Mwamba in times of Corona
As the world is staggering to come to terms with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have definitely not escaped its grip in Watamu. A few words from Colin Jackson, Director of A Rocha Kenya, on how the pandemic is affecting our staff and activities.
The government has rightly introduced strict measures to reduce movement of people around the country and gatherings of any size have been banned. As such, life as we know it has ground to a halt, tourism has totally dried up, all hotels are now closed and streets are quiet.
As A Rocha Kenya, we have had to respond by closing the Conservation Centre, Mwamba, though we have a small remnant of six people staying at the centre, and now unable to leave. Led by Monicah, our Communications Officer who has ably stepped temporarily into the gap of a Hospitality Manager, the team is appropriately cross-cultural for A Rocha: Raf and Améline from France / Switzerland, Semir (Spain), Mike (British living in Nairobi) and Apolloh (western Kenya).
With the centre closed, we have zero income from it and with reduced activities possible outside, it means these are very difficult times for us financially – like so many others here.
With no meetings allowed and no guests, the rest of the ARK staff were sent home, with a handful working from home where possible. With the centre closed, we have zero income from it and with reduced activities possible outside, it means these are very difficult times for us financially – like so many others here. But in the heart of this, it is good to remember what we read as a team in January from Psalm 27: the importance of focussing on God at all times – with the promise “…in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock”.
“In the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock”. Psalm 27
All community conservation and environmental education activities have come to a halt, and several workshops and trainings have had to be cancelled, most notably our Marine Governance Workshop scheduled in March, and the Fundamentals of Ornithology course in April.
In spite of the situation, we are seeking to maintain what work we can – particularly on the science front since much of that does not involve meeting and engaging with people. Some fieldwork in the forest for illegal activities is continuing – a key question is how much more will COVID increase cutting and snaring in the forest?
It’s the heart of the migration period for birds returning to breed in Europe and Asia. We’ve had hundreds of Eurasian Golden Orioles pass and a number of lesser recorded species here such as Eurasian Hobby, Tree Pipit and Garden Warbler. Mike is a leading entomologist from the National Museums of Kenya who has been in Kenya for 50 years. He had joined an expedition to Dakatcha three weeks ago but on his return the museum had been closed and so he has stayed with us on the coast. In doing so he has added to our butterfly list at Mwamba including a potentially new species for science!
Overall, it is an extremely stressful time for A Rocha staff and our partners. The slashed income stream has called for tough measures for the team and we are relying on what gifts and donations we can receive to cover salaries. Many costs cannot be avoided if we want to kick off running when life returns to normal and engage with communities – all of whom will have been hit hard by the impact of COVID-19. These costs therefore present a major challenge with no income. Please consider making a donation towards A Rocha Kenya at this time. Thank you for your interest and support, it is highly valued – and no more than at this time of real need.