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House Crows no more

Brief history of House Crows in East Africa

The House Crow is indigenous to the Indian sub-continent and was introduced to East Africa first in Zanzibar in 1891. Initially, they were a form of ‘pollution control.’ But by 1917, they were rated as a pest with a bounty awarded to any dead crow or crow egg brought in. The presence of crows later spread to mainland Africa and up to Mombasa where they were first recorded in 1947. From there, they have spread up and down the coast becoming ‘common’ in Malindi in the late 1980s and now crows can be found in all the coastal towns and even inland to towns like Mariakani and beyond.  

Crows have become a serious pest in many places in Africa from East London (City in South Africa) to Djibouti in the north. Like so many introduced exotic animals and plants all over the world, they have not just spread, but they have extremely proliferated over the years. For instance, a count in Watamu in January 2024 had over 12,000 crows and in March 2024, a count showed that Malindi had >31,000 crows. It not only harasses and kill native small birds but also known to spread diseases, damage crops and are a nuisance to hotels and businesses.

First attempt to control their population

Successful control of the crows was carried out by A Rocha in Watamu and Malindi between 1998 and 2005 using a specific avicide known as Starlicide, which operates over a period of about 10-12 hours. The 10 to 12 hours window gives the crows time to go about their normal business as usual. Usually, they die at the roost sites the night after taking the poison and thus some distance away from where they have fed on the poison. This means the survivors do not associate the death of their fellow crows with a specific site or food. They, therefore, will not be any wiser. Additionally, Starlicide metabolises rapidly and thus a poisoned crow, if found dead, is poison free and can be eaten safely by a scavenger such as a dog or vulture.  
Crows are highly intelligent birds. Researchers tell us that they are as good at reasoning as a 7-year-old human. That is why as many measures as possible have to be taken to hide the source of poison if the programme is going to be effective.

How it was done

With support from Turtle Bay Beach Club, Driftwood Club, residents, and other hotels within Watamu, we employed a young man who would alternate between 7-8 days in Watamu and 10-12 days in Malindi. He would pre-bait the crows and then poison them and do daily counts. In this way, we had crow numbers as low as five birds in Watamu and 25-30 in Malindi at times. But with a constant influx of crows from Kilifi and Mambrui, there was a constant need to keep poisoning them. However, the programme was halted by government in 2005 due to bureaucracies and only in 2024 has the green light been given for the control programme to start up again.

Recent history of crow control

A Crow Control Committee was set up by the Kenya Wildlife Service in 2019 of which A Rocha was a member and it was given the remit to make crow control happen. A lot of ground work was carried out and a full proposal for a crow control programme drawn up. Around the same time a landscaping firm, Little Kenya Gardens (LKG), was issued the licence to import the avicide, Starlicide, to carry out efficacy testing as part of the process of getting it formally accepted. In 2020 the Committee was instructed that LKG should carry out the efficacy testing of the poison ahead of a full poisoning programme. With the work having been given to LGK, the Committee had no real function and it ceased operating towards the end of 2021.

In 2022, 2½ kg of Starlicide poison was imported by LKG and an efficacy test poisoning was carried out on south coast at the end of that year. A large number of crows were killed but full reports are yet to be circulated.

But there is hope!

In July 2023, the Director General for KWS, Dr Erastus Kanga, visited Watamu with the new KWS Board for a stakeholder meeting at which he confirmed his commitment to eradicating the crows. He was involved in the Crow Control Committee in his role within the Ministry of Tourism and so is fully aware of the challenges the committee faced. He is therefore very well placed to address the issues and get things happening. It is in this context that A Rocha is reigniting the efforts to control the crows – and reviving the ‘Crows No More!’ project that was started by Nick Trent under the Crow Control Committee.

As A Rocha, we are grateful that we are in an excellent position to support KWS to achieve the crow control given we have a strong history of using the Starlicide poison to significant effect in Watamu / Malindi prior to it being banned. We have been liaising with KWS and are awaiting the final go-ahead to secure the Starlicide from Little Kenya Gardens and implement the control programme.
As we wait, and indeed also throughout the control work, it is important to gather data. We need to know how many crows are there, where they roost and forage so that when it is time, we can target them most effectively. We need to be able to monitor the crows before, during and after the poisoning takes place to make fully informed decisions and ensure the success of the programme.
Since December 2023 our Crows No More Officer, Eric Kinoti, has been organising roost counts, mapping currently used crow traps, gathering data on crow distribution and foraging sites and starting to carry out pre-baiting in the expectation of our being able to secure the Starlicide and implement the control.

