How Well Do You Know Your Environment?

How Well Do You Know Your Environment?

There are those in our midst who understand wildlife biology and are expert in their biomes and ecology while others are at home in fields such as sociology, political science, and law. Some of us come to wildlife activism with no other training than a firm conviction that it is the right thing to do—to bend ourselves to do all that we can to contribute in any way to prevent the extinction of elephants in the wild.

A herd of elephants.

A herd of elephants.

I sat there in amazement as Jacob, my friend and colleague narrated his experiences on the journey he has taken while spreading the gospel of conservation – asking us simple but hard questions about the environment, as we were chagrined at our ignorance.

Jacob in the middle with school kids

Jacob in the middle with school kids

Stories and facts about elephant and rhino horn poaching, or of game meat, are nothing new and are well known and he widely discussed these topics. The same destruction is happening to habitat. Trees are being felled illegally every day and in high numbers, forming an equally serious threat. Tree cover guarantees rainfall and acts against soil erosion and for many animal species, the tree leaves provide a needed source of food and nutrition. Yet trees around protected areas of Kenya’s National Parks are becoming fewer and harder to come by. The demand for timber is high, so high that nowadays people are desperate enough to take high risks in obtaining the desired wood and are cutting trees inside the parks, such as Tsavo National Park.

Man caught illegally chopping trees.

Man caught illegally chopping trees.

And I thought of the many creative, talented individuals in Kenya today who have misplaced priorities; whose biggest achievement, according to them, may be posting a Facebook post that gets many likes or a tweet that gives them a lot of interactions, the many online enthusiasts who are ready to bark at a fellow online user because they can write good English and argue about things that matter most to people two worlds away, the propaganda spreaders, the poets who are confident only because they receive snaps after every punch line they deliver, and myself. I saw how little I know about my country, about Africa, especially about the most important things – land, the economy, the business of politics, and the real value of having a healthy environment.

Aerial view of land denuded by charcoal harvesting.

Aerial view of land denuded by charcoal harvesting.

Today some may view me as a knowledgeable person, but I’m barely done knowing myself. I have a whole continent to explore, and so do you. Our dirty politics is killing us. And now this ignorance is taking away the magic of mother Earth, because we think we are getting wiser with all this noise happening around in the news and tech world, seldom considering the effects these developments have on the place we live. So, how well do you know your environment?

 

The Tsavo West National Park is a section of one of the largest wildlife conservancies on the planet, as well as one of Kenya’s largest wildlife national parks. It is well-known for its resident population of Red Elephants as well as the tale of the Tsavo Man-eaters. Unfortunately, most of the communities bordering these parks have never had a chance to visit them due to the cost. For these reasons Amara organizes game drives with Purdue University students each year into Tsavo West National Park. We also encourage children to form Wildlife Clubs and embrace their wildlife and environment. This year Mrabenyi Secondary School in Taita Taveta County had the opportunity to tour the vast Park and interact with the University students from USA.

 

tHistorically, the Tsavo Area is renowned for the Man-eaters of Tsavo, two mane-less lions who developed a taste to prey on humans back in the early 1900’s (various reasons are cited for this, one recently being that they suffered from tooth decay and pain that made hunting difficult for them!). Although they were later shot, they killed many people that were constructing the railway line connecting Mombasa and Nairobi. Additionally, it was the main battlefield between the Germans and the Britons in Africa in the course of World War I. Currently the area is very peaceful and is now famous for its resident Red-colored Elephants, that enjoy dust-bathing in the red colored soil. The serene environment of Tsavo comes mainly with thorny bushland, open grasslands and among the most beautiful scenic areas are; the Yatta plateau, the World’s longest lava flow stretching 290km; Mzima springs; Shetani Lava Flow; Chaimu Hill; and Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary.

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Environmental Education

Environmental Education

Environmental Education

By laying the educational foundation needed to help people living around Tsavo understand their indelible impact on the ecosystem, Amara makes it easier for everyone to be successful and hopeful. Here are some of the people Amara educates:

A broad range of village elders, youth, local government organizations, nomadic pastoralists who range for thousands of miles, Taita subsistence farmers, traditional hunter-gatherers, women’s groups, Maasai from Serengeti to Tsavo…And they’re all hungry for more!

Amara started focusing in Tsavo in 2003, home to the largest population of elephants in Kenya at 13,000, and ranked as the highest priority area in need of protection. One of Tsavo’s most crucial challenges is human wildlife conflict, which leads to poaching and killing of humans by elephants. Amara’s goal was to find a harmonious solution to this ongoing problem that was regularly claiming the lives of both people and elephants. Amara made significant strides toward this goal through specialized education programs, workshops and community engagement.

Our Key Environmental Education Projects

Education for Conservation

Amara’s goal is to provide education and help people understand the importance of the wildlife that surrounds them. We provide information about the ecosystem and how environmental factors are influenced by human activities. The additional information allows them to make personal decisions to work for positive change. With the knowledge they gain, fewer animals are poached for ivory, horns, and bushmeat, deforestation decreases, and the futures improve for the animals and people alike.

Mobile Film Unit

We show environmental education films to people in rural areas – where there is no electricity, no plumbing, and many people have no exposure to film of any kind. The people living around Conservation Areas are the ones who have all the impact upon those areas. Once they learn about how their activities impact the  environment, they are eager to change and protect their precious resources.

