Farms’ Afforestation for Environmental Conservation

DSC02893Establishment of model farmers is based on the premise of conservation. The model farmer’s are expected to promote wetland conservation through reducing pressure on the wetland caused by encroachment for resources and other economic activities like farming.

To add to this, the model farmers are also supposed to show solidarity for conservation through ensuring that 10% of their homesteads are covered with trees.

In support of this, we are distributing DSC02837tree seedlings to all the model farmers, in the quantity that is equivalent to 10% of their farms. We are also jointly engaging in tree planting with the respective model farmers and their entire households, and encouraging everyone to help in the protection and nurturing of the trees in the homesteads.

Wetlands Demarcation and Zonation for Restoration

Exploitation of the wetlands for their resources has resulted into major degradation of the wetlands. In some instances, this has led to habitat destruction at a high level and this has seen a number of the fauna in the wetlands encroaching to the community lands which in turn brings about human wildlife conflicts.

The community members have cleared a lot of the vegetation in the wetland for farming, poaching, as passage ways for fishing grounds and some have even established settlements in the wetlands.

The level of encroachment has been so high that in some of the wetlands, for instance in Kusa wetland, some community members have fenced out portions of the wetland and declared those areas as their own personal land.

We are therefore conducting a participatory wetlands demarcation and zonation exercise with the members of the community by identifying the activities in the wetland and mapping the portions of the wetlands that they take place in. Then partitioning the wetlands on a map in three zones, economic, buffer and conservation.

This is aimed at helping in the identification of areas of the wetland where we can conduct wetland restoration through both active and passive regeneration. We are also rolling out an adopt a portion of the wetland campaign. Here, members of the community will be encouraged to adopt and protect that portion of the wetland after which they will be incentivized .

Entrepreneurship Training for Nature Based Enterprises

Wetlands in general, have a wide array of resources and Dunga, Kusa, Yala and Koguta wetlands are no exception. The resources in these wetlands include fish, papyrus reeds, water hyacinth, birds, wild animals, Ambatch trees, water, sand and some cultural sites. Over the years, the communities living in proximity to the wetland areas have been exploiting these resources and using them for economic reasons.

12888573_10208459707872914_4060968801498070443_oThis has been one of the major contributors to the degradation of the wetland and its resources. From research conducted in the wetlands, and a little bit of citizen science, we have come to the conclusion that exploitation of these resources cannot be ceased. The community members need them to support their livelihoods so there is no chance of preservation, we can only promote wise use of the resources.

In-light of this, Ecofinder Kenya has brought education on Entrepreneurship and sustainability to the would be entrepreneurs living and operating in the wetland areas. They were told how to apply the following in concepts:

  • Opportunity identification,
  • Customer relations,
  • Financial management,
  • Resource mobilization,
  • Marketing,
  • Micro franchising
  • Sustainability concepts. (Environmental and Economical)

We are also engaging the entrepreneurs in the micro franchise enterprises that Ecofinder Kenya has which include:

  • Solar lamps enterprise which promotes clean energy and reduced uses of wood fuel
  • Compost toilet enterprise to promote sustainable farming
  • Biogas enterprise to promote reduced wetland encroachment
  • Tree nurseries for environmental conservation
  • Papyrus/hyacinth crafts
  • Fish farming as a means of alternative livelihood
  • Ecotourism as an alternative livelihood
  • Comfort enterprise (soap making and re-usable sanitary towels) to promote women empowerment and ecological entrepreneurship
  • Horticultural enterprise

In addition to this the would be 12513654_10208459707952916_6698097960438420051_oentrepreneurs also engaged in a participatory session where they came up with ideas and discussed different scenarios, in some cases conducting role plays. They have also come up with ideal nature based enterprise ideas and are working on materializing them into actual business enterprises keeping in mind that Conservation and wise use are the keys to sustainability.

Biogas Digesters for Wildlife Habitat Protection

Community members in the Winam Gulf wetland areas spend a lot of money on fuel for cooking and lighting their homes at night. The alternative to this that they have is the cutting down of trees and other wetland vegetation and use them as wood fuel.

This leads to encroachment into the wetlands and destruction of habitats for the animals which live in the wetlands, for example, the sitatunga, hippopotamus and numerous bird species. Birds species like the papyrus gonolek, is an endangered species, further destruction of its habitat will lead to it being completely wiped out from the wetland ecosystem.DSC06986

We are constructing Hybrid feed biogas digesters which are designed in a way that they produce gas with the use of human excreta and cow dung. It is one digestion chamber which has 2 inlets, and one outlet.

