Africa Bioethics Network Launched

Scientists launch bioethics network

By Sharon Atieno I

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.


Partnership to conserve elephants across Kenya/Uganda border launched

By Special Correspondent |

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.

Fisherfolk: Experts say that the lives and livelihoods of people across the continent are heavily dependent on the quality of biodiversity

Experts call for biodiversity conservation in fight against climate change

By Joyce Chimbi I


The ecosystem plays a critical role in halting the pace of climate change and its effects, experts have said. In a webinar for science and health journalists held on February 22, the experts unpacked concepts around biodiversity, different types of biodiversity and how they interact, providing clear examples of their interconnectivity and why conservation efforts must be escalated because life on earth depends on their sustainable use.

Dr David Kimiti, Deputy Director, Research and Impact at Grevy’s Zebra Trust, said there is a need to re-evaluate the variety and variability of life on earth at all its levels, “from genes to ecosystems and the evolutionary, ecological and cultural processes that sustain life.” He gave three main types of biodiversity; genetic biodiversity, species biodiversity and ecosystems biodiversity. Dr Kimiti said overexploitation of species and ecosystem biodiversity is making life on earth difficult, having contributed to extreme weather patterns, which have, in turn, led to severe food insecurity such as the ongoing hunger in northern Kenya.

Dr Julius Ecuru, Manager, BioInnovate Africa at International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), told journalists that while Africa is rich in biodiversity, which is the basis for biomass that is essential to the bio economy, “threats to the biodiversity are imminent”. He said genetic biodiversity preserves life on earth, while species biodiversity defines unique attributes of life and coexistence within and across life forms. Ecosystem biodiversity, on the other hand, ensures ecological balance in habitats to support life, providing essential services such as air and water purification, carbon sinks and wildlife.

Dr Ecuru spoke of unstainable food production and consumption, land use changes, including urbanisation, mining and infrastructure development, pollution by toxic effluents from factories as well as global warning from carbon emissions. He called for conservation of biodiversity at all levels, using science and technology to optimise production and use of biomass, including reclaiming degraded environments. Dr Ecuru also called for provision of alternative livelihoods for communities that are custodians of biomass, especially fuel sources, farm inputs, market value chains and job opportunities. Saliou Niassy from icipe laid bare the looming catastrophe if Africa does not adopt a protective, restorative, conservative and sustainable approach when interacting with the ecosystem biodiversity.

“Ecosystem services are the benefits provided by ecosystems that contribute to making human life possible and worth living. Categories of ecosystem services based on their functions include provision of food and medical resources, regulatory services such as bio control, support services such as nutrient cycling and cultural services such as ecotourism,” he explained. Niassy stressed on the importance of circular economy and sustainable access to ecosystem services in Africa. If the continent does not halt ongoing overexploitation of the ecosystem benefits, UNEP research, for instance, predicts that Africa’s forest cover will shrink to “less than 600 million hectares by 2050 due to conversion of forests for agriculture and growing demand for firewood.”

According to the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) Africa’s annual food import bill of $35 billion is estimated to rise to $110 billion by 2025. Niassy decried soil degradation across the continent due to a combination of factors, which has further compromised land production potential. “As of 2012, Africa produced more than 125 million tonnes per year of municipal solid waste and this is expected to double by 2025. All these are effects of lack of sustainable and circular approach on access to ecosystem services for better livelihoods, food and nutritional security,” he said.

Research shows that constraints to biodiversity conservation and sustainable access to ecosystem services can be seen in the lack of capacity to adopt sustainable measures to combat climate change, ongoing landscape degradation, invasive and other biotic threats as well as intensive agriculture. Niassy says low awareness on benefits of biodiversity, lack of technology and capacity among stakeholders for monitoring, conservation and sustainable access to biodiversity and ecosystem services are the most pressing issues. It emerged that human activity have extensively utilised biodiversity in its various forms without due regard for future generations. Niassy called for community engagement in conservation efforts to ensure interventions are practical and sustainable.

Overall, experts called for urgent interventions to ensure that human activities do not erode Africa’s position as a biodiversity hotspot, risking the lives and livelihoods of people across the continent.