To date, the Crows No More! programme has been supported by six Watamu hotels to whom we are very grateful: Hemingways, Turtle Bay Beach Club, Watamu Cottages, Ocean Sports, Medina Palms and Temple Point. However, as the full control programme gets going, we are going to incur significantly higher costs with a larger team, transport needs and then the poison alone costs $5,800 per kg.

As part of the programme, an online crowd-funding site which we launched in 2020 has been revived: m-changa. If you would like to contribute and help rid Kenya of this serious avian alien pest, please do make a donation. We will be sharing updates and reports on the programme and if you would like to receive these, please write to Eric asking to be added to the mailing list: <[email protected]>

Kirao during the crow counts in Malindi
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Echinoderm and seagrass studies

Project Completed

Location: Watamu Marine National Park     Project Leader: Eric Thuranira

Seagrass beds support a large variety of associated flora and fauna. A vital part of the marine ecosystem due to their productivity levels, seagrass provides ecological roles and ecosystem services such as carbon storage, feeding grounds for coral reef organisms, habitat and nursery areas for numerous vertebrate and invertebrate species. The vast biodiversity and sensitivity to changes in water quality inherent in seagrass communities make seagrass an important species to help determine the overall health of an ecosystem.

Out of the 12 species of seagrass recorded in Kenya, 11 have been found in Watamu Marine National Park. One of seagrass species, Zostera capensis, is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List with its population decreasing. The seagrasses are the most dominant component of the park covering nearly 40% of the benthos (Cowburn et al., 2018). This shows how the park is
important in the conservation of these species.

A seagrass identification guide was developed in order to help the Kenya Wildlife Service in the management of the park especially during the monitoring of the park. The guide can also be used by citizen scientists and researchers who want to identify seagrass species found in Watamu Marine National Park. Our hope is that this guide facilitates much work to benefit the park and the people of Watamu who depend upon it.

An important group of the macrobenthic marine organisms that live in these seagrass habitats are the echinoderms. They comprise of sea stars, sea lilies (crinoids), sea urchins, sea cucumbers and brittle stars. They play diverse ecological roles as primary consumers, sand cleaners and indicator species. Thus, disturbance in their habitats may upset the health of the whole ecosystem.A Rocha Kenya’s marine team is carrying out  a study in WMNP to get a better understanding of the roles of seagrass habitats as spawning, recruitment and sheltering sites for echinoderms. The study will be imperative for understanding how IUCN Red listed species can be conserved.

Astropyga radiata (Common urchin in the seagrass habitat of Watamu Marine National Park)
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Elasmobranchs in Watamu Marine National Park

Subject: Biodiversity and distribution of sharks and rays    Location: Watamu Marine National Park     Project Leader: Peter Musila

Elasmobranchs; Kings of the Sea

Not all that is in the sea is fish. Marine wildlife is broad in the number of different species and they come in many colours and forms. Among these are elasmobranchs which are the apex predators of the marine food chain. What are elasmobranchs you may ask? This is a marine wildlife subclass comprising of sharks, rays, skates and sawfishes. They are cartilaginous fish characterised by having five to seven pairs of gill clefts opening individually to the exterior, rigid dorsal fins and small placoid scales on the skin.

Elasmobranchs play a critical role in structuring and maintaining healthy marine ecosystems by exerting top-down control on other species. They do this by altering the spatial habitats of their prey. This indirectly helps in the development of coral habitats and seagrass, making them a key indicator of a healthy ocean. However, as important as they are to the ecosystem, elasmobranchs face a challenge when it comes to growing in number.

Sharks and their relatives include some of the latest maturing and slowest reproducing of all vertebrates. They exhibit the longest gestation periods and some of the highest levels of maternal investment in the animal kingdom. The extreme life histories of these elasmobranchs result in very low population growth rates and weak density-dependent compensation in juvenile survival, rendering them highly susceptible to elevated fishing mortality. Overfishing and habitat degradation have had a major impact on the populations of these marine animals.