This is a strategy that is meant to curb the use of wood fuel and hence reduce the dependence of the community members on wetland vegetation. Just as the ecological sanitation toilets are used to produce compost manure, the biogas digesters also produce slurry as a by product, and this is collected and can be used in farms as compost manure.

The use of biogas will help in improving the livelihoods of IMG_20160407_113819the community members and also lead to the continued conservation of the wetlands. This is because of the impact of relieved pressure on the wetlands in terms of farming in the wetlands, and reduced pollution because of the use of clean energy for cooking in the households.

The other positive impact that this will have is that it will reduce encroachment into the wetlands and this will end up reducing the cases of human wildlife conflict and habitat destruction.

Model Farmers as Village Hubs for Wetland Conservation Agriculture

Facilitation of alternative livelihoods requires that there be established demonstration plots for the alternative livelihood options that we wish to promote. A model farmer has the responsibility of acting as a learning centre for the community at large.

For one to call themselves a model farmer, they have to have a well functioning Ecosan toilet and biogas digester. They also practice farming in accordance to an integrated farm plan and be in a position to teach other members of the community on these alternative livelihood options.

They are therefore selected on the basis of a well drafted Eligibility criteria which requires that he/she be a farmer who is not farming in the wetland or they are willing to move from the wetland and establish productive farms away from the wetlands, preferably in their homesteads.

Conservation Scheme Agreements

After the selection of the model farmer, he is to sign a conservation scheme agreement which outlines his responsibilities, alongside Ecofinder Kenya’s responsibilities, in the new found partnership between the two parties.

The model farmers that we are DSC02845establishing all have farms in their homesteads, they have a number of cows from which they can get cow dung that they need for the regular feeding of their biogas digesters.. Their farms have been planted and arranged as per an integrated farm plan that has been developed on a  participatory basis with the model farmers and the project team.

In order to promote a tree protection and conservation culture, all the model farmers have planted trees covering 10% of their entire homestead. The gas that is being produced by the farmers is being used in the homesteads for cooking and lighting purposes.

The model farmers therefore do not have to spend their money on wood fuel or paraffin, they do not also have to go farming in the wetlands with the notion that they will get better yields. They can produce good yield in their homestead farms, without having to spend any money on acquiring fertilizers, which are also pollutants.

This works to reduce pressure exerted on the wetlands through encroachment into the wetlands. This will help reduce human wildlife conflict which will help in conserving the biodiversity of the wetlands.

 

Composting for Human Wildlife Conflicts Control

Ecological Sanitation Toilets for Wetlands Ecosystem Conservation

People living in wetland communities, often believe that the wetlands are much more productive than the lands away from the wetlands. in order to get good yield, you have to either be farming in the wetlands, or be using fertilizers in your farm. Since fertilizers are expensive, people have opted to encroach into the wetland.

Though most of the people who farm in the wetlands do not use fertilizers, a few of them are still causing dual destruction to the wetlands through encroachment and pollution. this has caused major habitat destruction to the flora and fauna in the wetlands.

Mama Terry ties Night Soil Ready for useWe have hence adopted the use of ecological sanitation toilets and brought demonstrations and lessons of this to the communities living in wetland areas. Using these toilets, enables the collection of human waste, both solid and liquid but in separate chambers. These wastes are then composted and they become manure that can be used to make farms more productive.

By doing this, we hope to create an alternative for people who see wetland farming as the only option to good yield production. This will also help in reducing encroachment of people into the wetlands which will in turn reduce human wildlife conflicts.

Participatory Wetlands Mapping by the Community

The wetlands of Kusa, Koguta, Yala and Dunga have not always been as they are today. This is both in size and the amount of resources that they have, i.e the abundance and diversity of both flora and fauna. There has been seen to be a significant decline in these attributes over the last two decades.

In Yala swamp for instance, Balaeniceps rex, commonly known as the shoebill, is a bird that has completely been driven out of Yala swamp because of habitat destruction.  This shows that the diversity of fauna in the swamp has been affected.

DSC04478From the social survey that has been conducted in all the four wetlands, it is being reported that all the wetland areas have been experiencing a steady rise in wetland decline of between 2 to 6% per annum. Though this is just from the citizen science, GPS maps developed of the areas have been able to confirm the decline in the wetlands.

