23rd December 2010
Christmas in Kenya and Land of Hope
Much has happened since my last update.
My scorpion-?- bite went really bad and, despite my dislike for medical interventions, I had to undergo a general an Anaestesia operation which pretty much knocked me off for two weeks.
As soon as I could travel, while here our activities went on, – the feeding of the children and the training of the Pokot boys continued, and seasonal projects including the massive road maintenance work to make again passable roads devastated by floods, cut fire breaks though the tall grass with and an army of women form the neighbourhood and continue additions and renovations at Makena’s Hills/Centre of Origin, a place of spirituality and mag I travelled to Europe to keep a promise made to my late Mother, who had asked for Her ashes to be buried in Kenya at the foot of the acacia planted on the grave of my son Emanuele, Her adored grandson.
It felt really good to return with the small bundle whose DNA I carry- and to set in Her old room here, with a bundle of white flowers, until Sveva will come ANY DAY NOW and we can set Her to rest as She had wished.
I came back to a land that is drying up with unprecedented speed after this year early unprecedented great rains.. and while dams are still full the grass is dry and yellow, tinder for bush fires, the trees bare of leaves, dusty wind has began to blow incessant, and it looks as if everything is either too much or too little, the old balance of predictability lost for good.But lots of lions around and elephants are back again to my garden…
The Pokot Youth Peace team has performed at various local events, National Days and birthdays of visitors, we re-employed Walter- their wonderful trainer-still here now- for an end of year refresher course, and they are gaining more and more confidence and refining more and more their skill… while Peter Kanyakera- see below- has grown up incredibly since last year and will-with Lotou- join a new class in January.
At Land of Hope- the community complex to be- the 300 acres area just outside the conservancy that we have donated to this project, after lengthy research, surveys and environmental impact assessment, the digging of the well, sponsored by Coca Cola East Africa, has began and we trust water will be reached in the next few days.
The plan is to build an environmentally friendly complex, with a women vocational centre, nursery,art place, dispensary and a track for sports training as a start, to give single mothers and their children a chance, through education for all and teaching the mothers a skill to help them improve their living conditions- and CLEAN water for them all to bring home every day: we know water- born diseases are the main cause of stunted growth and a thousands other side problems…clean water a dream..we want to help make a difference for our less privileged neighbours.
This is a massive and creative project that will grow as we can afford it, and we shall keep you regularly updated about it. We are grateful to Cristina and her friends, Bianca, Doju and the Italian team and Sophie and hers in England, and to Celine, Valerie,Ann, Dick and all the friends who are committed to help this project in different ways.
We are planning A MASSIVE celebration for the Christmas children feeding, and hope to get donations in kind from Kenyan friends and supporters to help making this rare occasion really special for children who have so little… in the meantime I bought what they normally never have: if last year it was lollipop, this time special biscuits and coloured sweets and balloons, crayons and books… I shall send a new year updates.
At this time of family reunions and thanks giving, my thoughts go to you all, my extended family of friends far away, with gratitude for your generosity and support, for your love and words that keep us going, time and again as we try to do our best for us all here in Africa.
With Christmas and New Year Blessings
Kuki, Sveva and the Team
from Laikipia Nature Conservancy
in Northern Kenya
19th December 2010
4th November 2010
The Pokot Boys Discover the City and Kids Learn to Jump 3
-Maddening Servers problems of the last week and finally again on line…and … ouch, a neglected bite from a secret creature of the night- more likely a scorpion, may be a small snake- that crept into my bed, and had a taste of my ankle two months ago- became a rather nasty tropical ulcer.- and am here in Nairobi briefly recovering from a general anaestetics operation I underwent reluctantly (SOO much to do!) and under duress…- and so now here we go:
It was a great day- the crowing of another impossible dream!- when the invitation from the USA embassy in Nairobi came for the Pokot Boys Youth Peace Team to perform at the Ambassador residence during their cultural day!
So we packed them up in Sveva’s 4 Generations bus and off they drove to…NAIROBI, the Capital!… an epic journey of FIRSTS: never been to a tarmac road, never seen a bus, a double storey building (let alone the Kenyatta Conference Centre!), never been Up Stairs,never used a toilet or a shower (with soap), never performed on a stage…guided around by Sveva especially here to coach them for the event, from the UK where she is doing a Master Degree, their trainers Walter and Victor and our Ali, they discovered the city.
Watching their wonder and naive excitement at things we take for granted was a rare and moving marvel for us.They came to my Nairobi house where we set up tents in the garden and on the evening of the 16th we drove them to the Residence at Muthaiga, mute and overwhelmed in anticipation.
Their performance was an incredible success. In presence of a large public, that included the Minister of Culture, envoys, NGO,UN reps, Media, artists etc the boys did us very proud and were defined by TV and media-and the Minister!- the Highlight of the event.The audience broke into spontaneous applause many times and roared their approval in the end.No one had even ” seen” any Pokot ever before.
I felt with great pride we had gone a VERY long way from the day in JULY I first met Kopus, handcuffed, under an acacia in the bush, and promised him we would show him” another way”…
Now we shall formally register their group.. and we shall keep you informed of what next in store.
Our other programmes go on of course- relief feeding, healthcare, and education and environment and reforestation and …the Land of Hope project… more of this in next update.
We are grateful to Doju, Renata and Adriana- see below-who came from Italy to help and give spiritual and physical nourishment – and will be back!, to Els, Wim and Dhiren,…to the Strathmore college boys, such good will and generous support… and a new thing is happening…the little children have quietly watched the ongoing acrobatics training, and many of them surprised me by breaking into spontaneous, hylarious and astonishingly accomplished summersaults and acrobatics amongst squeals of delight during last feeding.. well, a new generation of acrobats is in the making… because you see, we start something new… it evolves, it moves, we never know where it will bring us all… and that’s the beauty of it
With special love and blessings from Kenya
Kuki, Sveva and the Team
in Laikipia Nature Conservancy
29th October 2010
here they arrive in Nairobi..and practice in my garden!
Kopus proudly standing and the boys and trainer posing in front of the American Residence before the performance..
..first time on a stage…!!!
and up in Laikipia our life goes on: Italian volunteer doctor Renata assisted by Adriana at work after a feeding(thank you Ann, Jacintah!!)
……..a new beginning…..!!!!
10th September 2010
A Summer of Giving and Elephants in the Garden..
