Farewell 2019 – Welcome 2020
Like every year, now that just a few hours are left before 2020 begins, I stay still and look at the months of this past year. At the achievements and the losses – and try to balance it all.
In this mutable unpredictable weather, when in one morning scorching sunshine is interrupted by short and violent showers of rain, intermittent gales of wind push clouds bringers of chills, to darken luminous skies…
Removing and putting back on again on my shoulders my red blanket.. I sit and think at the months that were.
DROUGHT RELIEF and WATER SUPPLY for all:
After very sparse rains in 2018 January, February, March, April AND May 2019 were dry and hot, early fires swept through the stunning Rift hills – and, as expected, the famine that yet again began, found us ready.
It was again staple relief food for the immediate neighbours, treats for the kids – bags and bags of maize meal, rice, beans, sugar, lentils, and cases of fat and milk – and the coveted biscuits.
AND then (as all the neighbours water sources ran dry and cracks appeared on the rain catchments:
long queues of expecting women with jerricans balanced on their heads appeared at our gates.
DRINKING WATER DISTRIBUTION
Bowser after bowser of water
Flowing clear from our endless Ol Ari Nyiro springs protected by ancient forest trees, saw drivers and tractors engaged daily for weeks, up and down slopes while bales of nutritious hay from the Enghelesha fields for the pastoralists were carried by trailers to be collected by donkeys and bicycles from our Ol Moran gate.
At specific request from our north/east pastoralist neighbours we scooped up with our valiant Caterpillar D6 operated by our veteran Joseph Epeyonon a dam along the new fenced Luoniek corridor we built, which the June rains filled to the brim, and of which a wandering HIPPO took immediate possession!
WATER TO NEIGHBOURS
From a permanent Spring
EDUCATION & SPONSORSHIPS
We sponsored several deserving needy students once again.
Lodwar High School
Education: University of East Africa
University of Nairobi
Driving Licence course
Many visitors and volunteers and Strathmore College friends again followed by their various outdoor bound adventure group led by Chris Mbithi, Dennis Gaithu and Emmanuel Odwor – and Santiago Lagarre – once again returning from South America.
At Land of Hope seminars were hosted one of which was the newly established NDMA for drought management.
Beginning in January we rebuilt and refurbished the new Mukutan Bandas and the mess area, adding venerable, centuries – old semi-petrified olives posts, and new bathrooms and showers, naive paintings and decor.
At the same time – at Makena’s hills lodge, re-did bathrooms and reconstructed the damaged water pipes that bring water for miles from the Loiperer springs and the newly reset swimming pool.
The LAIKIPIA WILDERNESS EDUCATION CENTRE (LWEC)
LWEC was totally refurbished and a “bush preschool” added and equipped (LWEC was the first building ever attempted by me – 1985 – in honour of Emanuele, which initiated my insatiable passion for building from zero, with natural materials, gracious structures that seamlessly fit in the environment where they are discreetly set. The aim was to host for free educational nature visits local schools and community children.
The LWEC has been the first such project in Laikipia.
The Clinics that we donated to the communities of Matwiku, Kamwenje and Ndidika and equipped with modern furniture and water tanks have been allotted by the County permanent medical practitioners/nurses and medicines – and are regularly used by the local communities.
The Maternity Clinic/Health Centre that we donated to the Ol Moran community back in 2006 is managed by the County Health department, is fully functional and ongoing.
We painstakingly cleared the tracks leading to the old research camp at Fuku 1 and the mess area reappeared – complete with Mary Leakey’s historical drawing of a pre-historical eland on its floor.
It is magical.
POKOT PEACE ELDERS
Great steps were taken by Sveva to promote cooperation with neighbouring pastoralists and a council of Peace Elders established with whom constant communication is ongoing.
Although a number of unavoidable traditional recurrent episodes of transboundary livestock rustling took place over the year, our Security team of Rangers, supported by the GSU (General Service Unit) and ASTU (Antistock Theft Unit) and various security agencies intervened successfully in many cases managing to retrieve and return the livestock to the owners.
