Mt. Kenya Trust News Updates

 

(Posted 17th December 2022)

 

Students from St. Mary’s High School, Igoji can’t hide their excitement at the arrival of Elephant Queen theater team.
MOUNTAIN DISPATCHES
September – November 2022
The past three months have seen an intense focus on community interactions through several of our programmes including education, health and forest restoration, all aimed at livelihood improvement in the region.

Through our Community Health projects, we strive not only to support people and give access to information and services such as counselling and family planning where the demands are unmet, but we also aim to strengthen and expose the links between people’s health, family stability and conservation. Our adolescent health project helps to address many of the issues affecting teenagers and prevent them from having an informed start in life.

In our forest restoration areas, we hit higher targets than in the last planting seasons by starting within a week of rain arriving at each of the sites. Although the rainfall was localised and sporadic, there was sufficient soil moisture to move fast. The more trees we plant, the more people we assist. The seedlings are purchased from community-based nurseries and the CFA’s working with us to carry out the planting benefit either from direct payments (when we are enrichment planting) or cultivation when we can use an agroforestry model. The latter is far more efficient.

In September we were awarded the first runners-up at the African Conservation Awards 2022. We’re mightily pleased about this!
Thank you all for your continued support
A ROYAL VISIT
On the 26th of November, Enock and Susie from MKT and Damaris and Belinda from Grevy’s Zebra Trust had the wonderful opportunity to talk to the Crown Princess of Sweden and Directors from the Gundua Foundation about the conservation and community work they do on the mountain and in the north of Kenya respectively. It was a huge honour for the teams to meet the Crown Princess and chat to her about our organisations and the special link between catchment areas and the surrounding regions. Both organisations conserve wildlife species and habitats with a very community-driven approach.
FOREST RESTORATION
Nothing makes us prouder than when we walk in newly forested areas that we helped to create with our generous donors! Our own team make the magic happen in partnership with the communities and the Kenya Forest Service. We often share the tree planing numbers, the targets and photos of tree planting exercises, we don’t show off the results enough. It’s incredibly moving to walk in a young indigenous forest with nesting birds and returning wildlife. The whole process is really challenging as it takes so much patience and determination for years on end. These areas were previously devoid of trees or covered in invasive species. Getting this far isn’t really about the planting, it’s about the monitoring, the replacement of seedlings that don’t survive, the constant weeding of competing species, tricky people management at times, constant planning and partnership oversight.
This season we surpassed our targets planting a total of 117,690 seedlings in Marania, Karuri and the Imenti Forest. In addition we  planted 39,238 replacement seedlings from seedlings that dried up or were lost due to livestock or wildlife browsing and occasional neglect by a handful of people in the past 2 years.
Top: Hagenia or African Rosewood trees, Karuri. These trees were planted in 2012 and are part of a large area of maturing mixed indigenous species where barely a tree stood in 2011. 570 ha of Karuri has been replanted by MKT since then.
Above: A three year old planting site in upper Imenti. The area, like much of Imenti forest was totally covered by lantana camara just three years ago. Since 2018 far we have planted 602 ha in both Upper and Lower Imenti.

RANGERS & SECURITY

As well as their daily patrols in vehicles, on foot and on horseback our rangers take part in river patrols, river and towns clean ups with volunteers. Mobile camping patrols were carried out in Mawingu and the Bantu area in early November with the help of a Burguret resident concerned about logging and poaching in the area.

The Imenti Patrol Team located to the Kihari area for a month of patrols between Kihari and Ragati. The snaring, trapping and poaching of buffalo and antelope in the Kiahri – Hombe area is rife. In Ragati and Chehe areas there is far less illegal activity. The patrols carried out there by the Ragati team under the Calgary Zoo – Rhino Ark partnership as well as the presence of the Ragati River Management team are making a real difference.

Cattle and pastoralists continue to live on the moorlands (mainly with other people’s cattle and goats). Hundreds of cattle are moved through the moorlands and forests every day. Marania, Rutundu and Mawingu areas are still the worst affected.

16 arrests were made by MKT community rangers in the period between September and November; of which 9 were for hunting and poaching and 7 for logging and charcoal burning. Considering the size of the landscape and the fact that our own personnel are unarmed these numbers are very commendable.

In  October we responded to an appeal from the Grevey’s Zebra Trust Team who needed help with a vehicle and driver drought-related zebra feeding and veterinary care. We provided a vehicle and ranger-driver from MKT for a month.

In September our 4 Wildlife Ranger Challengers took part in the final challenge – 21km carrying 23kg each in their backpacks! Members of the public were invited to take part in some or all of the route and many of our team completed the route alongside the four challengers.

Congratulations to the MKT team and all the African Rangers who took part across the continent! Thank you to Tusk and their amazing WRC partners for this wonderful fundraiser for our wilderness guardians!

