Category Archives: APW News

Are Fences the Solution for Protecting Africa’s National Parks?

An aerial image of the sharp line formed by the fence of a rhino sanctuary.

(Photo by George Wittemyer)

With the expansion of human populations, instances of human-wildlife conflict become increasingly frequent. One proposed solution to protect both people and wildlife is the implementation of fences around established protected areas. Many conservation scientists argue that these fences may do more harm than good. A recent paper published in June by some of the world’s most renowned conservation scientists gives policy makers the guidelines they need to decide whether a fence is the best solution for them.

By Deirdre Leowinata

Originally posted on National Geographic Cat Watch on Thursday July 9th, 2015

To fence or not to fence…

That is the question that has some members of the conservation community in knots. Subjects involving land use policy, such as the park size debate of the 1970s and 1980s, tend to garner attention both in and out of the scientific community, and fencing is no different. The outcomes of this particular battle have the potential to change the lives of millions of people as well as wildlife species dependent on some of the world’s most remarkable landscapes, so it might be wise to pay attention.

A recent paper co-authored by 45 scientists from around the world aims to help governments and policy-makers choose what protection plan is right for their parks by providing six critical factors to assess when making fencing decisions. The comprehensive paper, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, accounts for social and economic factors in addition to environmental ones. The factors are: economics, edge permeability, reserve design, connectivity, ecosystem services, and communities.

A fence in Mali-Gourma region, purpose unknown.

(Photo by Jake Wall)

In Africa, the subject of fencing is especially sensitive because many of its animals require large tracts of rangeland for seasonal migrations. The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, for example, is home to the largest overland migration on the planet, with huge numbers of wildebeest and other hoofed animals moving around a 30,000-km2 area. The migration helps drive the regional patterns of biodiversity, including prey availability for the big cats. Closer to our headquarters on the Maasai Steppe, Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park makes for a perfect example of a dry season haven, with some of Tanzania’s highest concentrations of wildlife migrating into the area when the seasonal rains stop – including one of Africa’s only growing population of elephants. Fencing lands such as the Serengeti or Tarangire National Parks could significantly and permanently alter entire processes and landscapes by keeping ecosystem engineers such as wildebeest and elephants from their regular migrations. Those consequences would almost certainly trickle down to the communities inhabiting those regions and may also have unintended and ironic effects on the animals they’re built to protect.

A wildebeest dies after it is caught in a fence in Mara Kenya

(Photo by Jackson Looseyia)

Despite the uncertainty of fencing effects on ecosystems, certain African countries have already taken steps in new directions. Rwanda has fenced the 120-km border of its Akagera National Park in an attempt to stem human-wildlife conflict — at a cost of $2.5 million. Human-wildlife conflict may be the most common reason to fence protected areas; Uganda is leaning toward fencing all of its parks, and Malawi is contemplating using electric fence on all of its parks.

There are, as the authors do point out, multiple positive draws to fencing. Fences can be used to stop disease transmission, prevent the entry of invasive species, and curb direct resource extraction. In certain cases, such as the Australian drylands, fencing may currently be the best solution. However, because of the weighty financial and potential ecological costs of such an undertaking, it must be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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 (Photo by African People & Wildlife Fund/Laly Lichtenfeld)

Dryland ecosystems such as those in the Serengeti-Mara system of East Africa account for 41% of the world’s land and house a large percentage of the world’s biodiversity as well as 2 billion of its people. As the paper points out, those 2 billion people include some of the world’s most marginalized communities, such as the semi-nomadic Maasai tribe that dominates the East African communities where we work. The African People & Wildlife Fund has spent the last 10 years developing strategies to reduce human-wildlife conflict that benefit both parties, with very encouraging results. In Northern Tanzania, access to resources such as seasonal water holes and grazing lands are necessary to support the communities of people and wildlife that have lived here for hundreds of years. In these landscapes, the reduced mobility that a fence might cause could mean the loss of either an iconic culture, or an iconic cat. This reinforces the need to develop solutions that promote coexistence, keeping both cats and cultures alive.

