Supporting local conservation initiative in Kenya
David Fox returns to his home-country to meet the local group dedicated to saving their vanishing grasslands and endangered Kenyan bird-species.
On a recent visit to Kenya, World Land Trust (WLT) supporter David Fox donated much needed books to help a voluntary group committed to saving the grasslands in the Kinangop highlands. The books, courtesy of WLT’s NGO books for conservation programme, will help Friends of Kinangop Plateau (FoKP) monitor the grasslands.
FoKP has made great headway since it was formed in 1997 by a few concerned Kinangop residents, and now numbers some 400 members. By working alongside Nature Kenya (WLT’s partner) the FoKP is adding weight to the efforts to conserve the area’s biodiversity and protect what is left of the unique highland grasslands. The Kinangop grasslands is a WLT project area in Kenya’s Central Province, about an hour’s drive from the capital Nairobi. This largely unprotected area of grasslands is vanishing at an alarming rate. David, a former member of East African Natural History Society (now Nature Kenya), is committed to supporting the group and has a personal attachment to the country.
David lived in Nairobi before moving to the UK when he was 17 years old. He describes Kenya as a magical place, where from a young age he had the rare privilege of being surrounded by a spectacular array of bird species. As he grew up, David became aware that most Kenyan’s were far less fortunate than himself, yet he saw how they made the most of what they had and realised that a little help could go a long way.
New resources for FoKP
The desire locally to conserve the environment has seen membership of FoKP grow rapidly, spreading across the plateau to four sub-branches in Murungaru, Engineeer, Njabini and Magumu/Nyakio. On his trip David visited a local school where the FoKP teach the importance of conserving the grasslands; he saw first-hand the success of this education programme through meeting a pupil who had become a member of the FoKP’s Murungaru branch. David also visited the wool-spinning workshop run by FoKP, where they make rugs from locally reared sheep. He donated a laptop and digital camera to the workshop, while the books will provide an additional resource for FoKP’s visitors centre in Murungaru that is owned by Nature Kenya and run by FoKP. Recently, WLT announced it had completed its first land purchase in Kinangop, adding to the reserve area that is already owned by Nature Kenya. One important reason for WLT funding this purchase was to protect an endangered species of bird, the Sharpe’s Longclaw (Macronyx sharpie). This Kenyan endemic is a pipit-like bird, confined entirely to the rapidly disappearing tussock grasslands of the Kinangop Plateau. We are pleased to report that David saw two pairs of Sharpe’s Lonclaw during his trip. The birds were seen on a farmer’s land, who had previously been persuaded to farm livestock rather than grow potatoes as it is far less damaging to the grasslands. This good news demonstrates what can be achieved by working with and supporting local communities.