 

Top image: Patrols and patrol findings map from our teams September through to November 2022.
Middle right: MKT lends a helping hand to the Grevy’s Zebra Trust Team in Samburu County. Middle left: livestock including shoats and bomas continue to have a permanent presence on Mount Kenya
Above: Completing the Wildlife Ranger Challenge!
WILDLAND FIREFIGHTER TRAINING
In mid October we provided refresher firefighting training to 37 trained rangers from MKT (31), Kisima (4), the Community (1) and KFS ranger (1). Two MKT staff members were newly trained. The training was carried out by Steve Alderson of ‘Working on Fire’ from South Africa. His energy was incredible! The training was made possible because of the amazing support we received during the fires at the beginning of the year from our network here in Kenya and our generous donors.
Firefighters during their comprehensive training in October receiving both theory and practical sessions.
EDUCATION
The Elephant Queen (EQ) mobile team are taking the internationally acclaimed film on a journey around Kenya. In early September the EQ team met with all the prearranged Northern Kenya partners to plan the movie shows and plays, in the area. The outreaches with Mount Kenya Trust ran from 13th – 30th September 2022 and 11 market centers and 6 schools were engaged. The sessions are fabulously engaging and thought provoking. We then worked with the team for some one-off activities including a clean-up and tree planting along the Timau River.

There were many other activities carried out by the education team including a Nanyuki River clean up and tree planting session with the Leo Project in Nanyuki, participating with the Wild Walk team in the Mukagodo forest and donating seedlings to a number of schools.

The education team have reached out to a new group of schools to begin planning the next round of Junior Ranger modules which will begin next year. They have also been visiting the schools where we have helped set up woodlots and plant more exotic trees for harvest within the lots.

Top image: Students watching the Elephant Queen theater group  at their school. The play titled “The Trial of Athena”, is based on the Elephant Queen film, it raises awareness and understanding for people living adjacent to wildlife. Above left and right:  School woodlot planting with teachers and pupils with the MKT team.
COMMUNITY HEALTH PROJECTS

THE ADULT HEALTH PROJECT

Since September our team held 3 full outreaches and 2 backpack nurse outreaches in Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Meru counties. Each outreach and each backpack service is carried out over a 4 day period. When these are not taking place the Community Health Volunteers run door-to-door services on a daily basis. In the three month period a whopping 8,299 women received family planning services via the project. Basic medical care services, cancer screening, HIV testing and counseling are provided through main outreaches too.

In November our team also participated in the 5-year County Integrated Development Plan for Meru. Huge thanks to our incredible Health Projects Manager Ketty with the team of Community Health Volunteers and the Ministry of Health professionals she works with for this incredible achievement especially as she and her main wingman Adiel have just taken on a second health project.

A Ministry of Health Nurse who works with our Community Health team chats to women waiting to receive services at an outreach.
ADOLESCENT SEXUAL REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH PROJECT
In April 2022 the Ministry of Health revealed that between January and February 2022, they handled 45,724 cases of pregnant adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years. “In Kenya 1 out of 4 women give birth by age 18 and nearly half by age 20” (‘End the Triple Threat’ a publication developed and published by the Government of Kenya in 2022).
The recorded numbers of female student dropouts and pregnant girls sitting exams in 2022 have shocked the Nation; the pandemic has exacerbated the problems. High HIV infection rates and gender-based violence also increased during the pandemic. In Meru County, 46% of the population is 19 years of age and under, this is a very young population and the teen groups need information to assist them in making good decisions about their rights and futures. Through our newest health project, we are actively reaching out to the youth and adolescents with information on sexual reproductive health and their rights. We have trained teacher and student peer counsellors we hope to improve the prospects for girls and their peers and families by working with 10 schools in Meru County.
THE ELEPHANT CORRIDOR, FENCES AND FENCE MANAGEMENT
Our two fence maintenance teams in the Elephant Corridor and Naro Moru are always busy repairing and checking fences (and looking out for illegal activity) to ensure there is as little human wildlife conflict as possible. People, animals, trees and undergrowth keep the men on their toes day and night. Our management team also join the fence-technical meetings and community meetings for the construction of the Rhino Ark Mount Kenya Fence Project which continues at a steady pace. It is such an incredibly important  investment for the landscape.

We’ve recently completed a new 3.8km short-configuration fence in the Upper Imenti Forest to protect newly planted indigenous tree planting zones undertaken by ourselves and other stakeholders with the communities and the Kenya Forest Service. Once the trees mature the fences will be moved to new zones opening up the reforested areas for wildlife again.

Top: A camera trap image of family of elephants leaving the southern end of the Elephant Corridor.
Bottom left: Inspecting the newly completed fence in the Upper Imenti Forest. Bottom Right: A map showing the fence alongside the different forest restoration zones.
Entries are now open for the TROPIC AIR 10to4 Mountain Bike Challenge 2023
Click the button below to find out more and secure your place.

The lion’s share of the proceeds of the 10to4 are used to run our projects. A portion is also donated to the Borana Education programme and the Ngare Ndare Forest Trust as our event partners and hosts. Every single shilling is spent on conservation, education and communities in the region.

Enter the 2023 10to4!

 

 

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