Institute vouches for protection of sandalwood, a rare hard wood

By Tebby Otieno |
Nick Lenyakopiro grew up knowing East African sandalwood as a medicinal tree used by his parents
and grandparents. He says that once the leaves of this indigenous tree have been boiled, children
with cough-related diseases are then covered using a blanket and allowed to inhale the steam for
some minutes. This is how the healing process using East African sandalwood takes place. “The
culture of Samburu does not allow trees to be cut down. You either pluck the leaves or remove the
tree plank,” says Lenyakopiro. Samburu is a hot and dry region whose residents are mainly
pastoralists. During drought, they also cut the leaves of the sandalwood to feed livestock.
“Sandalwood still exists and locals here do not know any economic value attached to it like selling
them to other people or exporting them,” says Lenyakopiro. What he did not know was that some
people away from his community had known other benefits of this rare tree species. As he would
later find out, officers in Maralal Police Station had arrested those who involved in trading in it. “All
of a sudden cases of sandalwood started coming up. Maybe someone somewhere just stole the idea
that sandalwood is making money somewhere,” he says. Lenyakopiro is a station manager at a local
radio station in Samburu. He says he uses the station to educate their audiences on the need to
protect sandalwood.
“We have actually come out to champion the protection of the sandalwood. We tell our audiences
not to allow foreigners who come to the forest asking for it,” he says. Apart from treating children
and feeding animals, Samburu community also uses East African sandalwood as a preservative and
cleaning ingredient. Douglas Leboiyare, living in Ngari village, says locals use it to clean traditional
gourd used to preserve milk. This ensures milk remains fresh as if it were refrigerated. “Women also
use it when they have given birth and experience swollen, painful breasts. Again, after using it to
clean the gourd, milk can stay there for three days without fermenting,” says the 51-year-old.
Despite the importance of this species of tree to Samburu residents, they are now worried of its
availability in future. This follows the rate at which it is being cut and sold to outsiders.
Leboiyare says stories about availability of its market in the neighbouring countries started in
2010/2011. “Those people started coming to Samburu telling people that the tree pays money. It
seems there are business people from outside Samburu who come here with brokers so the tree is
cut. Only God knows if it will survive,” he says. According to Leboiyare, one big sandalwood tree can
produce one tonne while a small one produces about 200kg. The brokers pay locals Ksh60 per
kilogramme and they cut many trees at ago to fill up a lorry.
It is because of this that residents here formed Naramat Community Forest Association (CFA) in
Kirisia Forest so that they protect this species. Leboiyare is the chairperson. “We are trying to stop
cutting of this tree here in Kirisia Forest by creating awareness among the locals. We also arrest
those we find cutting it but there are still crooks who continue to cut it,” says Leboiyare. Naramat

CFA consists of 140 scouts members who do patrols to make sure there are no intruders accessing
Kirisia Forest. “They normally cut this tree into small pieces. When we find them we arrest and hand
them over to officers for legal action. However, if they manage to escape we destroy the small
pieces of trees they leave behind,” he said. Leboiyare says he has never seen seedlings of East
African sandalwood. What they are doing is protecting the naturally growing species. He, however,
appeals that if there are seedlings, then they be given so that they can plant more of it in the
deforested areas.
“This tree grows where there is high temperature and since the government has not been able to
preserve it, we decided to leave our livestock and protect our forest,” says Leboiyare. In 2007,
President Mwai Kibaki issued a ban on sandalwood tree harvest. The president, vide Gazette Notice
Number 3176 dated the April 4, 2007, declared Osyris lanceolate (East African sandalwood-
Msandali) as a protected tree species for a period of five years. The Gazette notice was to be
executed by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). Dr Willis Okumu, a senior researcher from the Institute
of Security Studies, says prosecution of cases of trading in sandalwood is still supported by the
Gazette Notice Number 3176.
“Sandalwood in Eastern Africa has also been listed in appendix two of the cities of the increased over
exploitation. Despite all the legal framework that we have, it seems that we have not really
succeeded in preventing the exploitation of sandalwood,” said Dr Okumu during a phone interview.
There have been subsequent legal provisions, like the Wildlife Conservation Management Act of
2013, which have listed East African sandalwood as endangered species that people cannot trade in.
Dr Okumu reveals how their recent research in Samburu County, tracing networks enabling East
African sandalwood smuggling and trafficking, found people behind this illegal trade. “We realised
that sandalwood trafficking in Kenya is facilitated by some State actors, hence the lucrative nature of
the product,” said Dr Okumu.
The investigation further found out that there is a lot of bureaucracy and criminal organisations
involved in trafficking of East African sandalwood. East African sandalwood is found in areas where
most locals are pastoralists like in Samburu County. Peter Gachie, a scientist from Kenya Forestry
Research Institute (KEFRI), says most people who are interested in trading in this tree take
advantage of the vulnerability of the locals who are looking for an alternative source of livelihood.
“East African sandalwood is a precious plant that has been overexploited. Its scientific name is Osyris
lanceolate. It is in the family of sandalwood and has its relatives in India and Australia, which we
usually term as the true sandalwoods,” Gachie said. Gachie says that East African sandalwood is used
in cosmetics industry to make oil and also some medicine.
Oil being very valuable has led to this species of tree to be overexploited in other countries. “In
those other countries it has been domesticated so people are cultivating sandalwood, but due to
limitation of the species they have now come to poach our own,” he says. The lucrative value of East
African sandalwood products continues to put the tree in a danger of exploitation and destruction.
KEFRI says communities where the tree is harvested have little knowledge about the value of its
products, the reason they are robbed of their precious resource.