 

References:

Borner, M. (1985). The increasing isolation of Tarangire National Park. Oryx 19: 91-96.

Durant, S.M., Becker, M.S., Creel, S., Bashir, S., Dickman, A.J., Beudels-Jamar, R.C., Lichtenfeld, L., Hilborn, R., Wall, J., Wittemyer, G., Badamjav, L., Blake, S., Boitani, L, Breitenmoser, C., Broekhuis, F., Christianson, D., Cozzi, G., Davenport, T.R.B., Deutsch, J., Devillers, P., Dollar, L., Dolrenry, S., Douglas-Hamilton, I., Dröge, E., FitzHerbert, E., Foley, C., Hazzah, L., Hopcraft, J.G.C., Ikanda, D., Jacobson, A., Joubert, D., Kelly, M.J., Milanzi, J., Mitchell, N., M’Soka, J., Msuha, M., Mweetwa, T., Nyahongo, J., Rosenblatt, E., Schuette, P., Sillero-Zubiri, C., Sinclair, A.R.E., Price, M.R.S., Zimmerman, A., and N. Pettorelli (2015). Developing fencing policies for dryland ecosystems. Journal of Applied Ecology 52: 544-551.

Holdo R.M., Holt, R.D., and J.M. Fryxell (2009). Opposing rainfall and plant nutritional gradients best explain the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. The American Naturalist 173: 431-445.

10 Years of People & Wildlife [VIDEO]

Full article published on National Geographic Cat Watch

Just ten years ago, two young explorers set up camp by a small acacia at the top of a hill given to them by the rural Tanzanian community of Loibor Siret. That camp was to eventually become a permanent base for the African People & Wildlife Fund’s conservation programs focusing on the lions of the Maasai Steppe – a program that now protects thousands of head of livestock and 100 lions every year with over 500 Living Walls. With one side of the hill looking to the community rangelands and the other side looking to the eastern edge of Tarangire National Park, a flagship haven for African biodiversity, the location was a perfect metaphor for the work they set out to do.

Those two explorers were Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld and Charles Trout, now directors of the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW). What started as a tent on top of a land rover has grown into an operation that spans 19 communities across 30 000 km2 of Northern Tanzanian rangelands. The small two-man tent has been replaced by the Noloholo Environmental Center, a one-of-a-kind emblem combining traditional architecture and sustainable design that stands on top of the hill where it all started and marks the organization’s headquarters in Tanzania. The newly released 2014 Annual Report highlights the milestones of the last ten years, and as we celebrate a decade of success on the Steppe we invite you to share in celebrating Big Cats and Communities in Northern Tanzania.

This video highlights the journey we have taken over these past 10 years, and the strong relationships that have stemmed from it:

New Partnership Established for Conservation in Northern Tanzania

The Tanzania People & Wildlife Fund and the Honeyguide Foundation (HGF) have launched a partnership to strengthen our joint community-based conservation initiatives across northern Tanzania.

The long-term partnership will begin with joint programming for human-wildlife conflict (HWC) prevention and evolve into a comprehensive community-based conservation collaboration.

“Conservation challenges are numerous across northern Tanzania,” said Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld, Executive Director of the Tanzania People & Wildlife Fund. “Progress at a large-scale requires the efforts of multiple partners who commit to real, functioning collaborations.”

Honeyguide Logo          TPW

Both Honeyguide and TPW have developed highly technical and proven community-based strategies for achieving these ends, including Honeyguide’s Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) Toolkit to protect farms from elephants and other animals, and TPW’s Living Walls to protect livestock from predators, such as lions and leopards.

Our organizations work closely with individuals at the household level on HWC mitigation. In addition, we couple these critical prevention projects with training and education outreach to transform communities’ perceptions on the importance of biodiversity conservation.

Honeyguide and TPW have already begun to collaborate with communities among Enduimet WMA, Burunge WMA, the nascent Natron WMA, and the migratory corridor between the Tarangire-Manyara and Lake Natron ecosystems.

