Beyond the white sands and coral reefs of the Malindi-Watamu coastline, lies Arabuko-Sokoke Forest (ASF) and Mida Creek. Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is the largest remnant of a dry coastal forest which originally stretched from Somalia down to Mozambique. It, therefore, contains an unusually high number of rare and endemic species, including one Globally Endangered and five Globally Threatened bird species. Mida Creek harbours important mangrove forests with a high diversity of species. It is of international importance for some of the waterbird species it supports, is a key spawning ground for several fish species and a feeding ground for young turtles. This makes it one of the most important regions for conservation in mainland Africa, and Mida together with Arabuko-Sokoke Forest have therefore been designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
However, the future of these coastal habitats hangs in the balance. Every day a number of direct threats face the forest and creek, in particular illegal logging, poaching, over-fishing and pressures for land-clearance.
The Malindi-Watamu coastline is one of Kenya’s main tourist attractions, generating money and income from arguably the world’s largest industry. However, local people have benefited very little from the international interest in the area.
For this reason, A Rocha Kenya established the Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Ecotourism Scheme (ASSETS) in 2001 with funding from the United Nations Development Programme Global Environmental Facility and in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Kenya Forest Service and the Ministry of Education, Malindi & Kilifi Districts.
The project provides eco-scholarships for secondary school children living adjacent to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. The project also helps to protect the environment as all beneficiaries take part in conservation activities including tree planting, snare removal from the forest and environmental education.
Funds are generated for the eco-bursaries through the local tourist industry (hotels and travel agents), national and international donors (including tourists), and the eco-tourism facilities developed by A Rocha Kenya and its partners at Mida Creek.
To address the current situation, where both the forest and the surrounding human communities are fighting for survival, A Rocha Kenya established the Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Ecotourism Scheme (ASSETS) in 2001 with funding from the United Nations Development
Programme Global Environmental Facility and in conjuction with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the
Kenya Forest Service, NatureKenya and the Ministry of Education, Malindi & Kilifi Districts.
The project awards Eco-bursaries for secondary education to students living adjacent to
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek and have attained average of 300 marks and above
out of a possible 500 in their national primary school final examinations.
The project also helps to protect the environment (hence the term Eco-bursary) as all
beneficiaries agree to take part in conservation activities, including tree planting and
Funds are generated for the Eco-bursaries through the local tourist industry (hotels and travel
agents), national and international donors (including tourists) and the Eco-tourism facilities
developed by A Rocha Kenya and its partners at Mida & Gede Ruins.
Turtle Bay Beach Club in Watamu has played an important role in the support of the scheme
through raising funds for bursaries. Several other hotels send their guests to visit the bird hide at Mida and encourage donations.
situated some 20 km south of Malindi, towards Mombasa. The walkway meanders through the
mangrove forest at Mida to a bird-hide which looks out over Mida Creek. The boardwalk was
launched in July 2003 and over 4,000 international and local tourists use it per year. The
proceeds from visitors have contributed to the ASSETS bursaries. To date, ASSETS supports
up to 10 schools and the beneficiaries are attending or have attended over 30 different
secondary schools around the country, including one of the top national schools in Nairobi. A
good number of ASSETS beneficiaries have managed to graduate and get jobs as teachers, in
the hotel industry, police force, IT etc.
Other programs include training local tourist guides and building Ecotourism facilities such as
the tree platform in Gede Ruins which now needs a complete makeover.
At A Rocha, we recognize that as community members benefit from the surrounding habitats,
they will grow to value, and in turn, protect them.
Looking ahead …
By the year 2020, ASSETS aims to be supporting over 1,100 students from all the 36 schools
within a 5 km radius of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. With this number of families
directly benefiting from the forest and creek, there is enormous potential for attitudes to radicallychange regarding these habitats and to foster a care and concern for their protection instead of the hostility that currently is so prevalent.