CONSERVATION EDUCATION THROUGH VOLLEYBALL
From tree planting to volleyball: Charles Njoroge, Born Free’s Pride of Meru Education Officer, explains how we are encouraging co-existence around Meru National Park
In Kenya, Born Free’s Education team works with a number of communities and schools on the western boundary of Meru National Park – an area reported to have the highest incidences of human-wildlife conflict.
The main challenge facing these communities is the scarcity of water. Increased agricultural activities, prolonged dry seasons and the diversion of water to farms has led to a reduced water flow, affecting all 14 rivers that flow into and sustain life in Meru National Park. This means there has been an increase in human-wildlife conflict because animals are leaving the park in search of water.
We’ve therefore introduced several activities to help mitigate the situation, including rehabilitation and fencing of water.
Fencing is expected to reduce human activities like farming, washing clothes and utensils, and using diesel powered water pumps along river banks to reduce the rate of water pollution.
Tree planting is expected to help rehabilitate waterways. Since the beginning of the rainy season in November 2019, we distributed 1,700 tree seedlings to six local community groups. They planted all the seedlings, and continue to nurture them. By engaging community members in conservation initiatives like these, they become conservation ambassadors.
Sport is another way to interact with the community in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. Through Volleyball for Conservation – a joint Born Free and Kenya Wildlife Service staff team called The Bush Trackers – we can engage with the youth, who make up the largest percentage of Kenya`s population. Before and after every game, The Bush Trackers pass on conservation education messages and take part in clean up exercises.
We have eight partner schools around Meru, which all have Born Free conservation clubs and carry out a conservation-based curriculum, including activities such as tree planting and wildlife spotting. From these activities, the children grow up knowing the importance of conservation and become conservation champions.
As our education programme grows, we hope to further promote co-existence initiatives and support more local people.