“For years, our organizations have seen the potential of partnering together,” said Damian Bell, Honeyguide’s executive director. “It has happened gradually and organically, and now we’re moving full ahead with joint programming across multiple landscapes.”

Noloholo Environmental Micro-grants Empowering Women for Big Cat Conservation

By Anna Flam

 

“I don’t have any children.”

Gathered women, waiting for a meeting to start, were quizzing Alison Nicholls, a visiting artist at APW’s Noloholo Environmental Center. Inquiries about children are common worldwide. However, to this group of Maasai and Swahili women, her answer was unthinkable.

“Why not?”

“My husband and I chose not to have children.”

Rushed chatter in Kiswahili and Kimaasai immediately prompted several offers.

“You can have one of my children.”

“How about a girl? Only this high,” indicating just over knee height.

Alison fended off the well-intentioned offers. Commenting that she only had one plane ticket back to the U.S. was her escape from an unsought adoption.

Where we operate on Tanzania’s Maasai Steppe, choosing childlessness is unthinkable. According to multiple Maasai staff at APW, eight is the minimum number of children a woman must have to be considered respectable. “More are better,” says Joyce Ndakaru, APW’s Conservation Enterprise and Development Officer anda very unconventional Maasai woman.  “If you have five children, people will always ask: ‘why not more?’ You must have enough children to accommodate one or two deaths, and a few that do not have good personalities. Family planning is a bad word around here.”

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Tanzania’s population is growing rapidly and shows no signs of slowing. Current UN estimates rank Tanzania as the world’s 26thmost populated country. But by 2050, Tanzania is predicted to jump to 13th place. Escalating human demands place increased stress on already limited big cat habitat. More people need more space and more food, but lions and cheetahs also need lots of room to wander. On the Maasai Steppe, more humans usually mean more cattle or cultivation, pushing out native lion prey and reducing grasslands. With fewer wildebeest and zebra to eat, lions are more liable to prey upon livestock, triggering retaliatory killings. Our Living Wall project is one initiative aimed at preventing such conflict. However, we also tackle conservation issues more broadly and in less obvious ways, for example by addressing women’s position in society.

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The ladies chatting with Alison were waiting for a micro-grant award ceremony to start. So far this year, APW has provided start-up funds to 10 women’s groups as part of our environmentally friendly business initiative. To some, supporting women’s businesses might seem like an indirect step for women’s rights and wildlife conservation. Of course, encouraging sustainable livelihoods is an important part of what we hope to achieve with these grants. But by giving local women something they desire — additional income — we can also subtly change their position in society. Managing a beekeeping business, for example, gives many local women their first opportunity to have something completely their own, completely apart from male family members.

 

Joyce, our indefatigable Conservation Enterprise and Development Officer, is a fantastic example of how hard a Maasai woman must work to escape her society’s female norms. For several years she was her family’s black sheep. Joyce defied her parents to obtain a secondary education and thereby avoided marriage at 15 (a common age for Maasai girls to marry). Years later, she reconciled with her family. Marrying a Maasai man — “of my own choice,” she is quick to point out — undoubtedly helped. Today, she is proud of her two – yes, only two – children.

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Now, Joyce routinely shocks young Maasai men as she works. Watching her switch among Swahili, Maasai, and English while directing emergent women’s groups, they comment, “How can a Maasai woman know so much?” Hopefully, through projects like the recently funded beekeeping businesses, young women choosing their own path will be less of a shock to the community in the future.

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Along with supporting female empowerment and local economic development, these beekeeping businesses also promote habitat retention – the bottom line for big cat survival outside of protected areas. Tanzania’s National Beekeeping Policy of 1998 prevents people from cutting down trees around hives. So, each new beekeeping venture helps keep important lion, cheetah and leopard habitat open.

 

A win for women and wildlife – well, that’s exactly what we are hoping for.

The Colors of Conservation

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Colors make life brighter, and our Loibor Siret Simba club just added a whole lot more color to their school walls. Over three days, some very committed Wildlife Club members decorated two classrooms and one very large outside wall with letters, numbers, and local wildlife.

