatic resources amounting to 1.14million hectares worth of fish production capacity of 11 million tonnes.

Stanley Mbugua, a fish vendor who has been in the business since 1995 and a resident of Machakos, says the business is facing a huge challenge brought about by the biodiversity interference impact.

He adds that he has been forced to travel to Naivasha in search of mudfish and catfish which are among his customer’s favourites.

“The fish business has turned into a nightmare since prices have risen compared to earlier when our water sources experienced fewer activities compared to now,” he said.

On a good day, he used to make Sh2,000 and above but now he can only make less than Sh1,000.

The situation has not been different for Boniface Mwanzia, a fish vendor who said he has been forced to raise the prices since the cost from fishermen and transportation from other regions is increasing daily.

“Not all fish species are available in rivers within the county. We’re forced to transport catfish and mudfish from as far as Naivasha and it’s costing us a lot of money. This has worsened the job since the customers are always complaining about the prices. We don’t have an option but to sell at a loss in some instances because fish can’t be stored for long,” he adds.

Embu County National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) Director Boniface Birichi, says the sand harvesting in River Tana in Mbeere south has been mistaken and the exercise taking place is desilting, which is meant to prevent excess sand from flowing into the Kiambere hydroelectric dam and decreasing the required water levels.

“When conducting desilting exercises, it cannot be 100 percent harmless. There will be some impacts which we assess and indicate how they should be mitigated,” said Birichi.

The matter has not been lightly received by environmental and human activists who have criticized how the County government and other relevant bodies have been treating the issue.

Environmental, Social welfare, and Justice activist Taratisio Ireri Kawe point out that sand scooping and harvesting within the areas of Kiromboko in Mbeere South and Marivwe, Muthanthara, among others in Mbeere North has left the people poor and without proper nutrition found in fish.

He said the government should sensitize communities on the importance of fish as a source of food and employment without causing harm to aquatic life.

“County government should regulate and enact laws that will control the mining of sand within the county. I tell the people to see not only sand but also the opportunities that would come with the fish business in these rivers,” said Kawe.

The Mining Act of 2017 in Kenya places sand in the same line as other natural resources which are under the national government’s control despite its location.

On his side, Simon Kang’iri an environmental activist and conservationist say sand harvesting has led to dried rivers and destroyed aqua life and the situation is heading to worse if not well managed.

He adds that sand harvesters should put into consideration the dangers of uncontrolled harvesting.

“As the harvesting takes place day by day, we lose our water living organisms and lose our rivers as well. We are also losing the important vegetation along river lines,” he explains.

 

 

This story was first published by The Star Newspaper courtesy of JRS Biodiversity Foundation story grant to MESHA.

Journalists during a visit to a marine national park in Kenya

Rwanda to host first congress on conservation of Africa’s protected areas

By Njeri Murigi I healthjournalist3@gmail.com  

The inaugural Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) which seeks to discuss conservation of the continent’s protected areas opens on July 18 in Kigali, Rwanda, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has announced. The congress ends on July 23.

Themed “Protected and Conserved Areas, People and Biodiversity” the showpiece will have deliberations aimed at generating pathways that build and empower current and next generation of leaders to realise an African future where wildlife and wildlands are valued as an asset that contributes to development.

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.

The fair is the first continent-wide gathering of African leaders, citizens, and interest groups which will see talks around the role of protected and conserved areas in safeguarding Africa’s iconic wildlife, delivering vital life-supporting ecosystem services, promoting sustainable development while conserving Africa’s cultural heritage and traditions.

“The Government of Rwanda is excited to host all delegates for a safe, ambitious congress that will change the course of the African conservation agenda. We assure everyone that Rwanda has put in place stringent measures to ensure that Africa deliberates on the future of its biodiversity in a safe environment,” said Rwanda’s Environment Minister Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya.

Luther Anukur, the IUCN Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said,  “We all know that natural ecosystems are in decline. Major habitats are disappearing at a rate never seen before. The current rate of species’ extinction is much higher than experienced before. APAC aims to underscore the fact that protected areas represent an efficient means for protecting our planet’s rich biodiversity in line with our common global pursuits in the Convention of Biodiversity and ambition in the decade for the restoration.”

To deliver on the objectives of the Congress, organisers have identified three thematic streams, namely promoting effective and well-managed networks of protected and conserved areas in Africa; people, protected and conserved areas towards mutual well-being; and Africa’s biodiversity as the basis for life on the continent as the main pillars of discussion.

