Over dependence on wetland resources as we have seen, is the root cause of wetlands destruction and the degradation of these resources. Over and over again there have been efforts of creating awareness on the importance of wetlands and ways of conserving our wetlands. Truth be told, you cannot tell people to abandon a way of life, especially a source of livelihood for them and their families, without showing them that there is actually an alternative that works better.
One that will take care of their needs, their environment, provide them with sustainability for those resources they need from the wetlands in the long run and on top of it all, be a health conscious alternative. At Ecofinder Kenya, we have been able to demonstrate to members of the community the alternatives that they have to wood fuel, through providing them with green technologies, like biogas digesters and compost toilets which they can use to get organic manure that they can use in their farms and get even better yields, as opposed to farming in the wetlands, where aside from habitat destruction, they are also exposing their farms to being destroyed by the fauna in the wetlands.
Our model farmers act as village hubs and they are charged with teaching and demonstrating to visitors and the rest of the community members how biogas digesters work and explaining the importance and contribution of the technology to wetlands conservation.
The model farmers are therefore also wetland keepers, they promote Conservation agriculture and through that, they also advocate for wetlands conservation, curbing destruction of wetland wildlife habitats and avoiding human wildlife conflicts in wetland communities.
Teaching, communicating, awareness creation, campaigning and training, these are all different strategies that have been employed in the fight for the conservation of wetlands and their resources. People living in proximity to wetland communities are often faced with the temptation to encroach and grab the lands in the wetlands for their own economic gains, not giving any consideration to the flora and faunal diversity in the wetlands and destruction of their habitats.
Among all those people, you occasionally come across the conscious few, the people who take a step back and look at the ecological foot prints that they leave behind with their anthropogenic activities in the wetlands. It is these few individuals that are the stepping stone to making a real difference in the communities, in terms of perception and conservation efforts.
This is a story of model farmers, who act as village hubs for alternative livelihoods innovation. Charles for instance, is a Mzee in Dunga wetland community, when the opportunity to make a difference and to be a part of an impacting educational process to his fellow villagers came along, he grabbed it and is now a successfully established model farmer. He is a very proud owner and ambassador of a heavy plastic biogas digester and an ecosan toilet for composting donated to him as an incentive for the conservation of the papyrus wetland.
Charles hosts different visitors on his farm and homestead and is very enthusiastic about communicating the value of conservation to them and practically showing them how they can use their own excreta and that of their cattle for composting to get better yields in their farms and for clean, environmental and health friendly energy for cooking. showing them how they don’t have to farm in the wetlands and subject their farms to trampling and destruction by wild animals and cutting down trees in the wetlands and their surrounding for cooking for them to be able to support their families.
Most importantly, how adopting these strategies will go a long way towards reducing encroachment in the wetlands and this will be a win win situation for both parties because reduced encroachment will reduce destruction of wildlife habitats and this will inturn help curb human wildlife conflicts.