Mangrove conservation improves Gazi women’s livelihoods

By Bozo Jenje Bozo |
Hermit crabs are seen hovering beneath the mangrove plantations as one walks on the 450- metre
plastic recycled ecopost boardwalk at the shoreline of Gazi Bay in Kwale County. Carrying empty
snail shells on their backs, the crabs transverse the sandy ground, feeding on leaf littre and green
leaves. The crabs’ survival is of immense value to the mangrove ecosystem and biodiversity, and to
the local artisanal fishermen who harvest them as baits as they fend for their livelihood. On the
coastal shoreline, the evergreen mangrove trees are dominant and one cannot easily figure out that
the area was once degraded from human activities.
Addressing journalists at Gazi Village during the Media for Environment, Science, Health and
Agriculture (MESHA) with support from JRS Biodiversity Foundation, Dr Kipkorir Langat said before
an intervention to stop mangrove destruction, lorries used to ferry tonnes of mangrove logs for lime
and charcoal production. “It is through the efforts of Kemfri and the community to plant propagules,
transplant mangrove saplings and nursery-raised seedlings that the 27 women in Gazi village are
now benefiting from the green economic activities of mangrove conservation,” added Dr Langat who
works as a chief scientist at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute. He said the 1994
restoration initiative that started at Gazi led the women to sustainably utilise the mangrove
resources and improve the mangrove ecosystem for their livelihood.
Other than caring for the mangroves, the Gazi Women’s Group also runs a makuti-thatched
restaurant. Mwatime Hamad, a member of the group and a tour guide, says the project located
50km from Mombasa has boosted their income from eco-tourism, recreation, education and
research. “We charge visitors a fee to walk on the on one-metre, raised boardwalk and also provide
Swahili dishes for their lunches and dinner while on tour,” says Hamad. “Local tourists pay Ksh100
(USD 1), international visitors Ksh300 (USD3) and students Ksh50 (USD 0.5) per person. The money
collected supports women in the village and their children in school,” she says.

While touring the mangrove area, tourists also participate in bird watching. Among the diverse bird
species are the fish eagles and white egret birds. Hamad says during peak seasons, they earn about
Ksh30,000 (USD 300) per month, while during low seasons the income goes down to Ksh10,000 (USD
100). In future, the group targets about 350 customers every month to increase its revenue. At the
moment the women have diversified their revenue streams to include hiring of the Banda at
Ksh3,500 (USD 35) for birthday parties and meetings.
Further, Hamad says the project plans to expand to incorporate campsites and floating cottages. Dr
Langat said the mangrove ecosystem supports fisheries and prevents soil erosion. “The benefits of
mangrove include shoreline protection from soil erosion, storage and preservation of substantial
quantities of carbon and biodiversity,” he explained. Dr Langat said the mangrove ecosystem also
contributes to the productivity of the ocean value chain for artisanal fishing.
According to the Kenya Policy Brief, a hectare per year of mangrove provides essential service valued
at Ksh269,448 (USD 2694). On the women’s connection to the mangrove conservation, Kemfri
marine scientist Josphat Nguu said the women can now attest to managing a business without
employing and paying external workers. “From their experience, they have learned that marketing
the conservation project is a key component for growth and success,” he said. Nguu added that for
the prosperity of the group, diversification of their products will increase more income for
sustainability and the maintenance of their infrastructure.

Biodiversity: Experts urge the public to embrace and protect insects/over 500 edible insects’ species in Africa

Biodiversity champions in Kenya and Africa have called on Kenyans to embrace and protect insects saying that they are very key in maintaining the ecosystem.

The head of Technology Transfer Unit at the International Centre of Insect, physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) Dr.Niassy Saliu said many insects which are playing key roles like pollination, decomposition of nutrient in the soil and also used as food might soon be extinct because they are not protected.

Dr.Niassy said many people have ignored the roles played by insects in the society adding that besides helping in issues of pollination, nutrient decomposition, some insects are used as food for humans. He said insects are very rich in nutrients like protein, zinc among others.

The head of Technology Transfer Unit at the International Centre of Insect, Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) said countries like Europe have embraced insects by even creating laws to protect insects, adding that the majority of the people are eating insects.

Dr.Niassy said such laws protecting insects which have been developed in some countries are also very necessary in Kenya adding that the people in Kenya should value the insects.

In Africa, there are over 500 edible insects while globally over 1900 insects’ species are eaten.

Among the edible insects in Africa include legend termite, spiders, beetles, mantids, flies,plant bugs,wasps;moth/butterflies ,dragonflies  and grasshoppers

By George Juma.

Migori County.

1st MARCH 2022.