Leaders and speakers expected at the congress include Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, more than a dozen environment ministers from Africa and European countries, senior representatives of conservation organisations, including IUCN Director General Dr Bruno Oberle and African Wildlife Foundation CEO, Mr Kaddu Sebunya, Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF and Fred Launay, CEO, Panthera. Others include indigenous representatives such as Hindou Oumaru Ibrahim, a member of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee.

Through the congress, all partners hope to achieve African leadership commitment towards creating a unified African voice in conservation that will value African people and nature through effective protected areas.

Experts say that if effectively managed and fairly governed, protected areas can safeguard nature and cultural resources, protect human health and well-being, provide sustainable livelihoods and so support sustainable development.

According to IUCN, 81 per cent of key biodiversity areas are not completely covered by protected areas which calls for joint concerted efforts to conserve these areas.

Additional reporting by Aghan Daniel

A MESHA Feature, July 2022

 

 

bioethics3

Africa Bioethics Network Launched

Scientists launch bioethics network

By Sharon Atieno I sharonphoebeatieno@gmail.com

A group of African experts has formed an association to promote dialogue and action in tackling bioethical issues.

Africa Bioethics Network intends to bring together experts from Africa and beyond in multiple disciplines, such as health, environment and climate change, sustainability, justice, and responsibility, natural sciences, policy and governance, and technology, social sciences, and humanities, among others.

Some of the objectives of the Network include advocating for the synthesis and harmonization of bioethical activities across Africa, reflecting on best ways to tackle bioethical issues in the continent and increasing partnerships to extend their reach to solve problems in one area that can be applied to similar regions elsewhere.

Additionally, they seek to ensure their governance and communications are sensitive to diversity while making good use of information technology and collaborative tools to communicate in real-time as they work together across the globe.

They also want to promote the development of skills and knowledge needed to take part effectively in global research programs, build and support international research networks and develop effective partnerships with civil society organizations and private sector entities.

Further, they want to bring together concerns about health, environment, sustainability, justice and responsibility.

The Africa Bioethics Network was formally launched in May at the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) Institute of Clinical Research, University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Those who attended the launch include the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) representatives, Clin Win Research Services, Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI), University of Nairobi, St Paul’s University, BCA-ETHICS II, Anahuac University, The International Association of Bioethics (IAB), Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and many others with a representation of over 30 countries.

Dr Gladys Kalema Zikusoka

Uganda’s first wildlife vet wants more women involved in wildlife conservation

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Uganda’s first wildlife vet is the founder of Conservation Through Public Health to protect the health of mountain gorillas while improving the lives and livelihoods of the communities who live with them.

Years before the One Health approach was thrust into the spotlight following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Kalema-Zikusoka was already putting it into practice in Bwindi local community by enabling people, gorillas and other wildlife to co-exist through improving their health and community livelihoods in and around protected areas.

Last year, the pioneering wildlife veterinarian was named Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation – from the United Nations Environment Programme. She tells MESHA’s Clifford Akumu about her amazing adventures with mountain gorillas.

 

  1. Kindly tell us how you gained interest in wildlife conservation?

I have always loved animals since I was young. We had many pets at home and at the age of 12 I decided that I wanted to become a veterinary doctor. My passion for animals led to the creation of a wildlife club in my high school – Kibuli Secondary School. This made me want to become a veterinary doctor who also works with wildlife. I later went to study veterinary medicine at Royal Veterinary College in London to enhance my dreams and passion. My first job was setting up the veterinary department at Uganda Wildlife Authority as Uganda’s first wildlife vet. When I led a team that investigated a fatal scabies skin disease outbreak in then critically endangered mountain gorillas traced to the Bwindi local community, we founded Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) NGO a few years later to improve the health of people and wildlife together. 

  1. Habitat loss and poaching are the biggest threats to mountain gorillas’ population. As a wildlife conservation enthusiast, just how huge is the challenge and what is your organisation doing about it?

This is a very big challenge and threat to the endangered mountain gorillas due to poverty, hunger and the increase in human population growth. To deal with these challenges, CTPH carries out different programmes in the communities living adjacent to the gorilla habitat.

CTPH trains Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) – community volunteers – to educate the local communities on the importance of gorillas and the forest to the local and national economy so that they can all protect the species. The VHCTs are also trained to provide health services and conservation education to the local community members, including family planning methods to enable families to balance their budgets, reduce poverty in their homes and their dependence on the ark to meet basic needs for food and fuelwood. This in turn is reducing the unsustainable population growth rate in the surrounding communities.

