Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Ecotourism Scheme
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.
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."
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 radically change 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.