23 December 2021
EDUCATION IN MERU
Born Free is working with local communities to raise awareness, support schools and encourage coexistence with wildlife in Kenya.
Our work in and around Meru National Park includes a variety of activities, from monitoring lions, working with elephant and giraffe guardians to supporting the local schools and communities. In fact, co-existence and long-term conservation outcomes will only be possible if we work to help both people and wildlife.
Meru National Park is Born Free’s heartland, from which the story of Elsa captivated the world. However, the park faces many pressures, as do the animals and local communities. Just outside the park sits Meru county, the largest county by population in Kenya’s Eastern Province. What’s more the sub-locations (akin to parishes) bordering the park in which the education team operates, have significantly higher than average population densities than the county as a whole. This leads to greater human wildlife conflict and competition for finite and often scarce resources.
To help promote and enable co-existence, the education team operates a wide range of projects that support both the elephants and giraffe within the park and the communities living outside. Working with eight partner schools along the western boundary of the park, we run conservation clubs, helping students learn more about ecology and wildlife, practical conservation and more. Our club curriculum is designed to support the national school curriculum, with benefits for wider academic attainment as well as conservation.
Not only do we support education, but we help schools create a productive learning atmosphere by providing desks, books and occasionally more substantial infrastructure. Over the last few years, working with partners and funders, we have built two classrooms and a science laboratory at our partner secondary school, to ensure students have facilities to prepare for national exams, while the neighbouring primary school has benefitted from a toilet block.
Education is an integral part of a holistic conservation or animal welfare project. By increasing knowledge and understanding around the issues and animals we work with we can help communities understand the value of their local natural resources, including their own intrinsic value and the very real contributions they make to people’s lives by supporting ecosystem services.
This is why our education work extends into the communities around our partner schools. In 2022 we plan to run elephant behaviour workshops, to help people stay safe around elephants, as well as providing basic healthcare services in partnership with the Ministry of Health. Throughout the covid-19 pandemic our team has maintained their presence in communities, with outdoor meetings and tree planting activities to support water conservation in the area.
“Our club and community members are actively seeking us out, asking more questions, and reporting incidences – an indication we are reaching people with our message of conservation,” explains Phoebe Odhiang, our Education Programmes Leader in Kenya. “We could not ask for more.”
Our vision in Meru is to nurture a generation that is intrinsically wildlife conservation-oriented and a community who understands and embraces environmental stewardship and the philosophy of sustainability as a positive way to build their future.
Image (c) www.georgelogan.co.uk