Florence Gichoya African Conservation Centre
After decades of conservation research in various landscapes in Kenya, a small group of Kenyan nationals founded the African Conservation Centre (ACC) in 1995. ACC’s work is mainly focused in four landscape areas in Kenya: Amboseli, Maasai Mara, Laikipia and the South Rift. These areas have the richest vertebrate diversity in Africa and have a third of all Kenya’s wildlife population. Conservation education is at the heart of ACC’s work. It complements the academic curriculum by empowering and giving opportunities to schoolchildren to identify their role in conservation as well as taking action on issues affecting the environment.
Training teachers to be conservation ambassadors
ACC realized the need to train teachers on how they can mentor their students to take a lead on conservation issues. In partnership with Wildlife Clubs of Kenya (WCK), we trained 26 teachers from the Amboseli ecosystem on wildlife and environment conservation. The goal of the training was to build the teachers’ capacity to teach on environment and wildlife conservation in their schools.
After the two-day training the teachers were certified to be conservation patrons in their respective schools. As patrons, the teachers will educate the learners, initiate and promote small projects within the school and organize tours for the children to visit national parks and learn more about the environment and wildlife species.
In addition, the teachers formed a network for sharing knowledge and collaborating with each other when carrying out activities. The patrons were encouraged to involve the entire school when implementing their projects including students, teachers and non-teaching staff for maximum results.
Part of the planned activities will be to plant more than 2000 trees, carry out clean up exercises, construct study benches under trees and beautify schools by planting flowerbeds along the schools’ terraces. The activity was part of the CONNEKT1 project, which is a partnership between ACC and OIKOS-EA from Tanzania and is funded by the European Union.
After the training, ACC led children from the Amboseli ecosystem in tree planting on Valentine’s Day. Students from Kimana Primary School and Kimana Secondary School planted 200 trees to express their love for nature. The primary school is located on a landscape that is bare and with few trees. Planting trees will re-green the environment and rejuvenate the growth of other plants.
The children learnt that trees not only provide food for people and animals but they are also important in providing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, restoring landscapes, preventing soil erosion and countering climate change.
ACC’s Education Officer, Losioki Somoire organized the event and highlighted that the young generation should be involved in taking care of the environment for a better tomorrow: “We can halt climate change if each one of us takes part. Education is an effective tool of empowering children to be custodians of the environment.”
The children in Amboseli are contributing to achieving Kenya’s national goal of increasing tree cover from 7.2% to 10% by 2022. The government aims to plant at least 1.8 billion trees in order to achieve this goal.
Although schools were shut down in March after the outbreak of COVID-19, ACC’s education outreach officer has continued to follow up on the teachers and students remotely.
Amplifying children’s voices for conservation through art
On February 21st 2019, African Conservation Centre in partnership with Wildlife Clubs of Kenya (WCK) and National Museums of Kenya held a children’s art exhibition. Over 60 students from different schools in Nairobi attended the exhibition which was held at the National Museum’s Amphitheatre. The children were elated to describe what motivated them to paint pictures of Kenya’s endangered wildlife species.
ACC Director Lucy Waruingi said the organization was keen in advocating for conservation education through art: “Children may not always stand in a room to speak but they can speak through other ways like art.”
Banice Makau, a student from Akiiba School said she was inspired to paint because of her love for elephants, “They are the most hunted species because of their ivory,” she said. The painting will create awareness of the need to love and conserve our animals.
Paintings by children from Kajiado and Laikipia counties were also exhibited. A few years ago ACC, in partnership with Uaso Ngiro Baboon Project, sponsored the Water Color Project in the two counties. American wildlife artist Deborah Ross trained the students to paint what they observed in their environment. The children explored popular medicinal plants and wildlife found in their community. The conservation education exercise became a platform to connect generations as the elders shared the purpose of each medicinal plant and the children interpreted them into art.
The children’s artwork was compiled and published in a book titled ‘Olcani’ a masaai word for medicine. Some of the children’s pieces from the book were showcased at the children’s artwork exhibition and on November 20th 2018 during the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP14) Africa Day in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, where the theme for the event was to inspire nature advocacy in Africa through communication.
1. The CONNEKT project (Connecting Neighbouring Ecosystems in Kenya & Tanzania) tinyurl.com/y6htcsrh
This article was first published in 2020 in Vol 125 of the NAEE journal which is available free to members.