….yes, I know, two updates in one…so sorry! so busy was I with the preparation of the Laikipia Highlands Games 2010 that I oversaw a mail for you ready to go a while ago… stuck on the drafts folder for network problems…and found it again just… NOW!! oops. So here it is with some update..
the rains may have come and the dams overflow, but hunger is still there at our doorstep.. and rhino horn/elephant teeth in great demand, and we cannot really sleep in the full moon nights.
The Summer is time for volunteers, who choose to spend time helping us to help others, rather then pursuing more mundane activities… with them with fun and love we can do so much more, and we are grateful to an exceptional group this Summer:
Thank you to: The Italian”Flying doctors’: Cristina Cappelletti,Chiara Occhipinti,Paola Teti, Rossella Ventricelli, Gerda Tinzl, with our Imana Eyapan; Denise Robertson, Renata Kecskes and friends,Bianca Notarbartolo di Sciara, Tiziana Minoli, Julia Gerlach,Lochy Mc Pherson,Ali Marzotto, Ludovica Amodeo Gabrau,Victoria von Trott, Marianna and all the Courage German volunteers (who brought BOATS to bring disabled children rwoing in the lake!!), Elliot Woolf; AND last but not least:Moses Lendorope,Nelson Moiben, John Maina, Jacintah Anomat, with ourMussa Lenana and Mike Roberts.. and the Zurich International School !Thank you all for having contributed in such different ways: feeding the children, attending to their medical needs, helping the neighbours, planting trees, measuring carbon, making paper, painting the boards, translating from German, taking data, taking pictures, bringing food and clothes (thank you, Sophie Barker!) working on the games fields, (Daniel Kibaru, Fred Momani, Peter Kanyakera, MARTIN KEINO),… and with such good spirit and having FUN!! we are deeply, profoundly grateful to you all.
We take nothing for granted.
A few photos say it all… and a tragic moment when rhino Tim was poached in full daylight…exchange of fire with our brave rangers, poachers fled leaving both horns, small satisfaction and such a desperate waste…that was however BEFORE we started the Pokot Youth Peace Team…we cross fingers… they are our ears and eyes…our hope…
And this is Africa… despair and hope, darkness and light, this is life…one wakes in the morning to a chorus of birds, and to a LARGE pepper tree on its side, shredded bushes, tell-tale signs..smoking dung a few metres from the breakfast table…hem, a certain elephant, not happy with just the banana and the guava.. in my garden, once again!!
With Love, with thank you and blessings from the HEART and from a very GREEN Kenya,
Kuki, Sveva and the Team
In Laikipia Nature Conservancy
PS. Now..wait for news of the ..Land of Hope Project…. of the Peter Kanyakera Project… and of the Pokot Youth Peace Team developments….( we never stop…)………….!!!
10th September 2010
HERE CAME THE GAMES AND A PROMISE WAS KEPT
The grounds were prepared, the grass cut and cut again, hundreds flags -and new trousers-were churned out in the pedal machine by taylor Kariuki Gitau; many tents were erected in case it may rain, water brought, food brought, tracks were drawn out on the plain and the disconcerted impala moved out to the side of the field.
Sport consultants worked daily on the fields alongside our exceptional ground team.
Toby then gave the sport shoes, and Bianca painted the boards, and I got the tshirst printed out:blue on black, with Amani for Peace printed below our logo.And Sveva came back again from UK to work with trainer Walter and Victor to build up The POKOT YOUTH PEACE TEAM, ever day for six weeks.
And the people came-in their thousands. Pokot and Njemps, Turkana and Samburu, Tugen and Nandi, Kikuyu and Borana, the Masaai cricket players for Il Polei.
This despite a tribal fight just the day before, between Samburu and Turkana at Rumuruti:communities and tribals have recognised this Sports for Peace event as one of the really unique occasions to meet and solve issues:the athmosphere was just amazing.
We had over 1200 entries to the athletics games and many spectators, estimated to be about 4000. The highlight of the event was the initial amazing performance of the Pokot Youth Peace team led by Kopus-the poacher who was given a chance.I had promised him that one day he would perform in front of envoys guests and a huge crowd.As I stood to clap, emotion almost overwhelmed me.
The promise was kept.
See him below gleaming with his grandmother: allboys families were invited, transported and fed by us. Next step will be to register their group and to have them perform for a fee, further afield. Nairobi as well.
Rains were kept at bay..just for the day..it rained all around us and magic worked when a circle of sunshine just over the game fields allowed the athletes to compete until dark!
We are grateful to all that helped make this possible.
of The Laikipia Highlands Games 2010
From Laikipia Nature Conservancy
September 20th 2010
21st August 2010
THE LAIKIPIA HIGHLAND GAMES
It’s that time of year again!
21st August 2010
The Poacher Who Learnt to Cartwheel… and the Ones who Play Foot ball
Hallo, my friends,
I know you have been waiting for this update…and I wanted to make sure that what was only the glimmer of a general plan, became and ongoing reality… the story of Kopus, the poacher who learnt.. acrobatics and leadership… and self respect.
The snap shots you see here below tell their own story: released from jail, Kopus did not disappear; he went daily to sign at the KWS, where the Sergeant Longwanani -very cooperative- took it upon himself to check on him and ‘build him up. Step by step.
The second time I met him I gave him a Tshirt with our Logo; the second a bag of maize, he would learn to sell – and he brought some of the elders, as witnesses; for the 3rd meeting, I told him to bring some of his friends, at least ten young men like him, at risk of becoming poachers and petty criminals. He would be their leader.
That time I gave him a solar mobile phone so I can get hold of him and he of me.
Between the 3rd and 4th meeting Sveva (Makena) came with her creative input, introducing drama and peace building, and we identified other similar youngsters from the East Pokot to join the team-and engaged their group leader, Chaon.
We found a secluded area for the training and marked it with purple flags.
We got tents from our store and food and utensils. They now had their camp.
In the end we had twentyfive youngsters and by the 5th time we had bought two very large breeding male goats-imported breed-that we donated for them to share and to loan out to improve their native small goats breed -something they readily and enthusiastically understood-, and black t-sirts with a blue logo for all. A sense of identity.
From Nairobi came two great young acrobatic and yoga teachers, Walter and Victor.
And from a roll of black cloth, on the old pedal Singer machine at Kuti, our taylor Kariuki Githau churned out 25 identical trousers .
