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Tales of the Treacherous Brown Waters


 Samburu and Isiolo districts have for a long time been among the remote and most marginalised districts in Kenya when it comes to allocation of government resources such as health facilities, infrastructure and education.

 

 

 

Despite this setback, this region has got one of the most striking and beautiful sunsets and sunrises in Kenya. It also boasts of having several national reserves, i.e, Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba national reserves, and a huge number of community-led conservancies including Kalama, Westgate, Namunyak, Sera and the just newly created Nasuulu conservancy among others, all of which fall under the Northern Rangelands Trust management.

 

 

These vast lands are mostly arid, with open plains and mountains lining the horizon, creating an enchanting landscape and a breathtaking view. Every sunrise spells a new beginning, a new dawn, for the people of Samburu.

Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves are situated adjacent to each other, though they lie in different provinces. These two reserves are home to some of the rarest wildlife such as the African elephant, the long-necked gerenuk, kirk’s dik dik, the Beisa Oryx, the reticulated giraffe, the gerenuk, the secretary bird, the kori bastard, the giant martial eagle, and the Grevy’s zebra.

Meandering through the native lands’ thick riverine forests and doum palm groves on its way to Lorian Swamp, a distance away from the Lowangishu hills and the Mathew ranges is the very wide, brown waters of the sandy Ewasonyiro river, which distinctively border and define the boundaries of Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, two of the most visited tourist destinations in northern Kenya.

Originating from the west side of Mt. Kenya, Ewaso Nyiro is the main source of water for the wider Laikipia and Samburu area in the arid, northern parts of Kenya. Not only is it a source of rich biodiversity and life source for all wild animals in these two reserves, but also for people and livestock in the local communities surrounding these two reserves. The Samburu people are a warrior tribe, who are mostly semi-nomadic. They live in traditional manyatta houses and occasionally trespass into the reserves in search of pasture and water for their livestock, especially during the dry season.


With the hot, sunny weather that mostly characterises this region, every single day, the sun’s scorching heat and intense rays rapidly evaporate the waters of Ewaso, and this is during the Januray-March, Late May to October dry seasons. And as the days progress, the river becomes lesser and quieter. And as weeks pass by, the river is transformed into a small stream, and it soon completely dries up. Survival strategies then kick in. As the largest and one of the most intelligent animals on earth, elephants use their tusks and trunks to dig hole on the dry river bed to access water beneath, a very important gesture that most smaller wild animals rely on, in order for them too, to survive.

 (Photo-The Reticulated Giraffe )                                   

The long rainy season in March to May, brings with it life and abundance resulting from the torrential rains. At this time of the year, its green everywhere and there’s plenty of food both for the carnivores and the herbivores alike. New born calves and cubs can be seen everywhere, jumping around playfully under the watchful protection of their mothers. The river is full, and is once again home to large numbers of the Nile crocodile.

The Nile crocodile is Africa’s largest reptile and can reach lengths of up to 6 meters and weigh up to 1 metric tonne. Adult crocodile have no predators, though territorial disputes between males can cause serious injuries and even death. This crocodile can regularly be seen basking on the sandbanks that line the river.  A large number of people, children and wildlife have fallen victim to these crocodiles, especially when attempting to cross the river.

Unfortunately, with all these blessings, a terrible disaster looms. No one knows when, for the umpteenth time, the river will break its banks, and all are cautious during this season.

The recent occurrences in 2010 and 2011 are all too clear. The flash floods of March 2010 left several people and wildlife dead. The acacia reficiens trees lining the flooded shores of the river were also not spared, as the angry waters carried with it the top sandy soil, leaving no support for the trees, which end up being washed downstream, leaving a trail of disaster. Six tourist lodges situated next to the river bank were completely washed out and families living next to the river outside of the reserve were left homeless. In December last year (2011), the river once again broke its banks, this time as a result of heavy rains received upstream, around the Ngare ndare water catchment area in Laikipia district.

Connecting the two reserves across the river is a bridge built in 2011 by the British Army, after its destruction by the 2010 flash floods. The bridge was once again destroyed completely by the December 2011 floods, and is yet to be re-built. This has greatly hampered tourism activities, as tourists now have no way of crossing over to Buffalo springs and vice versa, and are forced to go round on tarmac road for them to access either reserve.

 

Same story can be found at www.ecodata.co.ke

11 Myths About Global Hunger!

There isn’t enough food to feed the world, most of the world’s hungry live in Africa, and it’s mostly a question of droughts and other natural disasters. All of these statements are wrong. But they reflect a common set of misconceptions on hunger. Here are 11 of the most common myths – with the reality they mask. Read more……

 

 

 

Green Quotes!

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a songbird will come.”

— Chinese proverb

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”

— Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

 

Back to Samburu!

After carrying out the laid down activities, I was so glad that it was time to go back to Nairobi, where its safe from any wondering wild beasts. I never knew that two weeks later i’ll be traveling back to Samburu for the Mobile Education Unit, and this time round, for a longer period of time.

I was very excited on my way there, but at the same time, I was very nervous probably because of the fear of the unkown. Will I able to have peaceful nights this time round?, I wondered what the schools we are going to visit are like, and the children, and generally the environment too? I hoped this time round I will not experience any hallucinations.

