As most of you may know, we have been working with the community-based organization Friends of Shimoni Forest (FSF) for the best part of three years now, pushing towards community conservation and protection of the stunning and vitally important coastal forest we have here on the south coast.
One of the main aims of FSF at present is the setting up of a tourist trail or “Shimoni Safari” which will take tourists on a guided walk through the forest to see the ‘Kaya’ shrines, and to see the amazing flora and fauna that this forest has to offer. The areas that FSF want to direct the money that is earned from this (and other) endeavors include conservation initiatives such as planting of indigenous and endemic trees in areas of clearance, purchasing of land to be conserved, the production of alternative charcoal, and then a slightly more far sighted conservation and community development initiative – sponsoring local children through secondary school.
One of the charasmatic Angolan black and white colobus monkeys
Primary school is free here in Kenya, but if a child wants to further their education, they have to pay yearly fees. Unfortunately in places like Shimoni, there are so many families unable to afford to send their children to secondary school. The way FSF see it, if a child goes to secondary school they gain a superior education and gain a far better understanding of the wider world; conservation being a part of that. They will also be far more likely to be able to earn a living without having to resort to desperate, illegal and destructive methods of making money such as logging and charcoal burning.
FSF are making steady progress with the construction of the tourist trail (with the help of some eager GVI folk with pangas…or machetes!), but is not yet up and running. So to kick things off, a donations page on the justgiving website was set up. So far we have had some amazing donations from people, and I would like to take a second to thank them:
• Katherine Blackwood donated £10
• Rick Hill donated £10
• Becky Law donated £15
• Jennifer LeClair donated £15
• And two anonymous donations totaling £115
These donations have allowed the birth of the Friends of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund! What I think is particularly inspired about the FSF-SF is the way they are planning on operating it. There are already a couple of organizations in and around Shimoni that sponsor the highest achievers from the local schools, so FSF wanted to do something slightly different, something that supported their mission.
One of the massive trees in Shimoni forest, with the distinctive horizontal root system due to the ‘coral rag’ substrate that doesn’t allow deep roots. For trees to get this large, it takes hundreds of years and a battle against the elements. However, it can be felled in mere mintes with a power saw.
There are going to be an equal number of boys and girls sponsored, and for a child to be selected they must a high achiever, gaining above a certain grade. They must then demonstrate an active interest in conservation or wildlife, perhaps based on past merits or on a written statement or interview. Furthermore, for as long as they are being sponsored, either the child, or the parents, will be required to assist FSF in some way, on a regular basis e.g. during school holidays.
I think this is a brilliant idea, as it will instill a sense of responsibility in the child and the family, and will also introduce them to conservation, the work of FSF and the importance of the forest. With this sponsorship scheme, FSF hope to nurture the areas next generation of conservationists, who will already have a vested interest in Shimoni forest, and will be acutely aware of the threats facing it.
If you would like more information about Friends of Shimoni Forest, the work they do or the scholarship fund, or if you would like to join the fight to save this beautiful and internationally important coastal forest, please visit www.justgiving.co.uk/shimoni
As you can see from the donations listed above, it doesn’t take much to send two kids to school, and change their world.