Exercises began.. and Kopus excelled. With the team he learnt punctuality, discipline and self respect. Story telling and sharing.
The way in which this group of youth at risk responded to rigorous training left us breathless.
The new Kopus
The old Kopus
…and next, for the ones who were not built for acrobatics.. a new football team-shoes donated by Shoes for Africa- and volley ball team and runners..and sculptor Kioko MUitiki drove up to train them in twisting old fencing wire in animal shapes… the adventure goes on.
….and the ones of you who will join us for The Laikipia Highlands Games (Sport for Peace, September 18th)…will watch, in awe as we will, the varied performances of The Pokot Youth Peace Team, led by young Kopus, super acrobat, the Poacher who Was Given a chance.
None of this could have been achieved without your support and encouragement.
Thank you and blessings from the Heart
Kuki, Sveva and the team
From Laikipia Nature Conservancy
August 18th 2010
15th July 2010
… And the Women Who Danced
….In the meantime the Pokot and Samburu women had finished their Lorora(Samburu) and their huts(Pokot).
I took with me the boy Lotou…the one “Who sat Under a Tree…: and who can count now and proudly write basic words- Peter Kanyakera is visiting his family for a few days-and went to find the Samburu and Pokot women and went to officially inspect the finished peace huts in our central area of the Conservancy.
They repaired the old and built several new wonderful dwelling, lit a fire in each of them to bless them, and we shall be able to host them in style, and the tribal athletes at the Laikipia Highlands Games …. and so, to thank them, I asked them for tea.The Pokot girls came too on their way home, and they all joined in a spontaneous song and dance!
They revealed that they had planned to subtly talk their men into stopping fights and raids…hope it works..it begins with the women, at home… great power…
… and work has began also at ” Land of Hope” the place just on our boundary that our supporter Dick Tarlow, Sveva and myself purchased a few years ago to create a model eco- school and Women Vocational Centre : we needed the water there before we began, and with generous support from Coca Cola East Africa, this is now possible! Surveyors came, and aquifer was magically immediately found- it was meant to happen- and soon a bore hole that will help the construction and provide water for the entire Mutaro community will begin: our work never ends…
Watch next update…!
and lots of love and thank you to you all.
Kuki and the Team
Laikipia Nature Conservancy,
15ty July 2010
Peace Village: Finished Samburu PeaceLororas
Finished Pokot Peace Huts
Gilrls come to tea
….and we all end up in a dancein my garden,
with dogs watching(photo by Ali)
and everything is green..
15th July 2010
The Poacher Who Was Given a Choice ..
(lots of reading- two updates in one-, sorry)
a few years ago, at the height of the pre-election tribal clashes between theSamburu and Pokot people,Sveva and I invited two groups of women from each tribe to come up here together and build-together and on the same spot, facing a sacred olive tree- some traditional dwellings in their respective traditional style. After some initial stiffness, the women learnt to work together, cook eat and pray together, and it was great.
The huts so constructed served to host them and the tribal athletes and artists for our many yearly gathering in congenial surroundings.
Wear and tear, drought and rain, termites and a couple of elephants really “sitting” on them… much work needed to be done.
So the Pokot women came and then the Samburu.
I was given a necklace and greeted with songs. They started work with alacrity and humour, GREAT spirit!…..
..and in the middle of all this gun shots at dusk and screaming elephants… blood tracks followed by our team and the KWS… yours truly hit her head on a treebranch while dashing to give the alarm and was knocked off cold for a few moments- coming to with puzzled dogs licking her face and blood streaming from a scalp cut(well, may be I should stop playing Indiana Jones?), next day flown Nairobi, hospital scan & clean bill, but no long distance flying allowed for a while in case a bloodcloth forms…bother) .
…in the meantime, more importantly, poachers tracks brought to a certain boma in the vicinity…ambush was set up early next morning and one young man wascaptured, while two escaped carrying their AK 47s…. success….or?
…a long frustrating sad history of court incompetence when trying wildlife offences, absurdly lenient sentences that represent more an incentive than a deterrent;obsolete legislation from a time when trophy hunting was allowed, regard for wildlife differed, price of elephants tusks was minimal, market too, and animalsabundant.. ;poachers caught red handed released and the knowledge that one man caught will not deter unscrupoulous dealers from sending their pick ofan endless reservoir of thousands of idle tribal young men with no education, nor jobs, desperate to capture any rare opportunity to make a few shillings- into a killingmission and risk of arrest and death if caught armed.
Such was the arrested youth.Possibly -definitely? guilty- but not enough evidence on him, and Nyahururu court sure to acquit him.So big werehis chances of anearly release, and of rejoining the ranks of wild bushmen poachers…
Try something different?Everything has failed so far. Take a risk.
…So after long pondering and discussion with police and KWS, we resolved to make an example of him.
We agreed the police and Kws would bring the boy to the conservancy for me to meet him…we found some elders of his family …
and here, you too, meet Kopus Letoi, the first recruit of the acrobatic/artists Pokot warriors peace team-
One of TWENTYTRHEE BROTHERS and sisters (father in picture, was drunk with changaa, has just ten goats).
Never been to school, never seen an European, never spoken to one, let alone a Musungu mama, aloof, remote, – impossible to reach..he spoke no Swahili but he could understand some-never been anywhere, his horizon Ratia, hisdream in life?to have some goats and cattle and look after them. Almost carbon copy physically of the hundred wild silent shadows following elephants tracks in the nights of moon.
(by the way, this is what Peter Kanyakera, below on day one- would have looked like at 18-Kopus alleged age, but no one knows his age)
Warning him of the dire consequences and horrors of a police remand prison, I told him I wanted to give him a chance.
I told him he had a choice, with much figurative language-and the supportive hilarity of the KWS -who, tired to see their suspects released- were very supportive of the scheme-);headmitted buyers lured them with little money, but little is ok, they have nothing at all, nothing else to do, and nothing to lose.
I told him he and his friends had been cheated, the crooks buyers were fat and safe, with new expensive clothes, driving big cars, richer than last year since so many elephants lay dead-and soon there will be none left and so then what would he do? kill butterflies? ants?-, while he was as poor, had no car, no money no prospects,no hope, nothing, and on top of all he had bencaught, and if he had been caught with his weapon he may have been shot…the buyers would not care, there were so many there like him.