Bluespotted ribbontail ray

Surveys are being carried out in the Watamu Marine Protected Area using several standard techniques including Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations (BRUVS), Underwater Visual Counts (UVC) entailing snorkelling and diving surveys, and Weekly beach Patrols. We are also developing aerial survey techniques using Unmanned Video Stations(UVS)/drones to widen the scope of the study. This survey methods offer unique insights into understanding the abundance, biodiversity and behaviour of sharks and rays species, habitat use and requirements in the context of a Marine protected area.

Engaging fisher communities and schools within the buffer zone of the WMPA is also and integral and important part  of the project though our Marine Environmental Education program. 

Project partners

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Kenya Bird Map

Subject: Kenya Bird Map       Project Leader: Colin Jackson

The Kenya Bird Map project is an exciting project that is a joint initiative by A Rocha Kenya together with National Museums of Kenya, Tropical Biology Association, Nature Kenya and the the Fitzpatrick Institute for African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town.

The project aims to map all of Kenya’s bird species and describe their status with the help of valued input from Citizen Scientists – volunteer members of the public who are keen to contribute through going birding and submitting their observations to the project.

A species’ distribution is the most fundamental information needed in order to conserve it. In the 1970’s, bird records were collected across Kenya that resulted in the book, ‘A Bird Atlas of Kenya’ that mapped and described the status of all the 1,065 species of birds then recorded in the country. Since then much has changed in terms of habitats and climatic conditions in Kenya and as a result the distributions and status of many of our birds have also dramatically changed – but we don’t know how or to what extent. 

By pooling the effort of many Citizen Scientist birders, Kenya Bird Map will tell this story and in so doing provide a powerful tool for conservation.

Join the bird mapping team

If you are at all interested in watching birds, have any concern for the conservation of Kenya’s birds and enjoy being outside and exploring new places, then the Kenya Bird Map project is for you!

It is an exciting and stimulating project that combines a lot of excellent birding, exploring new and fascinating parts of the country, state-of-the-art technology and communication and serious science to produce dependable results that can be used to take real action for conservation.

This project has its own website which allow the capture of data and to show species maps in real time. Observers can register and field work is always continuing. 
Upon registration, you will receive an Observer Number and password allowing you to login to Kenya Bird Map. Your login details will also allow you access to the other Virtual Museum for Africa sites. 

Project in partnership with

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Programme: Microplastics pollution on the sandy beach of Watamu Marine National Park
Subject: Microplastic pollution
Location: Watamu

Microplastics are plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter. In the last four decades,
concentrations of these particles appear to have increased significantly in the oceans.There are two types of sources of microplastics;primary and secondary.Primary sources are manufactured in their micro size such as microbeads used in cosmetics and nurdles that are used as raw materials for plastic products.Secondary sources are formed when larger plastic items break down. Once they are in the environment,animals like fish and shore birds mistake them for food and this causes deaths and habitat destruction. These microplastics have been recorded in twelve out of twenty five most important species and genera that contribute to global marine fisheries and this shows how microplastics are harmful to marine life(Lusher et al., 2017).

Concern about the potential impacts of microplastics in marine environment has gathered
momentum during the past few years. The number of scientific investigations has increased,
along with public interest and pressure on decision makers to respond. At A Rocha Kenya, we
want to quantify microplastics abundance by type, colour and size, develop educational
materials for our environmental education program and establish monitoring protocols to
achieve long term assessment of microplastics pollution on the sandy beach of Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 on Life Below Water includes a specific target on
plastic pollution to which our work contributes.


Coral Reefs

Coral Bleaching in Watamu Marine National Park

Programme: Monitoring bleaching and mortality response of corals in East Africa’s oldest Marine Protected Area
Subject: Coral bleaching
Location: Watamu Marine National Park
Leader: Eric Thuranira

Protecting Coral Reefs

Watamu Marine National Park (WMNP) is one of the oldest no-take Marine protected areas (MPAs) in the world, established in 1968. Since then, the park has been protected against the local human threats like fishing and unsustainable coastal development. However, the coral reefs in the park still face the threat of increasing thermal stress and coral bleaching.