WDPainting-7We had the great pleasure of hosting wildlife artist and conservation advocate Alison Nicholls at Noloholo for just over a week, and as soon as she arrived we hit the ground running with three long days of taping walls, stenciling, mixing colors, and painting.

WD_Painting-1-2The classrooms of standards 4 and 6 were filled with the animals that not only represent their own wildlife club but the relationships that make up the Tarangire ecosystem. Impalas were placed opposite to hyenas, and livestock faced off with lions in a symbolic representation of the predator-prey system that shapes not only the environment but the culture of the Maasai Steppe. Ungulates followed each other in lines that may (perhaps unintentionally) represent the great seasonal migrations of the region.

WDPainting-4Later in the week, wildlife club members of Loibor Siret, Kangala, and Narakauwo got a life drawing lesson from Nicholls herself, which was a very special treat for schools that don’t offer art as a subject. The lessons revealed some hidden artistic talent within the stack of sketches.

WDPainting-8The end of the week coincided with the closing of the primary schools, and Loibor Siret primary school played host to the town’s first ever art gallery. Alison presented her work inspired by the people and wildlife of the area, and showcased in the gallery were the works of 59 Simba Club members, two of which were selected by Alison to receive art supplies for their excellent drawing skills. A game of wildlife trivia selected 33 wildlife club members who would receive a laminated print of one of her special works. Undoubtedly, the first to go were the animal paintings. If the week was any indication of what the future holds, the enthusiasm and dedication of the students as they carefully painted in stencils of elephants and lions, the smiles on their faces as they learned how to draw a rhino, and the murmurs as they listened to the story behind Alison’s pink elephants* bodes well for wildlife conservation in this town.

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As animals mark their territories, so did the students of the primary school this week. On the wall facing the village road, big enough for any passerby to see, a large map of Tanzania has been painted containing its green, blue, black, and yellow flag. And below the name of the school is none other than the mark of the Noloholo Simba Club — a pair of lions, which stand overlooking a parade of African wildlife.

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*The story behind the elephants can be found on Alison’s website under “Artwork,” “Original Paintings,” and “Elephant!”

How An Earth Day Soccer Tournament Cleaned Up A Maasai Town

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Earth Day this year may have been the biggest to date; it certainly was for the citizens of six towns in our part of the Maasai Steppe.  This year marked the first inter-village soccer tournament here, with two preliminary rounds and a final on Earth Day that drew 1500 people to the school field – that’s a pretty big deal for a small community of less than 6000.

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The first preliminary round took place on Saturday in Loibor Soit, between its wildlife club and those of Emboret and Mbuko primary schools. With the hill called Lolkisale situated nearby behind fields of tall-growing corn, and Maasai warriors watching dressed brightly in their traditional ‘rubega’, that first day was nothing short of romantic.  This was the first soccer game ever for the students of Mbuko. So, the idyllic scene was only slightly contrasted by the innocent spirit of the team, who as one might expect, followed the ball in a single cloud with no thought of covering their opponents. As a result, they did not make it to the Earth Day final, but they tried, they learned and they laughed, which is worth so much more.

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Our own home town of Loibor Siret played host to the second and final rounds, where small clumps of goats scattered the field before the days’ events. Unlike the open field and gentle grasslands of Loibor Soit, the ecology of Loibor Siret is slightly more defensive. Acacia trees shielded by thorns abound, not to mention the prickly plants that dot the school field. The two field locations inadvertently represented the main landscapes of the Maasai Steppe, which was fitting for a celebration of the environment. There on the school field, with lines prepared impeccably for the occasion by the members of the wildlife club themselves, Loibor Siret competed with Kangala and Narakauo clubs to qualify for the final. And when the final came on Tuesday, it was Loibor Siret and Kangala who played against Saturday’s qualifying teams.