I explained that every life and his life was like a path in the bush with many side tracks to take and many diversions, and he was only using one- the bad one of the illegal killings that brought him nowhere.
I explained that he did not know it yet, it but he had a real choice because we had agreed to release him, on certain conditions, to give him that chanceto improve his lot, leave the wild animals alone, and it was up to him to make it work…make something of his life, …the plot was explained -I detected a glimmer…was there a glimmer, did I manage to come across?-and I gave him a symbolic T-shirt to wear-the very first NEW garment he ever had- told him to do certain things, come back on a certain day… and more to come…suspense…
This story continues in next update after the 25th when much will be revealed..
Peter Kanyakera rescue 14th May 2009,femur broken by buffalo while illegally grazing his father cattle at night
I recognised Lotou amongst hundreds boys,Christmas feeding, Dec 25th 2009
Peter Kanyakera and Lotou now
Lotou-avid to learn- has a computer (well, a talking toy computer!), and Mussa, the Samburu volunteer, will teach him how to use it.
When I gave it to him he almost burst into tears (a month ago he was desperate, covered in rugs, wounded and filthy, now confident, secure, he never stopssmiling..they have both learnt to smile!! )
and so we move on, – life is full of challenges- and send you love and blessings
Kuki and the team
from Laikipia Nature Conservancy,
on 10th July 2010
3rd July 2010
SAVE THE DATE!
16th June 2010
THE BOY WHO SAT UNDER THE TREE
For my birthday, and with your help, on June 1st,we went to feed uji and biscuitstothe East Pokot kids.
My friend Lisa brought lots of bread and special treats ofcoloured sugar and butter, andJonathanHoward and his family brought biscuits, too.
On the way back in the evening, lots of elephants, families of breeding Guinea fowls, a lion..and below a tree, just on the track, the small figure of a boy sat waiting.
His stained clothes were in tatters; his face streaked with mucus and tears. He may be 8,9, or 10?- he does not know.
He spoke no Swahili and when I stopped, between sobs, he managed to only say “Kuki. Schule (school)”. I recognised him as oneof the many ragged kids who had come to all the feedings queuing patiently for their mug to be filled-and re-fillled.
We found Peter Kanyakera-‘The FirstPokot Boy, now being tutored before he joins a new school in September, and learnt the boy’s name is Lotou, his father died when he was only a couple of months old, his mother-now pregnant with the seventh child- remarried a drunken man whoresents him, and beats him up with a whipmade of hide, (a “kiboko”). Long scars on his arm and head told the harrowing tale.
His mother also drinks and beats him up. After a severe beating he had ran away and slept two nights in the bush before coming to the feeding.. and there hatched the idea of waiting for my car and begging for shelter. His trust, his innocence and his initiative brought a knot to my throat.
Well: long story. Having fished out a new shirt for him (he went behinda bush to change) I left him for the night with a ranger, and sent for his mother. Next day she came, unemotionally she declared she had beaten him severely, she could notcope, nor send him to school, couldI look after him… could I keep him, teach him. In presence of the elders an agreement was made, Peter is delighted to have a friend. We equipped him with new blanket, a few clothes, soap, a bowl, a mug, few basic items, treasures.
At this time they are both taught together, sleep and eat together, he has learnt to smile (never seem to stop smiling now), and every day is new. Another Pokot boy…and Peter has a friend! And so we go on.
Then, it rained (see from my office!), and on WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY on June 5th and in the preceding andfollowing days weplanted over 5000 trees!!!-for our reforestation project next to the forest at Enghelesha. We gave eco friendlyawards for poems, for songs forwildlife clubs..(winner: Njorua Primary school, Best environment record);
….and in the evening on my way back, two rhinos in the distance on the open plain- as a gift; a large herd of buffalo. A tortoise; three Cheetah.
Another lion at dusk, before turning into my house at Kuti.
The mother hadada bird has had two new ones, above our breakfast table.
And so our lives go on.
We send you love and blessings,
in Laikipia Nature Conservancy, Northern Kenya
On 9th June 2010
17th May 2010
FEEDING, AND TREES, FLOODS, BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES
So this was last week…
a sunny Sunday after the rains and I drove to our Mutamayo gate with East Pokot, for the weekly children feeding (rains may have come by hunger still there).. withspecial biscuits as well as Uji, and sweets treats, and was mobbed…(as expected).
I gave Chief Amasile of the Kapuya Pokot a donation of fourty two BLACK shuka (the traditional Pokot colour for theirattire) since the student group whohad danced at our Prayers for the Earth event were wearing multicoloured, ingenious bed linen for shukas…and asked us to provide the correct stuff..
A few days ago I went to check the new tree nursery, with Ignitious the ecologist and Elizabeth,where thousands of newindigenoustree seedlings are growing to be planted in our reforestation plan and on World Environment day (See our head of Nursery, Thomas Ole Kaichu, proud of his work…) and then the sky opened… and it poured and poured….and poured.. car got miserably stuck in a new river… rain kept coming…
no comments on these photo, were rescued at night… and next morning, sunshine and happy birdsforaging in my garden..and this extraordinary photo by Mike Roberts of 4 different types of butterflies sharing a meal..! The symbol of Biodiversity in a biodiversity year!
Thank you for your support, without which none of what we do would be possible,
With love and blessings
Kuki and the team
Laikipia Nature Conservancy
on 15th May 2010
20th APRIL 2010
Of Feeding, of Birds, and of Yoga for the Pokot
My Dear Friends,
The grass may be greener, and Planet Earth-Gaia-,despite clouds ofvolcanic ashes paralising other parts of the world, in this part of Kenya may have managed withextraordinary resilience to make use of any drop of rain and to restore herself withamazing speed- and in my gardenfor the first time ever a motherAdada bird sitson her nest just above the breakfast table… – but hunger is still there, and our feeding relief programme- that we began in January 2009, proceeds twice a week, withyour help, for the poorest children of our neighbours.
In Doha we may have narrowly won for the elephants, but the young Pokot have not heardof this yet… and the criminal traders are still very much active in theblack market, and still offer a price for the elephant teeththat provide an incentive to the thousand youth without a job just at our doorstep…our infrared camera areset up and doing a great job monitoring elephants and rhino-Thank you again, Roger! – but gunshots are still heard in the full moon if not as often as in 2009, andtoday the KWS has arrested a poacher, red handed!