What is bleaching?

Coral reefs are some of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems on earth. Under
extreme environmental conditions like alteration in the sea surface temperature the intracellular zooxanthellae are expelled by the coral polyp as a stress response which makes it appear white. The white, unhealthy corals called bleached corals become weak and eventually die due to the heat stress.


What does our study show?

Due to the changes in climate, it is expected that these events will become much more common in the future, with many areas expected to get annual severe bleaching events by 2100. The A Rocha Kenya marine team has been studying the coral reef for the last 10 years. During the 2013 and 2016 bleaching events, there were low levels (<10%) mortality for most corals. This gives some hope that Watamu’s corals may be adapting to better cope with heat stress, but as these events were not as hot as 1998, this was not certain.

In 2020, the reefs are bleaching again and the A Rocha team, in partnership with KWS, are
back out on the reef.

A Rocha Kenya marine team has been studying coral reefs in Watamu Marine National Park for
the last 10 years.

We use permanent quadrats, where the same patch of reef is photographed every month during the event, and the fate of each coral is observed from bleaching response to eventual mortality or survival.

Dr Benjamin Cowburn, Cefas, UK Marine Scientist and A Rocha Marine Team member.

Bleached Coral. 

In 2013 and 2016, there was low mortality levels for most corals (<10%). There are hopeful signs.

Coral Monitoring

Our marine team led by Peter Musila and joined by Benjamin Cowburn who helped initiated the Marine program At A Rocha Kenya, diligently took up the regular coral monitoring activity during October 2023. In their 70 permanent plots they have over 600 tagged corals that are revisited every 6 months since 2020, to see how the corals are growing, if there are bleaching resistant colonies and if baby corals (recruits) are settled in the plots.

Our Marine team is concerned about coral bleaching with the predicted El-Nino marine heatwave, due to arrive in April this year. They plan to increase monitoring of the plots every month through the warm water season, to closely monitor any bleaching and mortality that occurs. The corals experienced bleaching in 2020, but many survived. If we can identify colonies that are resistant again in 2024, these will make good candidates for coral gardening and reef restoration, currently being planned and approved by Kenya Wildlife Service.    

Why protect the corals? Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. Scientists estimate that there may be millions of undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs. This biodiversity is considered key to finding new medicines for the 21st century. Many drugs are now being developed from coral reef animals and plants as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, viruses, and other diseases. 



Dakatcha Nature Reserve provides a protected area for the Sokoke Scops Owl, Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew, and other precious inhabitants of the Dakatcha Woodland.

It also offers an opportunity for communities around the reserve to engage in habitat protection and restoration, and provides sustainable income-generating activities.

Subject: Forest conservation  |  Location: Kenya coast

Dakatcha Woodland KBA is critical forest for the conservation of 13 IUCN Red Listed species. It is currently being cleared for charcoal and agriculture at an alarming rate. A Rocha Kenya is purchasing land to create a Nature Reserve and safeguard this indigenous forest and its threatened wildlife.

Africa’s smallest owl, the Sokoke Scops Owl occurs only in three places in the world – one of them being a 10 x 4 km patch of forest in the Dakatcha Woodland Key Biodiversity Area.

But this forest is unprotected and as a result is being cut down for charcoal, timber and pineapple plantations. We are buying land to save the forest from being destroyed and create the A Rocha Dakatcha Nature Reserve.

Join us at this critical point in the Sokoke Scops Owl’s story and save their home! One acre of land costs $350 / Ksh 35,000 to secure. Donate via GoFundMe, M-Changa or A Rocha International.

For more details on our Nature Reserve and land purchase strategy, please read our Conservation Strategy.

Join our campaign to save the forest! Donate now:

Bank account name:
A Rocha Kenya Mwamba Centre
Bank: Absa Kenya
Account number: 0121008254
International Swift code:  BARCKENX

GoFundMe: Here
M-CHANGA: Click here

A Rocha International:

Forest Facts

Size of the forest: 1,800 km2

Conservation status: designated a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) by BirdLife International and
forms part of the East African Coastal Forests Hotspot defined by Conservation International.