At the time of writing this professional training of twenty new recruits is ongoing – and a new security Commander has been engaged.
We are happy to announce ZERO POACHING in Ol ari Nyiro in 2019!
Wildlife records show an increase in the number of Elephants and Buffalo, and we were engaged in the Lions Landscape project with our team monitoring lions which now become endangered.
Opening paths and access roads – to make remote precipitous areas once again accessible – was crucial to enable to explore and record species, after two years of pre- and post-election trouble – and to this I took with gusto, by engaging a Pokot road gang team of neighbouring youth, that the Biodiversity Suzuki carried up and down hills removing rocks and branches and slashing grass, daily, for several months in a row. I followed by car and Martin Kuria with the Biodiversity Suzuki, cheering them up, carrying snacks and water and food gifts for their families. Day after day – week after week. DONE.
Due to the varied ecosystem, the abundance of waters and permanent Springs Ol ari Nyiro is credited with an IBA (Important Bird Area) 064.
484 species of birds have been identified.
Many rare Crown Cranes were spotted this year mostly on the South around Dam Nyama, the largest flock of over 40 adults and we hosted the Cranes team from Ol Bolossat and Germany.
BIODIVERSITY SURVEY Interim 2019 UPDATE (wet season)
The drought was followed by torrential rains and floods.
Undoubtedly climate change is no longer a theoretical conjecture but has become a tangible reality – that affects pastoralists and agriculturalists alike.
We hosted again the biodiversity team from the National Museums of Kenya, for Ornithology and Botany. Over 8 busy days – undeterred by torrential rains Wanyoike Wamiti (Birds) and Kennedy Wambua with Judith Wamae from NMK, assisted by our team with forester Thomas Lekaichu and Martin Kuria driving, plus the KWS team. 150 species of birds were observed in the period.
At the time of writing the identification of collected herbs is still ongoing but a plant. A creeper new to our very extensive list (see photo) was discovered by Ken Wambua in our Enghelesha Forest.
This survey will be followed by dry period updates with Entomology and Herpetology and migratory birds surveys.
The interim Botany 2019 update by the National Museums of Kenya team brought 16 new records to our list:
And 4 plants:
A parasitic plant,
REFORESTATION AND SUSTAINABLE FIREWOOD and CHARCOAL
Whatever one may say wood fuel remains the only option for cooking in rural Africa, and to reconcile this and help curbing global warming by protecting trees is vital.
It is also a tradition that when someone dies, family and neighbours meet in the evening for wakes and remembrance: there is NO firewood left in the vicinity.
Likewise Government Security forces use firewood.
We offer LELECHWA only sustainable firewood and sustainable charcoal produced in approved by EIA innovative non polluting kilns: this project was initiated with UNDP feasibility study support twenty years ago. Sustainable Essential oil extraction from leaves is ongoing with the new stills.
SUSTAINABLE LELECHWA FIREWOOD
REFORESTATION AND TREE PLANTING & THE RETURN OF THE OLIVES
During 2019 (so far, but it is ongoing!) we donated a total of 135 tons(!) of such essential commodity, to our neighbours who came on foot or by tractor and were escorted by veteran forester old timer Thomas OleKaichu.
By offering free sustainable fast regrowing Lelechwa – only firewood, we have literally kept entire neighbouring communities going and rescued indigenous trees and opened up a bit the thick inflammable bushes making room for other species. The indigenous African Olive (Olea Africana) has made a spectacular visible return everywhere in Ol Ari Nyiro, grown from seedlings to real trees towering over the bushes, while they have sadly been destroyed in the neighborhood by illegal charcoal makers.
Thousand of indigenous trees from our nursery were planted with the help of our drill auger.
BEEHIVES AND HONEY PROJECT
With earmarked support from the Leopardess Foundation, Sveva launched herself this popular project that combines and harnesses time – proven traditional skills with modern non-disruptive beehives system, and this income generating project for local communities improves livelihoods, provides jobs and has become immensely popular. Over 200 modern beehives were built in our workshop. 102 of these were given to the community and the honey produced purchased and marketed.