Still..undeterred, in the attempt to harness the stamina of the young idle Pokot-potential future poachers! -showingthem another way to be fit and brave… andbased on our belief in imagination and creativity as the best medicine, we have brought in a yoga master from the Nairobi slums to teach cartwheels and acrobatics….also to the nursery kids.. it seems to work, the youth are secretly practicing, we are told, and they beg for the teacher to come back which we hope we canmanageto do!
Yoga for the Pokot, what about this..?
We pray for sanity, we send you blessings,
In Laikipia Nature Conservancy
on 23rd April 2010
WORLD EARTH DAY
8th APRIL 2010
EASTER EGGS AND THE GARDEN OF EDEN
Hallo my friends!
On good Friday we painted the eggs and the cooks fried the mandazi and cooked the Uji: on Saturday and on Easter Sunday we distributed them at our East Pokot and Ol Moran gates and over 500 children-plus mothers and elders- were fed and sweets were given to all as a treat.
With the rains all has taken a healthy sheen, dams are full and animals fat and not a night goes without lions roaring just out of my window,as they stalk buffalo at Kuti… but hunger still remains. We discovered that most children had never eaten an egg before!
Our protege’ Peter Kanyakera,the Pokot Boy on hisfirst school break, went home to see his family.
On the way back from Friday feeding I was amazed to see THREE Cheetah, stalking impala at Kuti airstrip, and only sorry I did not have a better camera to capture this, but here they are.
And at night one of the donatedinfrared cameras (Thank you, Roger!) captured this rhino atthe Nest salt, identified as Prince Bernhard, who was born in 1996 during a visit of our late Patron.
The dams are full – a dramatic difference sincethe shot I took just a couple of months ago! – and Henry the hippo is spoiled for choice… the elephant- the great plants propagators- seem to know they have managed to escape the harrowing pressures at CITES… and the frogs and the bees are back in The Garden of Eden, from whereI send you love andhopeand blessings.
in Laikipia Nature Conservancy
Easter Monday 2010
23rd March 2010
ELEPHANTS MUST LIVE
From:Doha, Qatar CITES, COP15 CITES,
Elephants, Ivory Trade, Ivory Trade Ban,
Date: March 22nd 2010
After a freezingand short visit to New York where I received the Africa Foundation Award for my work with communities, I returned to a green Ol ari Nyiro, and our projects there. We hosted various schools and the Caine Prize for african writers
I am delighted to announce that after a tense series of meetings, characterised byharrowing discussions and blatant favoritism, where despair and impotence setalternated with glimmers of hope, sanity prevailed in Doha today, when Tanzania and Zambia’s request to sell their ivory and to downgrade the elephant to Appendix 2-which would have opened the door to future sales- has been rejected by the delegates.
I travelled to Doha to be of service to a cause in which I believe- and to support Kenya’s stand- that led the way against the proposal.
After a few tragic years-following theivorysales by four southern African States-, in which Kenya lost hundreds -may be thousands-of elephants to poaching in anticipation of the lifting of the ban, I felt it was important to leave no stone unturned to ensure a positive out come of the quest-which looked very uncertain up to the last minute.
The strict relation between allowingthe tradein some countries, and the illegal slaughtering of elephant around the continent,is the point that I stressed with delegates who had not quite made up their mind.
If uncertain, one should always vote for life.
Allowing trade in some African states, means stimulating poachers, dealers and brokers in others to accumulate tusks for the black market, andto keep alive ashameful market that simply should not exist.
Not in 2010,the “Year of Biodiversity.”
We should know better.
Remember my friends:”Ivory” is only a glamorous, glossy name for a tooth, a body part ofwild animals whose habitat has already been restricted, whose corridors and ancient migratory routes have been interrupted, and who valiantly keep going despite everything with their silent grace, intelligence and compassion, all qualities that sometimes seem lost to the human beings who are appointedto play God and are entitled to decide- with a stroke of a pen- to end lives in places far away-where most of them have not been and about which most of them do not really care.
The nurturing and respect for the web of life of which we are all part seem remote and alien to most, who see everyliving thing in a marketable way. For as long as this is the case something is seriously wrong in our system.
Here the survival of lizards, iguanas, coral reefs, birds, sharks, polar bears and bleu fin tuna has been discussed, with certain species such as polar bearsand blue fin tuna losing the battle!!
Japan and China are leading in opposingpractically every single motion to protect dwindling species.
I return to Kenya tomorrow bringing hope to our elephants herds and in trust thattheCITES plenary session willreconsider short sighteddecisions, and confirm strict protection of all the species that have been discussed here.
It was extremely difficult, and I was glad to be part of this.
Images like the ones I enclose herebelow, in Laikipia Nature Conservancy in 2009, should belong to a shameful past.
Our commitment to biodiversity and habitat preservation, wildlife monitoring and protection, reforestation and community projects, education,culture, relief, public health, conflict resolution through sport and art, and the pursuits of the endeavour of the human spirit continues unabated, with joy, optimism and enthusiasm.
I thank you for your support and encouragement andsend blessings to you all.
Laikipia Nature Conservancy
From Doha Qatar
on 22 march 2010
21st February 2010
PRAYERS FOR THE EARTH PRESS RELEASE
Thousand of people from across 9 tribes, community members from West and East Laikipia,Baringo East, East Pokot, Samburu, Tugen, and envoys and dignitaries from various parts of the world, attended the Ceremony PRAYERS FOR THE EARTH at Ol ARI NYIRO/ Laikipia Nature Conservancy on Saturday 20/2/2010.
The venue was the amphitheatre of Woodhenge, facing the Rift valley and conservancy, which is a nature sanctuary.
After a year of unprecedented unrest, tribal clashes, famine and insecurity exacerbated by environmental degradation, climate change and one of the worst droughts in living memory, 2010 has begun with rains, green grass, promise of crops and hope of peace and reconciliation.
2010 is dedicated to biodiversity: There was a time elders prayed in forests and mountains, and respected nature on which they relied for their survival.
This has changed in recent times, with environment bearing the brunt of human greed, through pollution, deforestation, poaching, and unsustainable use of water and natural resources.