Habitat: Dakatcha Woodland is located about 150 km north of Mombasa and 25-50 km inland
from the coast. It covers an area of 465 070 acres, of which 32% is forest, 17% is woodland,
and 50% has been converted to farming or open grazing land. Dakatcha lies within the Northern
Zanzibar-Inhambane Coastal Forest Mosaic ecoregion and East African Coastal Forest Hotspot,
characterised by a complex mix of moist and drier forest with coastal thicket, savanna
woodlands and swamps. The Woodland itself is a diverse mosaic of different forest types,
savannah and seasonal wetlands.

Notable wildlife: 13 Red Listed species, including four that IUCN classify as Endangered: the
Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae, Clarke’s Weaver Ploceus golandi, the Sokoke Pipit Anthus
sokokensis and the Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew Rhynchocyon chrysopygus.
Dakatcha Woodland is part of the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa, among the 10 most
threatened forest hotspots in the world which supports one of the highest densities of endemic species in the world.

Threats to the forest

The fragmented Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa are among the ten most threatened forest
hotspots in the world, and the Dakatcha IBA is listed as an IBA in Danger, with a very high
threat score and a low action score. At a regional level, the pressure on land is intensifying as
population increases, small holders and industrial agricultural expand, and coastal urban
developments multiply.

The growing local population depends on the forest resources for their energy, construction
needs, food and livelihoods. As a result, deforestation and poaching of wildlife, including the Golden-rumped Sengi, are rife. Brachylaena huillensis trees have almost disappeared due to selective harvesting for the wood carving industry, and the timber from large hardwood trees (e.g. Newtonia hildebrandtii) is sold in coastal towns.

Agriculture is the main economic activity for local communities, making land their most valuable asset. Pineapples have become an important source of income for local farmers because they grow particularly well on the red soils. Local regulations give little consideration to the immense pressure placed on the forest, and poor farming methods leave the soil exposed for erosion.

The pressure on the land was compounded by the start of land adjudication in the area in
September 2020. This has set off an unprecedented rush of people land purchasing for farms
closely linked to charcoal burning that is decimating the forest and destroying the home of the
rare and endangered wildlife. The easy availability of power saws to cut trees for charcoal and
motorbikes to transport charcoal to Malindi has exasperated the situation further.

At site level, agricultural expansion, unregulated logging, rampant charcoal burning and the
expansion of commercial pineapple plantations are rapidly destroying and degrading what is left of the unique forest habitat.

With easy access to chainsaws and motorbikes to transport charcoal, forest clearing has
intensified in recent months, and this indigenous forest is being burnt down at an alarming rate.
We must act now, before it is too late!

Where we work and our training

In Kenya, A Rocha has worked with communities in several parts of the country with projects in
Nairobi, Kajiado and Kilifi Counties. Currently, our focus is in the Dakatcha Woodlands north and
inland of Malindi, and around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. Training involves taking time through
churches to teach about what the bible says regarding caring for the environment after which a two-day training in the actual FGW method is carried out.

This covers the following topics:

  • The Biblical perspective of farming and creation care.
  • Ecological Interactions (Trees, birds, butterflies, ants, worms and their role in the farm)
  • Principles and practice of
  • Farming God’s Way
  • Natural ways of controlling pests and diseases
  • Natural ways of boosting soil fertility including composting, liquid fertilizers, fertilizer trees among others
  • Energy-saving at the household level

The focus in Dakatcha revolves around the A Rocha Dakatcha Nature Reserve which we are
creating to protect globally threatened species and habitat – in particular the Sokoke Scops Owl and Golden-rumped Sengi (also known as an elephant-shrew). Baseline biodiversity surveys are being carried out by the A Rocha research team while at the same time our community and environmental education team are working with the adjacent communities using the churches and schools as a gateway to reach farmers and families to teach them FGW and overall care for the environment and hopefully stop the destructive practices of charcoal burning and unsustainable logging for timber.



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

In depth article on Assets

Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Ecotourism Scheme(Assets)

Through the provision of secondary school scholarships, the Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and
Ecotourism Scheme (ASSETS) meets the economic and social needs of the local community,
whilst promoting the conservation of two of Africa’s most important ecosystems.

