In ARK, we believe that every community has a responsibility to their environment. It is in this spirit that we build the capacity of communities and facilitate them to initiate activities that sustainably utilize their environment.
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.