People gathered in Ol ari Nyiro, facing the Mukutan -The Meeting- on the Great Rift Valley, the place of our common human origins, symbolic of reunion beyond ethnic, religious and political differences, for a day of interfaiths Prayers to our Mother Earth and commitment to end hostilities, and promote respect for one another and for our environment on which our life depends.
All guests were asked to carry water and a stone from their location.
On arrival, they watered a symbolic young Olive tree (Mutamayo) and put their stone on a memorial mound of stones to remind of the committement to peace and environmental respect of today. Prayers that emphasised the link between spirituality, peace and respect for the environment, offered by representatives of the major monoteistic religions opened and closed the event. Traditional prayers by hundreds of elders from across the region and the tribes of Pokot, Samburu, Jemps, Turkana, Kikuyu, Nandi, Tugen and Borana followed.
The Islam faith was represented by Sheikh Shilal Muhammed Huka, Muslim Prayer
The Cristian by Father Giacomo Basso, Ol Moran Catholic Mission, ( Prayer of St Francis of Assisi)
Rev. Francis Omondi Anglican Church of Kenya, and Art Davis of the African Inland Church.
The Israeli Ambassador to Kenya HE Jacob Keidar, offered Jewish Prayer
Traditional prayers were offered by all elders while women and youth danced and prayed.
During the closing prayer, by Art Davis of the African Inland Church, -who lived for a generation amongst the Amaya Pokot-, a flock of many hundreds European storks – a large species of migratory birds- converged on the prayer’s site to the marvel of the thousands guests who saw this as a sign that God had heard their prayers.
The Prayers were organised and sponsored by The Gallmann Memorial Foundation, facilitated by Sveva Gallmann (Makena), and hosted by Kuki Gallmann, the Kenyan environmental activist and author, who have for many years been involved in promoting peace and reconciliation by putting people at conflict together through various unusual events such as The Laikipia Highlands Games (Sports for Peace), which won the 2009 Peace and Sport event of the Year in Monaco, France, and the Great Rift valley Earth Festival that brings attention to Environmental concerns and promotes reconciliation through the medium of the Arts, by putting world artist together with African artists across the tribal divide.
The conservancy has hosted such meetings since 2005, when serious clashes began in the region, and was the venue of reconciliation gatherings and seminars also from youth from the Sudan and Nairobi slums after the post election violence.
PRAYERS FOR THE EARTH was greeted by all as an extraordinary success.
The next edition of The Laikipia Highlands Games (Sports for Peace) will occur on 18th September 2010.
13th February 2010
PRAYERS FOR THE EARTH
A different spirit, intangible but very much present, seems to pervade this new year 2010 here in Western Laikipia, a spirit of change and of good new things.
While there is no doubt that climate change and weather unpredictability are here to stay – and that we have not seen the end of the poaching- until the Far East demand is high and increasing-there is a will from the people to take the matters that can be changed by people in hand, and make changes in the way things are done.
The message came to me two weeks ago that the Samburu were returning to Ol Moran- after several years. They had been chased by Pokot at gun point a few years ago before the elections, in tribal clashes whose repercussion had left hundreds dead-from both tribes.
I could not believe this was really happening. I made a few calls and was told its was true, so I went to see this with my own eyes. I decided to go on my own, no guards, and only took with me -symbolically- young Peter Kanyakera, -the Pokot boy we have rescued, and taken on -and are educating – after he was hurt by a buffalo- and Richard Lekalja- a Samburu youth we have educated and now has joined our team- and drove there.
On market day in Ol Moran the cloud of looming danger, abandon and unease that had settled since 2006 seemed to have lifted. Elders had come to meet elders, they were eating and drinking together, and I was greeted by all like an old friend (see pics below!)
Several reconciliation meetings ensued which we attended. To one at dam Nyukundu, in our area, we were asked to contribute a bull!
In early December we had found a tutor, Charles, for young Peter Kanyakera, who has been in hospital-and then with us- since May and needed to go, for the first time, to school. He only spoke Pokot when we found him wounded under a bush, never held a pencil before…and am proud to tell you that he has now been accepted in Standard FOUR at the very good St.Paul Boarding school in Nyahururu… -with your help we sponsor him there, got his uniforms… he wears a tie!! and at the nursery, kids have a new bright teacher, Rahab, helped by volunteers.
Our women adult class is going from strenght to strenght with a new bright teacher, Judy…and last week the local Pokot men-shyly at first, have approached me, asking also for an adult class…- what to say, unprecedented!!… so today I interviewed a teacher,young Frederick, and they will build a small structure in the open just outside our western gate… and we shall make them a black board, a few tables…. a new venture.
On Education still, yesterday we hosted the Dean and faculty of Laikipia university, to whose environmental department we have offered field campus facilities..a great successful visit, teachers bewildered at the discovery of this untouched oasis at their doorsteps.
Oh.. Saturday last week in teh traditionally hottest and driest month of the year-totally out of season-rumbles of thunder shook the night sky and rain fell heavily until dawn.A thousands birds woke me up in the morning and as I went to greet my dogs, I knew something had changed.
THE FROGS WERE BACK!
…So in the spirit of the moment, on the 20th of February-the day of our cultural events- we shall be hosting PRAYERS FOR THE EARTH.
Elders and women- community and youth of the Samburu, Pokot, Njemps, Turkana, Kikuyu, Nandi, Turkana will converge on Laikipia Nature Conservancy to give thanks in their different languages, following their different traditions and beliefs, to Mother Earth for her gifts and to pray for and commit to peace.
At a time when climate change affects the livelihood of the rural Africa and poaching has devastated the great herds, this will be a message of individual and tribal committment to look after the environment on which our survival here depends.
Representatives of the main world religions practiced here and village choirs will join us all… and I will be thinking of you on the day-and report!
Think of us and join us, if you can, and, if you do, bring from your place a small stone to build a commemorative mound-a thousand stones!-an a small jar of water from your land to water a symbolic olive tree!
With gratitude and with hope
Kuki and the Team
From Laikipia Nature Conservancy
on 9th February 2010
13th February 2010
PRAYERS FOR THE EARTH
PRAYERS FOR THE EARTH
Saturday20th February 2010
10 am. to afternoon
LAIKIPIA NATURE CONSERVANCY
A day event (NOT a show and NOT a political meeting) during which local tribal elders/women/and warriors from nine different tribes, some who have been involved in conflict for years now, and in poaching, will gather in Laikipia Nature Conservancy to give thanks and pray – after a difficult year of drought, insecurity, famine and poaching – following their different traditions and beliefs – and commit to peace and respect for the environment.