Leader: Patrick

The project
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
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 & 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.

One of the major projects has been the construction of a 260 metre suspended walkway

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.

In addition to the bursary fund, work is also taking place with local communities to develop
sustainable forms of income generation. The Mureva wa Assets program is one such example
where parents and guardians of the beneficiaries are trained on tree nursery management.

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.

ASSETS – a story of hope
This film introduces ASSETS (Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Ecotourism Scheme) as a best
practice holistic approach to tackling forest conservation.
Stanley and Colin took us into the forest and taught us the names of the forest birds. I thought
the birds were so beautiful and interesting. I decided then that I would like to become a
birdwatcher, and be involved in the work of conserving them and their habitats.

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.

The ASSETS scheme has been shown to be making a real difference in the lives of children and families around Arabuko-Sokoke and Mida. It is also having a real impact on the conservation of these sites. However it can only succeed with support from others.
We invite you to join us in helping both these children to get an education and at the same time
to conserve one of Africa’s most precious forests and wetlands – it only costs $52 / €46 / £39 per month to put a child through secondary school with ASSETS.
Donate now and find out more about the Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Ecotourism Scheme by
visiting the ASSETS website.

Farming God’s Way

Project: Farming God’s Way    Project Leader: Vincent Onono       Location: Dakatcha and Kuvuka

Any farmer will tell you how the soil in a field where the forest has recently been cleared from it is more fertile and productive than a field that has been farmed for several years. FGW seeks to bring back principles found in a natural forest ecosystem that allows the soil to not just retain fertility but even increase over time.

Three principles of Conservation Agriculture

Taking the three basic principles of Conservation Agriculture of zero tillage, mulching and
rotation of crops, and building on these using biblical principles that are also relevant to all walks of life, FGW becomes a tool that is now being widely used across Africa and is producing
remarkable results.

If you think about it, in a forest there is:

1. No disturbance of the soil (= zero tillage),
2. a thick layer of dead leaves etc on the soil surface (= mulching) and
3. amazing diversity of species (= rotation of crops).

God, as the ‘first farmer’ in the Garden of Eden, brings additional principles to the way we should farm – e.g. farming on time: in creation, we see incredible timing that God has put there – from the daily rhythm of day and night and all the associated biorhythms of insects, flowers, birds and animals, to the seasons and the Infinitesimal precision of the rotation of the planets around the sun… etc etc. This means that when farming, we need to take special note of planting on time, weeding in good time etc – in fact those teaching FGW across Africa say the single largest reason for hunger in Africa is farmers wait for the rain to come before they plant… thus planting late.

Train and empower the community

A Rocha is taking the above and several other biblical principles and applying them within the FGW teaching to train and empower community members living in often real hardship
conditions to be able to obtain better productivity from their farms and in so doing learn to
respect and care for the rest of God’s creation around them.

A Rocha, therefore, sees FGW as an innovation that not only focuses on increased food
production but also addresses issues of biodiversity conservation. We look to include within the
FGW training teaching about planting indigenous trees, leaving part of your land fallow for other
parts of God’s creation to flourish in such as butterflies, other insects, flowers, birds and animals and the value of biodiversity not only for agriculture (e.g. pollinators) but in itself as God’s creation which he made with a purpose and which ultimately belongs to him.

Where we work and our training

In Kenya, A Rocha has worked with communities in several parts of the country with projects in
Nairobi, Kajiado and Kilifi Counties. Currently, our focus is in the Dakatcha Woodlands north and
inland of Malindi, and around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. Training involves taking time through
churches to teach about what the bible says regarding caring for the environment after which a two-day training in the actual FGW method is carried out.

This covers the following topics:

  • The Biblical perspective of farming and creation care.
  • Ecological Interactions (Trees, birds, butterflies, ants, worms and their role in the farm)
  • Principles and practice of
  • Farming God’s Way
  • Natural ways of controlling pests and diseases
  • Natural ways of boosting soil fertility including composting, liquid fertilizers, fertilizer trees among others
  • Energy-saving at the household level

The focus in Dakatcha revolves around the A Rocha Dakatcha Nature Reserve which we are
creating to protect globally threatened species and habitat – in particular the Sokoke Scops Owl and Golden-rumped Sengi (also known as an elephant-shrew). Baseline biodiversity surveys are being carried out by the A Rocha research team while at the same time our community and environmental education team are working with the adjacent communities using the churches and schools as a gateway to reach farmers and families to teach them FGW and overall care for the environment and hopefully stop the destructive practices of charcoal burning and unsustainable logging for timber.