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On the morning of the 22nd, the sun shone brightly, the crowd cheered loudly, and each wildlife club competed for the title of Noloholo Earth Day Champion. However, despite the action, the pressure, and the penalty shootouts, the most extraordinary part of the day’s events was not the soccer. Before the games began, armed with gloves, rakes, and brooms, the students and teachers of Loibor Siret, Loibor Soit, Kangala, and Emboret flocked the village roads. As the massive wave of blue and green sweaters swept the village clean in a matter of minutes, it was impossible not to be filled with a powerful sense of hope for the rest of the human race. Perhaps, if four school clubs can clean up an entire village in such a short time, cities and countries can work together to clean up the world.

 

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The lesson was the power of teamwork. Whether picking up trash or playing ball, things always go better when you work together. The final match against Loibor Soit proved that the members of our original wildlife club, the Loibor Siret Lion Club, already know that. Perhaps now it’s the rest of the world’s turn – but we might need a bigger trophy.

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The Learning Never Stops – Especially When You’re a Teacher

By Deirdre Leowinata

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Often, the image of education in Africa is portrayed as shabbily clad children sitting at marked and aged wooden desks haphazardly arranged in a broken-down classroom. It is not an image that brings about feelings of well-funded programming and high standards of teaching. However, at a seminar we hosted at our environmental center last week, eight teachers displayed levels of both knowledge and wisdom that are severely underestimated in the stereotypical African classroom.

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Together with the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots and Shoots program, we hosted primary and secondary school teachers from Loibor Siret, Kangala, Narakauwo, Emboret, and Loibor Soit, for a seminar on environmental conservation education. Our guests arrived on Thursday evening, and after a tasty dinner and a good night’s sleep, they were ready to learn.

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The weekend was focused on the development and advancement of present and future environmental clubs based on progressive teaching strategies that encourage participatory learning styles. In an area where much of the teaching has been done with lectures alone, and discipline enforced with punishment and not reward, the teachers were not only open, but also excited to learn about alternative methods. They were brought together in an unfamiliar environment to learn new concepts and new teaching styles for two intense days, and were exposed to self-criticism and the possible anguish of watching videotapes of themselves on a projector screen, and did it all with respect and smiles on their faces.

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Nevertheless, the thing that stood out above all others was the amount of critical thinking each and every teacher demonstrated. Blind acceptance is often a trait of people who don’t know or don’t care, and these teachers were not afraid to pose tough questions.

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The great scientist Carl Sagan once said: “It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you’re in deep trouble.”

And when the eight teachers sat on top of the hill called Ngahari at the end of the second day, I saw the true state of education in Tanzania, and it’s looking very bright.

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And We Give you…Our 2014 Noloholo Environmental Scholars!

By Deirdre Leowinata

It’s an exciting time of year for students in the villages surrounding Noloholo. If they excelled at their exams and their transcripts are good, primary school graduates may compete for one of our environmental scholarships. We award these scholarships once every year to students who are not only top of their class, but also must be active in their community’s environmental initiatives and APW’s wildlife clubs. The scholarship is sometimes the only means of continuing their education, so it’s an important event for the students, our education team and the communities of the Maasai Steppe.

Students who excel in school and participate actively in wildlife clubs compete for scholarships to attend secondary school in Arusha.

Students who excel in school and participate actively in wildlife clubs compete for scholarships to attend secondary school in Arusha.

To qualify, students must complete our Noloholo environmental exam, as well as the private secondary school entrance exam and a national standardized exam. The scholarships cover everything from tuition, to supplies, to tutoring. If the student continues to excel, it will cover these expenses for their entire secondary education. In Tanzania, that means Forms 1-6, which is the equivalent of grade 8 through high school, plus an additional two years of advanced studies. So, is it worth it? Without a doubt!

A student studies geography at Noloholo summer camp.

Exams are stressful for everyone, and to qualify for the scholarship, students write three!

This year, we added eight new scholars to our roster, which brings our total count to 22! That means eight more students can realize dreams of becoming engineers, scientists, doctors, or anything else they hope for – eight more students have a choice. Eight more students whose environmental interests propelled them forward.