We expect Samburu, Pokot, Kikuyu, Turkana, Tugen, Njemps, Nandi, Borana.
Tribal,Christian, Muslims and Jewish prayers. Songs and tribal dances; Choirs. Elders / Warriors will exchange and burn their spears in the peace fire.
Please also bring your peace prayer/wish- written in a small piece of paper-, to burn symbolically at the end.
The occasion is for local communities, but we have asked to attend a few other people -like you- who can understand the spirit of the day.
The concept has been received with enthusiasm and we expect about 1000 local tribal people.
All guests present are asked to bring some water(a small bottle) and one stone from their places.
The first is to water on arrival a symbolic live Olive tree.
The second to build, together, a memorial peace mound of stones coming from different parts of the region/world.
And your prayer, written on small paper to burn in our peace pyre.
Also please bring a hat/umbrella: the place is outdoor on a view, and we cannot put a tent big enough to shelter 1000.
All elders will be fed at the end. Two Pokot and two Samburu bulls have been purchased for this from the respective tribes.
Simple bitings will be served to our guests.
Basic food/soda would be sold in a stall by a local restaurateur.
With warm friendship and hope, and we look forward to welcoming you, with your prayer.
and all the team of Laikipia Nature Conservancy
9th February 2010
Now that the first month of 2010 is entering its last week, I look back to the terrible problems and dramas – and to the Highlights of 2009, and before I move on with more stories, more plans for this new year that began auspiciously with rains that filled our dams and promise of peace, I would like to send, from the bottom of my heart, a word of gratitude to the many people that walked alongside me -and us- during the very difficult past year.
There are, of course, the Trustees, the directors, the many private generous donors, The Embassies and corporate sponsors for the Laikipia Highlands Games and ongoing relief programme: they kept us going in very hard times, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. You know who you are, and we have thanked you all individually and in our programmes.
God Bless you all.
I would now like to specifically introduce by name and honour with this:
The STAFF and TEAM of Laikipia Nature Conservancy / The Gallmann Memorial Foundation / The Great Rift Valley trust
Because, very simply – without them I would never have managed to pull through. Unsung heroes they worked in the front line and behind the scenes, making everything worth it, even the tears of frustration, and the loneliness, and the fear, and the anger, and the joys, and we shared the triumphs and satisfactions as equals, since everything in 2009 has been team work. And all you did, you did smiling.
Some are known to some of you, who have visited; some, you will never physically meet. So, here they are.
It was their loyalty, their hard work, their solidarity, their smiles, their flexiblity, when alongside me they worked tirelessly on their week time, and voluntereed their week ends and their free time t cook food and feed children, to put out arson and bushfire, to chase poachers – often risking their lives in the process, and to build and to dig, and to clear, to maintain and repair, and to share, in the cold, in the sun, in the night and eventually in the rain… to comfort me, and who looked after me when I was hurt and who in so many ways confirmed to me the simple fact that the great African heart consoles and uplifts, shares and overcomes.
Your names and your photos hereunder for all my far away friends to see-and to praise.
Thank you for holding my hand.
Thank you to:
Patrick Ali Apetet
Steven Ali Apetet
Peter Kailungush and the patrol commanders and all rangers in the antipoaching team.
of Sierra 1.2/3/4/5/6/8/and 9. Of Faru 2,3/ R 1, C 1, G1 and 2.
A3 A4 A8 A9
Michael Roberts, Victor Wasonga,Risky Agwanda and the biodiversity research team
Laban Kagwi and the office team, stores and computers with Jemklink and Moses
The head girl Josephine, with Ruth 1,Ruth 2, Eunice, Viola, Margaret, Cecilia,Elizabeth,Mary, Felicitas, Susan,Beth.
Paul Maina and the builders team with Joseph, John, Wainaina,James, Waweru.
John Lomalia, Ngasike Epetet and the fencers team
Thomas Ole Kaichu and the nursery and re-forestation team
Mary Wairimu, Paulina Akale,Elina Kairu and the 30 women team
The Teachers Team:Teacher Eunice Too, Teacher Judy, Teacher Lillian,Teacher Madalene, Teacher Charles.
Francis Leshalote-head driver- who drove sometimes 20 hours a day in every road.
The Workshops and plumbers team:Francis Muthaura, Simon Cheruyot, Enoch, Robert, Kamaiteke
Titus Kaioni, Macharia,Ibrahim, David,Christopher, Jacskon, Stanley.
Our CLO: Kijana Lenawase, Ngolei Kitur, Crishon, Steven Kamaren, Mzee Njuguna, Flora Ngolicha, and Julia.
The ‘informers’ who cannot be named
The Mwenje Boys
The Enghelesha Women
Mary and Joseph of the Maternity Cliic and Health Centre
Fred Munari,Catherine Njue, Ann Chepkemei, Osnesmos Nganga,George Gasston and the Highlands Games Team;Halima Murunga, William Wamaru and the Aiesec LHG volunteers team
The local Volunteers and overseas volunteers:
Nelson Moiben, Richard Lekalja, Evans Rotich, Moses Lendorope, Jennifer Kandie,
Stephanie Robinson,Stephanie Beck, Stephanie Asgill,Michael Beck,Bianca Notarbartolo di Sciara, Camilla Mc Farland,Yvonne Ovesson, Jordan Benjamin,Tessa Thiadens, Alessandra Tiengo, Ed Freeman,Jeanne Turquie, Annalisa, Renata Keckses, Schuyler Winter, Julia Grant, Courage Africa and Victoria Von Trott:
and last- but not least!!- my daughter Sveva (Makena), my strongest ally, who gives everything a meaning and makes it all worth it.
and special thanks:
-Sister Alice, Sister Lina, Dr.Nicole and the Ol Moran Medical team, and father Giacomo of the Ol Moran Mission, and the Usa dental mission team.
-The Kenya Wildlife Service team with Sgt Wachira, Daniel Kirui, Ken Mwiti, Col. Kipkoech, Mbogo Wachira and Senior Warden Maumo for an outstanding support of our anti-poaching activities over 2009.
-The Kenya Red Cross
-The Administration Police team for all their support this year.