This popular project employs full time honey expert coordinator Bernard Odjambo, and dozen of community members across the tribal divide.
ETHNOBOTANY AND ESSENTIAL OILS
With the purchasing and setting up of a modern still extraction system that uses LELECHWA firewood to generate the needed heat to extract the oils, this project so dear to my heart has again taken off, under Nigel guidance.
It demonstrates that the potential of existing indigenous plants considered “weeds” can be utilized sustainably – a vital statement for the protection of Biodiversity.
THE AVOCADO PROJECT
In the fertile area at our south, an organic ambitious plantation of 15,000 Avocado has been established under Nigel’s coordination as a vital form of land use.
The KWS for helping in the protection of Wildlife and the rescue of ranger Boniphace Parsalach for which they received an official commendation on Hero Day.
STEPHEN ALI APETET
The 2019 annual update could not be complete without a thought of respectful remembrance for one of the most popular members of our team who lost his life tragically in a senseless incident, while on foot returning from a nature walk.
There are no word to express the sorrow and unfathomable loss left by the tragic death of Ali – who was shot accidentally on 15th October during a chance encounter with armed cattle rustlers returning from a livestock raid – and succumbed to his wounds in few minutes.
Ali had been with us for twenty years, all his adult life, working in the hospitality section. From young waiter he became Head Driver and Project Coordinator.
He was an invaluable part of the Ol Ari Nyiro family.
Ali had no enemies. Friendly, with an open smile, he was popular and respected by all – visitors, fellow workers, visiting schools and community alike.
He leaves a desolate wife, Lucy, and five young children – all at School, whom we are committed to support.
We could not have achieved any of this without your help and the unstinting tireless work of our team.
I wish you on behalf of us all a serene, peaceful and prosperous 2020 full of achievement and smiles.
We are counting on you.
Kuki with Sveva, Nigel, Nashipae and Ayana and the entire team of the Gallmann Memorial Foundation in Ol Ari Nyiro, Laikipia Nature Conservancy
Mary Leakey had visited with her son Richard in the late ’80s, and the floor of the panoramic mess banda I was building was still setting: I gave her a thick nail and she engraved the antelope on it for ever.
The team and Management of GMF/LNC
And in particular:
the Fundi team with Joseph Merikut and Paul Maina
The Workshop team with Enoch Nodwa and Francis Muthaura
The Road gang with John Aboto
The Office team with Michael, Chris, Kevin, Long’or
The Hospitality team with Fred Gikandi and Joel Mwangi
The Government of Kenya
The Kenya Wildlife Services
The General Service Unit
The Kenya Police
The Antistock Theft Units
The National Museums of Kenya
The County Government of Laikipia
The Enterprise Donne Belluno, Italy for awarding the excellence award to Kuki
We once again thank all our supporters from the bottom of our heart: Know that thanks to you, the Community has been supported in times of need, and the Environment and Biodiversity of this part of the Earth has been safeguarded, making a significant and tangible difference for all of us.
Please help us with the ongoing rebuilding and the maintaining of vital conservation infrastructure on Laikipia Nature Conservancy, while supporting our philanthropic work of education and scholarships, community support, assistance to neighbours, public health, food drought relief, water, road building and maintenance.
And of course continuing to equip the outstanding team of rangers with uniforms, transport, binoculars, infrared cameras and everything they need to continue to protect and monitor the unique Biodiversity of Ol Ari Nyiro, and also support our ongoing re-forestation project to combat global warming by planting more and more indigenous trees.
With your help we can secure Kuki’s vision and legacy in perpetuity.
Please help us by making a donation below, however small or big it may be!!!
Peter wambugu says:21/10/2020 at 06:40
Thank you for keeping the laikipia spirit of tourism alive.I wish I had a chance to tour the area and learn more.Am from marmanet.Thank may God bless u abundantly