This year’s new recipients are: Langida Pakasi, Kelvin Jacob, Samuel Lekumok, Paulo Kisota, Nengai Godwin, Anna Taon, Jessica Hando, and William Jackson. Samuel is the first scholar we have from the village of Narakauwo, so congratulations!

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Our continuing students also make us proud as they advance their education at the Moringe Private Secondary School in Monduli, about 150 km from our center. Karakai is head boy, Rama is fourth in his class, and Hussein is an active member of the soccer team! Raphael, Lazaro, and Stella have passed their national exams; they will be our first class of scholars to do their advanced studies in Form 5 and 6.

Congratulations to our new and continuing scholars! We are so happy to be able to support you as you grow.

Winter Issue of the Carnivore Chronicle

Find out what our organization has been doing to change the face of conservation on and off the Maasai Steppe. Our latest issue of the Carnivore Chronicle is now on our website! Happy Holidays!

A Budding Biologist – Meet Noloholo Environmental Scholar, Hussein Maricha

The African People and Wildlife Fund’s Noloholo Environmental Scholars program started in 2010. Since then, we’ve sent 16 students from the Maasai Steppe to a private secondary school in Monduli. The six-year scholarship allows these motivated boys and girls to have access to many opportunities and experiences that they might not get in their hometowns. We are very proud of our scholars and what they represent for the futures of their communities and the environment.

Hussein Maricha

 

Hussein Maricha was helping APW’s environmental education staff grade exams for the Noloholo Environmental Summer Camps. He has just finished his first term as a scholar but bravely comes forward for the interview, eager to practice his English.

 

African People and Wildlife Fund: Hussein, how are you?

 

Hussein Maricha: I am very well thanks. I have been very happy.

 

APW: What have you been happy about?

 

HM: I am happy because I enjoy being home. I get to relax and rest. It is nice to relax after being at school and working hard.

 

He squints as the sun comes out from behind some clouds. On the balcony at the Noloholo Environmental Center, he glances towards the plains of Tarangire National Park.

 

APW: What do you like to study in school?

 

HM: I love all the science subjects, but my favorite subject is biology. I would like to be an animal biologist one day.

 

APW: What makes you want to be a biologist?

 

HM: I think animals are very interesting. Last year I went to Tarangire National Park (with APW), and I saw so many animals. It was my first time seeing so many animals. It would be great to study them.

 

APW: What animal do you want to study?

 

HM: I am not sure yet, but my favorite animals are lions. I think they are very proud and beautiful.

 

I imagine Dr. Lichtenfeld has found her protégé in this charismatic, outgoing young man. Although he has only been studying English for a little while, he isn’t shy or quiet. He dives into our conversation with confidence and understanding, unafraid to make mistakes in spite of the unfamiliarity.

 

APW:  How old are you?

 

HM: I’m 17 years old and I am in Form One.

 

APW: Do you like your school?

 

HM: Yes, I love it. There are so many great teachers and beautiful buildings.

 

Hussein is the youngest of two boys, living with his parents in Loibor Siret. His father is the English and Mathematics teacher at his old school, Loibor Siret Primary School. Although he says he prefers his school in Monduli, he credits his father with teaching him how to be a diligent student.

 

HM: My father has always been supportive of me, and he has taught me many things about being a good student.

 

APW:  Is your brother also in school?

 

HM: Yes, he will be going into Form 5. He hopes to become a physician.

 

APW: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

 

HM: I like playing football with my friends on my school team. I also like watching football. My favorite team is Chelsea Football Club. My favorite player is Oscar.

 

APW: How has your experience been as a scholar?

 

HM: I feel very lucky to be a scholar. My family is very happy for me and supportive, and I feel successful.

 

We wish Hussein the best of luck as he continues on his journey to become a biologist! We are there to help!

If you would like to help support a Noloholo Environmental Scholar,

you can donate at www.afrpw.org/donate or contact us at [email protected]

The 2013 Class of Noloholo Environmental Scholars

The 2013 Class of Noloholo Environmental Scholars