Bless you all,
in Laikipia Nature Conservancy,
25th January 2010
7th January 2010
Farewell the Elephants, Farewell the Rhino…BUT RAIN AT LAST AND THE BEES ARE BACK!
My Dear Friends,
Happy New Year.
I chose today for this update, because it was on the 7th of January 1967, in a night of snow in Venezia, that my Son Emanuele was born, and today would have been his 44th birthday.
It is now almost 27th years since He left us for the silent world, a bright teenager with the world in front of him, and I owe it to Him that many things have happened here which would not have, if He were still with us.
Every minute of my life I have kept the vibrant memory of His presence, and found daily inspiration in His short full life, His timeless wisdom and His love of nature: I was and am driven to compensate this loss with pursuits worthwhile, standing up to be counted for what I believe whatever the cost, turning the sadness into joy, the ends in the beginning of new things; it is because of Him that I chose to devote my time to the less privileged, and join the great world movement to preserve and to restore what is left of the untouched earth, and have turned this entire corner of Africa into a sanctuary, helped by my daughter Sveva, my hope and comfort.
This update is of necessity a bit longer than the others. Sorry for this.
It is customary at the end of a year to recall the events and measure achievements of the year past: 2009 is not a year that I will remember happily and I was glad to see the end of it.
Yet in it there were good moments too, generous friendship, and team work and solidarity, feeding the hungry, and sharing, and some success and joys.
Here in Kenya, and up here in Laikipia Nature Conservancy, it began with the most dreadful drought, the famine, cattle rustling, illegal weapons, tribal clashes, and then the fires; arson and illegal grazing; insecurity; violence; a personal physical attack, then another; a crippled hand; personal losses of old friends and family: our beloved respected Patron Professor Maurice Muller in June; and then my Father, in August; and then, my Mother in December.
And then, there was the poaching.
I left this story to the end, because I wanted to say good bye to 2009 first; and because I really hope that 2010 will bring a change and sanity, and the good signs are there.
Over the months, I spoke about relief food and about children and community, and education and about sport and the good charitable things that we try to do:
Now, my friends, I must tell you about the poaching, because the world must know.
And because we need your help to stop this madness.
Committed individuals are the ones- as we know-who can make the only real difference.
So-for the ones who do not yet know- here it is, with no frills:
Since the ban of ivory sales in 1989, championed by Kenya who was losing its elephants mostly to Somali Poachers, and the brave gesture of the ivory Fire, Elephant enjoyed a time of peace and recovery. In mid 2007 four countries in Southern Africa successfully asked CITES -which regulates the wildlife trade- to be allowed to sell to China their ivory stockpiled over twenty years: this tragic move meant an immediate revival of the black market and a renewed wave of elephant poaching throughout the Continent.
I will not take much of your time: figures only.
Here at home in Ol ari Nyiro, Laikipia Nature Conservancy,
In 2007 we lost 6 elephants;
In 2008 28 elephants;
In 2009 57 elephants- And 3 black Rhino, to Poachers
For 33 of them the tusks were gone. For the rests our rangers managed to get there first, only to find a just dead elephant. Some were just calves shot at random in the herd; some died of hunger and dehydration next to their dead mother. Some were rescued, but were too tiny and weak to survive.
Two elephants had to be shot as their wounds were so bad they would not have recovered.
All this despite our brave rangers, any amount of security and the total support of the Kenya Wildlife Services- and of their excellent vets.
Because we have the Elephants- and the rhino- and we are on the edge of the wild unvisited East Rift: we give these animals a home, a perfect habitat in a shrinking environment, we protect them and nurture them.
But they are now targets: since there are traders, brokers, buyers, despicable criminal crooks, motivated by greed, some from neighbouring countries with collapsed governments, who offer an irresistible high price: and any idle young Pokot in this area who has a gun or can borrow one is after the elephants and rhino…
… So that in some remote eastern countries trinkets may be made, objects of negligible artistic value and considerable kitch, dubious medicine or dagger handles, whose only appeal (a status symbol?) is the rarity of the material they are made of.
And no relation from those shop windows, no concern from the uneducated buyers, about the desperate agonies and horrors and dangers those stupid, useless objects have caused in the African bush.
LETS PUT THIS DOWN TO RECORD my friends – and it is bit tough not to be emotional:
Ivory and rhino horn trade is unnecessary, immoral, unethical, unacceptable : it is CRIMINAL.
THERE IS NO EXCUSE at this present time, when we know the importance of the biodiversity and the fragility of the web of life, when we witness the threath to the environment, and climate change, when we know about the importance of trees and wildlife, to desire a wildlife product.
And now two countries, Tanzania and Zambia, want to ask, CITES at the next meeting in Doha in March 2010, as unbelievable as it may sound, to be allowed to sell Their ivory. The argument? To use the money from dead elephants to protect the live ones.
Same as saying… lets sell the drugs to stop drug use…? They must be stopped. I myself stood out to be counted. I have a crippled hand to show for it -now you know!- but a determination not to ever let go.
So, what can you do to help? A lot.
Tell all YOUR FRIENDS, start a web page, put it in your blog, CREATE AWARENESS of whats going on.
Help to create such STIGMA around the trade that CITES will not succumb to the demand.
That Eastern Countries buying the products will be shamed.
Boycott ivory sales and who promotes them.
Help support the anti-poaching efforts.
Support Kenya: Despite the many problems, this is one thing we do right here. This IS one thing we can be proud of.
Support Kenya stand against all ivory and wildlife product sales now AND in future. Choose Kenya -an ethical destination- for your travels.
Help the elephant, help the rhino live.
In the next mail I shall send just a photo panoramic of 2009; with the tragedies and the joys…and the good moments too…But in this mail I must stick to the topic I have raised and I am sorry if some images can be disturbing.
Welcome, 2010!! Already the good signs…HERE on 1st January 2010 the sky opened at last: 5 inches at Kuti- filled all the dams;
next day the KWS caught, red handed, 12 main dealers and poachers.
There are talks of peace between the warring Samburu and Pokot…every night I hear lions roar…
grass is already green…
and, if the frogs still are strangely absent, today, suddenly, my office was alive with a forgotten irresistible vibration of life.. laughing, I had to run for cover….after over two years, the bees are back!!
Happy New Year!
I count on your action and support to the cause.
Thank you and blessings.
in Laikipia Nature Conservancy,
on 7th January 2010
Emanuele ‘s Birthday