Amara’s Mobile Film Unit works closely with the people, showing films in schools in the daytime and villages at night; holding in-depth discussions before and after films opens minds and doors to change.

Radio Tsavo

In areas of low literacy, poor quality roads, no electricity, sporadic access to newspapers, televisions, telephones and Internet, where small populations are scattered in isolated corners, radio is the most effective means of communication.

Radio Tsavo – a community-based radio station – will provide a venue for the community to share their knowledge. Locally produced programs will cover topics including the environment, local conservation issues, women’s issues, health and agricultural information; and to bring distant communities in contact with one another, sharing experiences and information to improve the lives of all inhabitants.

Alternative Livelihood

Poverty, drought, unemployment and wildlife conflict often push communities neighboring conservation areas to engage in

Mobile Film Unit

Films are an important and powerful tool for appealing to people’s emotions as they reaching the highest domains of

Mbulia Conservancy

Kenya’s rich wildlife is found both inside protected areas and outside on community land. These community lands are

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Community Empowerment

Community Empowerment

Community Empowerment

Amara’s goal is to help educate local people in the areas surrounding the parks so they understand the importance of the wildlife and ecosystem, and to help guide them to form their own solutions on how to make positive change. We work to conserve unique wildlife and critical habitats and promote sustainable livelihoods through environmental education and capacity building working with rural communities in East Africa.

Our guiding value is the autonomy of indigenous communities; our awareness that each community is unique and must find its own solutions to the problem of sustainability. Amara’s role is to provide information, alternatives, and opportunities in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, and cooperation among stakeholders based on trust and creativity.

 

Our Key Community Empowerment Projects

Mbulia Group Ranch & Lodge

The solution that Mbulia Group Ranch – the owners of a piece of land bordering Tsavo East and West – came up with was impressive. Mbulia lies on the border of Tsavo East and West, home to over 700 elephants, and providing critical dry season habitat to many more elephants and rhinos. After years of Amara work, in 2011 over 2000 individuals from the Mbulia community dedicated 11,400 acres of their land to form a wildlife sanctuary.

 

Amara found an investor committed to the environment that now provides revenue and jobs for the Mbulia community. READ MORE

 

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Habitat Protection & Restoration

Habitat Protection & Restoration

Habitat Protection & Restoration

Biodiversity Rehabilitation

Kenya has a rich diversity of species, habitats and ecological resources that are of local and global importance. Kenya’s biodiversity includes over 35,000 species, including more than 7,000 plant species and many endemic, rare, endangered and threatened species.

Kenya’s biodiversity is critical for our life sustenance and ecosystem regulation through provision of goods, services and a healthy environment. These include clean air, fresh water, food, timber, fiber and other products. Biodiversity also includes various other important things and services such as cultural, recreational, and spiritual nourishment that play an important role in maintaining our personal life as well as social life.

Despite the intrinsic value and critical role of supporting our human existence, our biodiversity is under continuous threat due to human activities. The impacts of human activities are causing threats through loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitat, introduction and the spread of invasive species, unsustainable use of natural resources and release of toxic substances. This has led to deforestation, pollution, land degradation, loss of habitats, depletion and extinction of species and climate change.

Amara Conservation recognizes the importance of individual and collaborative involvement in addressing biodiversity conservation. We work with individuals to clear ignorance and encourage personal responsibility and also partner with others to prevent and rectify biodiversity loss. We do this by supporting and engaging with community members to participate in conservation and rehabilitation activities such as clean-up exercises/waste management, tree planting, development of conservancies and conservation support.

Projects Include:

Clean-up/Waste Management

Establishment of tree nurseries

Establishment and development of Conservancies

Conservation support

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The Many Faces of Amara

The Many Faces of Amara

The Many Faces of Amara

Rural community members in Kenya have limited access to environmental information, and this causes serious issues throughout the entire ecosystem. We help people:

  • Understand the elephant’s role as a keystone species in the environment. A keystone species is a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment and plays a key role in maintaining the balance of all other species in the community.
  • Realize there is not an endless supply of animals for bushmeat. They could be eating themselves out of a future.
  • Know that deforestation brings drought – trees attract rain, people sometimes think trees take away the precious water rather than hold it in the ecosystem.
  • Realize how much money tourism brings into Kenya’s economy and how that money actually benefits everyone. Without the existence of wildlife, the tourism will end.


The people we work with experience human-wildlife conflict, work hard to grow crops and keep livestock, where there is frequent and severe drought. Many of them engage in bushmeat poaching, overgrazing, illegal logging and charcoal production – which are permanently damaging to wildlife habitats and environment. Once people understand how their actions impact the environment, they are eager to change and protect their precious resources.

This is where Amara can help!

Education for Conservation

Amara’s goal is to provide education and help people understand the importance of the wildlife that surrounds them. We provide information about the ecosystem and how environmental factors are influenced by human activities. The additional information allows them to make personal decisions to work for positive change. With the knowledge they gain, fewer animals are poached for ivory, horns, and bushmeat, deforestation decreases, and the futures improve for the animals and people alike.

Amara is about helping people learn to see things in a new way. We don’t have all the answers, but we can pose questions, and through films from the African Environmental Film Foundation (AEFF), we can offer solutions that work for communities. With information, people can see the problems, and find solutions that work.

Amara also helps provide information on funding and other resources that can benefit them. The community members want to learn, strive to improve, and Amara works to make this possible.

These are a few letters from students that have attended our film shows. These children, and their letters, have made a profound impact on our hearts.

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