 

This decline has been attributed to the fact that these communities are poor and they depend majorly on the resources from the wetlands for their survival. There has also been an increase in population over the last couple of years and this has had the effect of not having enough land area to support this growing population. This has hence seen the community members to encroach into the wetland areas, majorly for settlement and farming.

We have set out to conduct mapping DSC04495exercises and have a pictorial indication of how the wetlands looked in the past, how they are now and how the community anticipates them to look like in the next couple of years, if the goals of conservation, sustainability and wise use have been achieve.

 

We are doing this by involving local people in the respective wetland communities to help in gathering local knowledge of the past and present uses, issues and conditions of the wetlands.

Community Mobilization for Wetland Protection and Conservation

When there is a natural resource in a commmunity, the members of that community tend to own it, and think of it as their own, as is the case with Dunga, Kusa, Koguta and the Yala swamp. Owning something, or rather presuming to own something, dictates that you have to look after it and ensure that it is well taken care of.

But many a times, especially in the case of natural resources and even more so in the ones which have no payment of ecosystem services policy, this is not the case. The community members do not recognize the function of conservation because they are only driven by harvesting and exploitation of the wetland resources for economic gain.

Even if this is so, there is an infinitesimal percentage of the community, which thinks along the line of conservation, the kind of people who can ones in a while stop and ask themselves, ‘If we as a community continue harvesting these resources unsustainably to the point of depletion, then what next?’ people who see sense in taking care of something that has been helping them feed their families and take their children to school for generations.

DSC04475It is this small group of people, this minute cohort, that we have targeted in these four wetland areas, to educate, train and make them vessels and pillars of communication on conservation, wise use and sustanability, to the rest of the community.

 

There are numerous economic activities in these wetland areas, so we have selected persons representing each of these common interest groups, to form a Village Environment Committee whose main aim is to enable village environment grass root governance. These common interest groups include Farmers, Youths, Traders, Fishermen, Savings and loaning groups, The disabled, Professionals, Spiritual leaders, Village elders, Mining, Local administration, Conservationists, Weavers.

Through this Village Environment Committee we have been able to see the wetlands from the community’s point of view, we conducted training and workshops that have educated them on the importance of conserving their wetlands and we have also been able to come up with a joint action plan to enable the protection of the wetland from further depletion.

Enhancement of Stakeholder Participation

Wetlands are a common resource and this translates to them having a number of stakeholders. For any changes intended on the wetlands to be made successfully and sustainable, it is paramount to advocate for support from the key stakeholders.

12322672_10208459709432953_5024325697916344647_oThey may also prove useful in giving in kind support during the implementation of the outlined strategies and their respective activities, for this reason Ecofinder Kenya will therefore work to shine light on the Wetlands to the stakeholders at a local, regional and national level.

 

The main aim here will be to outline the environmental services that the said wetlands provide, the challenges that they face, the actions that should be taken to curb this challenges, the Village level efforts and to also ensure that they are aware of how they can be of help to ensure the success of those efforts.

The activities that the project team intends to engage in to actualize this strategy will include:

  • Establishing a lake Victoria village Wetlands forum
  • holding Quarterly meetings of the wetland forums
  • working together with personnel of the institutional stakeholders during the implementation process of the project
  • developing joint action plans with the participants in the wetland forums in all the wetland areas

Wetland Restoration and Protection

The wetland ecosystem has been destructed due to the communities’ over exploitation of them for their resources. This has had a tremendous effect on the floral and faunal diversity of the wetlands of the Winam Gulf  of Lake Victoria.

For the communities to get to the point where they will be harvesting sustainably without leaving any negative giant footprints in the wetlands, the affected areas have to be restored first.

This will only be made possibly if we first have a comprehensive snapshot of the whole wetland, in terms of  the parts that are used for economic purposes, and to which extent those areas have been exploited, the conservation and buffer zones.

This strategy will thus involves a collection of activities that attempts to restore the wetland to near its original state. The activities that will be carried out here will include:

  • Undertaking wetland inventories in all the wetland areas
  • Leading workshops aimed at exploring options for community protection of the wetlands
  • Conducting participatory wetland demarcation and zonation exercises
  • Developing joint wetland village wise use by laws
  • Providing technical support and training to the community members working to restore the wetlands.