On reaching the camp, we were so glad to once again meet the two interns (Amy and Millicent), who were going to join us for the school visits.  We were able to visit the five primary schools in Samburu for the five days we were there, and to educate the primary school children about environmental conservation and mostly about elephants and their environmental importance. During that time, we were able to donate two sacks of food to a school which STE had literally helped to build from scratch, West-gate Primary School,  and carry out a mammal census of Samburu National Reserve, from Samburu National Reserve Westgate to the research camp. This information was then forwarded to KWS staff, who are able to know sections of the reserve which contain different animals, for tourism purposes.

Conservation education in these schools was mainly carried out through questionnaires and by conducting films and documentaries, the main one being ‘Secret Life of Elephants”, a film documentary done by BCC and its perfectly captures the lives of the Elephants of Samburu. The main aim of the questionnaires  was to get the students’ thoughts concerning different wild animals that exist around their communities, but mainly how they felt about ivory, elephants and their numbers especially because these elephants do roam at night from the reserve to the different villages situated around the reserve.

Can’t wait to finally read the analysis of the questionnaires and to finally learn of what they really have to say.

One of the key factors that must be taken into consideration when implementing community projects is community participation, and so this programme is no exception.

This whole experience in Samburu brought to my attention so many different things, among them including the challenges involved in community conservation awareness in grassroots communities. In this particular case, one of the most important tasks of the Education Programme is passing the conservation message to the adult community members. This has been a challenge mainly because of the culture and tradition of the samburu people. For instance, when a meeting or Baraza is called, only the men will come out to represent the community while the women are not allowed to attend barazas, and are mostly busy looking for water, food, firewood or even carrying out household chores.

And so as I leave Samburu this time round, I know there is still a lot that needs to be done under this programme in order for us to change the attitudes and perspectives about community conservation.

But as for the primary school kids, I am so glad that we are making progress and that we are shaping the attitudes and actions of our future leaders.

My first experiences in Samburu…

The first time I went to Samburu, I had in mind what every nairobian had in mind, and what my brothers had filled up my mind with……that there is nothing in Samburu, only the dry and parched land as a result of the very very hot and unreliable weather. And so, I did not know exactly what to expect on my way there.

Driving through Nanyuki on our way to Isiolo, I could feel the temperatures increase steadily. Even the soil and vegetation types changed alot. On reaching Isiolo, I realized that this town is just like any other small town in other parts of the country. Well…..it is special in its own way, but then again it has various social ammenities and so many small shops selling a wide variety of goods.

Luckily, Samburu National Reserve is approximately 20 kilometers from Isiolo town, and the fact that for one to access Samburu National Reserve you have to drive through Buffalo Springs National Reserve is really an added bonus for me as I got to see the wildlife diversity in these two reserves. In particular, it is the Ewaso Nyiro River that generally seperates these two reserves.

 

 

 

 

 

Samburu/ Buffalo Springs are two of the unique National reserves I have ever seen. I could not believe that though a large percentage of vegetation and rivers in these reserves has completely dried out, the reserves could still harbour so many different wild and beautiful wild animals and birds. I have seen the yellow necked and the red necked hornbills, gerenuk, the different elephant families that we have up here such as the Native Americans, the Royals, The Winds Family and the hardwoods.

     

This also includes the so many mongoosses and squirrels that would always join us for breakfast, and the one genet cat that was always in time for supper.

I stayed for only three days and during that time, I got to visit Chumvieri Primary School, visit one of the high school students in Chogoria, who has benefited from our eductaion programme and  join a ugandan researcher who was carrying out a research in elephant intestinal parasites, to collect elephant dung in Buffalo Springs National Reserve.

 

 

I had a fantastic time, except for the nights, because we had to spend the nights in tents, and there was no sharing of tents. During my last night at the camp, I slept so peacefully till around 2.a.m obsessed and convinced that there were wild animals outside my tent. I remember putting on my torch, putting my phone on silent mode, repeating a short prayer over and over and my hand was shaking so much, I nearly dropped my torch. I remember one song that kept on playing in my mind. ‘In the morning you’l be alright, in the morning the sun’s gonna shine, in the morning, no clouds in the sky’ … .a gospel song by Mary Mary. I woke up one of our staff members who went round with a guard only to find that there were no wild animals in sight anywhere near the camp.

Early next morning all the STE staff had somehow been told about the incident and they were all making funny jokes about it. All in all, I had a very fantastic time and I was glad to come back to Nairobi where I knew I was safe from wild animals.

A Letter to Dear Mother Nature

Oh Dear Mother Nature

Where do I begin to explain?

Your splendor, magnificence and your pain

Your beauty is one of a kind,

As you light up the day and the night,

From the highs of Mt. Everest, to the oceans beneath,

You have shown your true self in the diversity within,

The plants tell of your tale, from the seed that flowers and blooms,

To the unique aroma of flowers and herbs,

To the clean simplicity of fresh growing grass,

And to the grace and speed of birds and animals,

The lightning and thunder tell of your forces and your rage,

As you whisper in my ear through the changing winds,

As I feel the sense, gentleness and force of the breeze,

the heat of the sun and the cool of snow,

How I long for the silence, the harmony & the peaceful distraction

From this noisy world’s cares and troubles,

A life beyond thought is what you offer,

How I wish I could escape , relax & be carried away,

To the joys and Wonders of Nature,

To discover the mystery that lies deep,

With which you inspire & motivate,

You are a perfect orchestration; every day a true masterpiece

Your beauty is ever changing, ever inviting,

A stunning backdrop creating heaven on earth

Yours Truly,

Vella K.A, The Natural Traveler