CTPH also has an alternative livelihood programme that provides the local community members with food and other sources of income to meet their basic family needs. Through the ‘Ready to Grow’ programme, CTPH was able to boost food security for local communities living around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park by providing them with perennial crop seedlings. Each grow kit distributed via the programme includes 10 packages of low-maintenance seedlings that need little space to grow and are harvestable within one to four months. This has reduced their dependence on the gorilla habitat for meat from duikers and bush pigs and fuel wood and helped to curb poaching.

CTPH also has a social enterprise – Gorilla Conservation Coffee, which works closely with 500 local coffee farmers adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Gorilla Conservation Coffee buys coffee from the local farmers at a premium price above the market rate and supports the farmers through training in sustainable coffee farming and processing. This helps to improve the coffee quality and increase production yield. Supporting local farmers helps to protect the endangered gorillas and their fragile habitat.

 

  1. You have received several awards for your conservation work with mountain gorillas. Which one of them has stood out for you and why?

All the awards I have received for the work through CTPH and Gorilla Conservation are a great deal. The first award we received was the San Diego Zoo Conservation in Action award in 2008, which was a great source of encouragement and since then we have been greatly honoured and humbled to win other awards. Each award has a different focus, but all of them recognise our holistic and innovative approach that is having a positive impact on conservation, health and sustainable development. The most recent awards I have received in the past three years for our One Health and Planetary health model have been the 2021 World Veterinary Day Award from Uganda Veterinary Association, 2021 UNEP Champion of the Earth Award for Science and Innovation and Edinburgh Medal for science and humanity and for CTPH it has been the Saint Andrews Prize for the Environment.

  1. Illegal wildlife trade and poaching activities is a major threat to the animals’ survival. What are the latest statistics looking like for the most trafficked and poached animals and where in Uganda are the wildlife poaching hotspots?

Some of the most poached and trafficked animals in Uganda include pangolins, elephants and rhinos. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) together with its partners are working hard to combat poaching and wildlife trafficking of some of the animals mentioned. UWA rangers carry out routine patrols in the national parks to ensure the protection of the wildlife and their habitats.

There is very strict law enforcement at country borders where there is a high likelihood of smuggling of wildlife.

There is much more wildlife poaching in savannah protected areas than forest protected areas, which have more foot traffic from rangers and tourists providing more protection and law enforcement. 

  1. Tell us about your new book on gorilla conservation and what should we expect when you launch it later this year?

My book titled ‘Walking With Gorillas’ that will be launched in October this year is a part memoir part charter that takes you through my personal conservation journey and my work as a wildlife veterinarian conserving mountain gorillas and other wildlife – reviving a wildlife club at high school, setting up the veterinary unit in UWA, founding CTPH and Gorilla Conservation Coffee and advocating for responsible and sustainable tourism to the great apes. It also talks about nurturing female and African leadership in conservation in order to have lasting impact.

  1. When you finally wrap up your career, what would you like to see happen for the wildlife across the country?

I would like to see more women and young people involved in the conservation of wildlife, especially among the local communities who share their habitat with wildlife. When you educate and provide knowledge to young people about the necessity of conserving wildlife, they will be the future decision makers and are able to influence policies that protect our planet.

Elephants

Partnership to conserve elephants across Kenya/Uganda border launched

By Special Correspondent | info@ugandacf.org

A new and exciting partnership has formed to conserve elephants across the Kenya / Uganda border, including through the incredible Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda. In February, 2022 the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Uganda Conservation Foundation in Uganda, and the Northern Rangelands Trust and Save the Elephants (STE) from Kenya teamed up to satellite collar elephants across the region. We will learn where they move, why and when, and how best to conserve them across the ecosystem. Human elephant conflict is a serious problem for local farmers, and for the long term conservation of elephants and other wildlife. Every effort is being made to invest in a better future for the regions people and its wildlife. The collaring exercise saw Kenyan and Ugandan professionals working together, sharing experience and expertise – for a common purpose – something very special to witness.

All of the collared elephants are being monitored in real time through software called EarthRanger, aiding the management, operations and research of wildlife and conservation throughout the landscape. The STE team has also committed to helping to develop UWAs own elephant monitoring and analytics team – which will support UWAs ability to manage human elephant conflict and elephant conservation in the region.