Category Archives: biodiversity

Youth groups receive Equator Award

On Wednesday 18 March 2009, the Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Professor Helen Sambili presented the Equator Initiative Award to two community groups – Kijabe Environment Volunteers and the Kwetu Training Centre from Kilifi at a colourful event at the KENVO resource centre in Kimende. The prize – awarded globally to a total of 25 winners – was given to the two groups to recognize and celebrate outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation of biodiversity. Kenvo provides local communities with the information, education, and resources they need to advance environmentally friendly businesses, while Kwetu trains local community members of the Kilifi District in conservation activities that also generate income, focusing on unemployed youth, women, and fishermen.

While lauding the efforts of the groups Prof. Sambili asked other youth to follow their example, adding that mankind has a short time to convert what has been destroyed within our environment. The Minister was accompanied to the festivities by Mr Aeneas Chuma UNDP Resident Representative and Dr. Chris Gakahu also of UNDP, and the MP for Lari, and was received by the local community, youth groups from the area and past winners of the Award. The Award carries a monetary value of USD 5000 each, which the Ministry of Youth Affairs boosted with Kshs 50,000 for each group. Mr Chuma said that the groups had made Kenya proud by being part of the twenty five winners drawn from 310 nominations globally.


David Kuria of Kenvo (right) shows Prof. Sambili (centre) round the exhibition. In the picture is Mr. Chuma UNDP Resident Rep. (to the left of the Minister) and the MP for Lari (extreme left).

Below, part of the exhibition.


KENVO wins Equator Prize

Kijabe Environment Volunteers a long time member of KFWG is one of the 25 winners of the prestigious Equator Prize for 2008. The Equator Prize is awarded biennially to recognize and celebrate outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The winners were selected from a total pool of 310 nominations from 70 nations.

For more information on the Award see the Equator prize website 

“Pass my congratulations to KENVO”, said a KFWG member in an email on learning about KENVO’s win, “It is quite encouraging to hear of such recognition. This shows that they have made an impact which is well above the normal performance. We would like KENVO to share [information] on the initiatives that have rendered this. Well done and keep it up.” Peter Kiptanui, a member of a South Nandi bidoveristy group added, “you are not alone in this moment of joy, so many of us are following in your footsteps and this is [just] a big footprint”.

The Equator prize is a fitting recognition of KENVOs work in and around the Kereita forest. KENVO has been largely responsible for educating the public on the usefulness of the forest and other forests in the Kikuyu escarpment. They have rehabilitated parts of the forest, organized annual tree planting events that involve schools, churches and the community in addition to core projects that the group carries out. You can read more on KENVOs activities on their site here

We add our voice to that of our members and say, “Hongera!”, well done…


Orchids find new home

Reijo Hakanen a long time member of KFWG delighted us at the last monthly meeting on Friday with a nice gift: Orchids. Reijo, found the Orchids (pictured below), dumped at the Agricultural Society of Kenya showground on Ngong Road. Reijo thought he would bring them to this meeting where forest lovers congregate, convinced they would find a home. And they did, not only did KFWG take some to be nurtured by the East African Wild Life Society’s Cape Chestnut and Jacaranda trees, but two other members took others home.


Photo: The Orchids at the base of the Jacaranda tree that will host them, they don’t look pretty yet, but they will!

Reijo, and indeed, all of us were however not happy about the reason the Orchids came to be in the back of his pick-up (it was full) in the first place. It seems someone had asked and received permission to cut down some trees, which were holding the Orchids. They were granted permission to do so, as long as they moved the flowers first. They didn’t. That’s sad I think. I wish people would be more careful and mindful of the environment.

Meanwhile, we will enjoy this gift.


Correcting an Imbalance

Translocation of “predominantly females” to Chawia forest will help avert imminent local extinction of the Taita thrush population there, conservationists say

I remember last year when someone remarked rather dramatically, “I hear they have a shortage of females in Taita”. Seeing the confusion on our faces he added, rather cheekily, “The birds, the Taita Thrush”. I chuckled, thinking, “The birds and the bees didn’t prepare us for this!”

Later, I learnt that the females of Taita Thrush had not been seen or captured in the Chawia forest fragment of the Taita hills for the past four years – despite intensive mist netting – posing something of a problem for the thrush subpopulation there. I filed that fact away, until today when an email announced a translocation initiative to re-stock the forest with females.


Photo: Thrush with transmitter and inset, being ringed. Courtesy of Mwangi Githiru (species guardian)

The Taita Thrush, Turdus helleri, is a forest-dependent endemic bird confined to three forests in the Taita Hills (in the south east of Kenya): Mbololo, Chawia and Ngangao. The forests cover a tiny 342 ha. BirdLife International, which championed an IUCN red listing of the species says in its fact sheet: “The bird is considered Critically Endangered because it has a tiny occupied range, within which its montane forest habitat has been severely fragmented and continues to decline in both extent and quality”. Conservationists are using birds – with the thrush as the flagship species – to champion the conservation of the Taita Hills forests.

According to a previous study by Edward Waiyaki and others (unpublished) on this thrush, Chawia forest was estimated to have a population of 38 individuals, while Ngangao and Mbololo had 250 and 1,060 individuals respectively. Another analysis based on molecular work by Galbusera and others in 2000 gave effective population size estimates of 3-30 in Chawia, 15-150 in Ngangao and 75-750 in Mbololo. In addition to a genetic bottleneck, Chawia’s population shows what ornithologists call “a highly male-biased sex ratio” – only 10% of birds were found to be female.

Now a team is correcting this imbalance by translocating several individuals of the thrush (predominantly females) from Mbololo, which has a larger population – and even sex ratio – to Chawia. Since 2005 the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) has been funding conservation projects in Taita Hills, which involved rehabilitation of the forest by the local communities and the government. Optimism is high that the ongoing reforestation and planned improvements of connectivity with other fragments and populations of the Taita Hills forests will improve Chawia. However, given the current trend, it is unlikely that the thrush subpopulation in Chawia will survive long enough to benefit from these restoration efforts, making this translocation both necessary and timely.

I have also since learnt that the birds are likely to suffer from genetic inbreeding if they don’t have more numbers of mates. Amazing what you can learn from the birds!


The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) has been running a Taita Hills Project which is focusing on conservation and management of the Taita forests through community participation.