Projects profile pictures 2.0 (1)

Fundamentals of Ornithology

Fundamentals of Ornithology – a course for bird guides and birders. Ornithology Department, National Museums of Kenya, A Rocha Kenya, Tropical Biology Association and NatureKenya (the EANHS).

The Course

Fundamentals of Ornithology course fieldtripStarted in 1996 by Leon Bennun (at the time Head, Ornithology Dept, NMK) and Colin Jackson (working at the Ornithology Dept prior to starting A Rocha Kenya), &lsquo;Fundamentals of Ornithology&rsquo; or FoO, is a course designed for birders (both professional and amateur) who want to improve their understanding of birds and their skills in the field.

Birding and bird tourism are growing apace in Kenya and East Africa. Many companies now have specialist units devoted to bird watching safaris, and numerous hotels and lodges have employed resident naturalists. Many people are also discovering bird watching as an educational and enjoyable pursuit. The Important Bird Area programme has also led to a steady increase in the number of local groups with an interest in birds and their conservation over the last few years. 

Njoro &amp; Chege – course leadersMany bird guides and birders are very good at identifying the birds they are used to seeing. However, to be an effective guide, and to make the most of one&rsquo;s birding, a deeper understanding is required. &lsquo;Fundamentals of Ornithology&rsquo; aims to give individuals a grasp of the principles behind bird identification and a sound knowledge of bird biology, thus giving them the capacity for learning more independently. 

Four key conservation institutions: the Ornithology Department of the National Museums of Kenya, A Rocha Kenya, the Tropical Biology Association and NatureKenya (the East Africa Natural History Society), work together to deliver the annual FoO course that is held at the Elsamere Field Studies Centre, Naivasha. Current lecturers on the course include Colin Jackson (A Rocha Kenya/NMK), Anthony Kuria (TBA), Dr Peter Njoroge (NMK), Titus Imboma (NMK), Kariuki Ndang&rsquo;ang&rsquo;a (BirdLife Africa), Chege wa Kariuki (freelance guide / NK), Simon Thomsett (NMK &ndash; East Africa&rsquo;s leading raptor conservationist), Don Turner (author of Birds of Kenya &amp; northern Tanzania).

Course Content

Watching European Hobbies in Hells Gate NP‘Fundamentals of Ornithology’ is an intensive, fully residential course based at the Elsamere Field Studies Centre on the shores of Lake Naivasha. Elsamere provides a comfortable environment and an ideal setting for an ornithological course. Wetland, grassland, savannah and forest habitats are within easy reach for practical field sessions. 

The Lake Naivasha ecosystem is also renowned for a wide diversity of local and migrant bird species. Ringing demonstrationTeaching is in English through illustrated lectures (including discussion sessions and short practical exercises), group seminars, demonstrations and field practicals. We try to create an informal environment where participants can share their existing knowledge and learn from each other as well as from the course instructors. 

Participants can expect to gain the following knowledge and skills:

  1. Reliable identification techniques that can be applied anywhere;
  2. A solid general knowledge of bird evolution, classification, behaviour and ecology;
  3. A good overview of the distribution and conservation requirements of birds in Kenya and East Africa;
  4. A better understanding of the interests and needs of bird watching visitors;
  5. The ability to give visitors interesting, detailed and well-rounded background information on birds seen anywhere in the country;
  6. An enhanced sense of professionalism and confidence.

Topics covered include: • birding field craft and ethics • evolution and classification • scientific names • habitat and distribution • identification: parts of a bird; finding the right family; making descriptions and taking field notes; calls; submitting records; using bird guides; wetland, forest and grassland birds • migration and movements • flight, feathers and physiology • feeding strategies • breeding behaviour • bird ringing • habitats and conservation.