Category Archives: APW News

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.

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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 info@afrpw.org.

The 2013 Class of Noloholo Environmental Scholars

The 2013 Class of Noloholo Environmental Scholars

Another Happy Herdsman – Yohana Lojumbutwa Receives APW’s 250th Living Wall

Yohana Lojumbutwa has been living in his boma for eighteen years. He used to protect his seventy head of cattle with the dry, feeble thorn bushes used by the majority of Maasai pastoralists. But recently, he installed the last component of his new Living Wall.

 

APW designed its Living Walls to protect big cats, people and livestock while preserving the environment. Since our first installation in 2008, they have done just that.

 

Cloaked in his bright blue shuka, Yohana greets us warmly at his boma with his sons and nephews. Around the cattle corral, newly planted Commiphora africana poles are ready for binding with chain-link fencing. It took Yohana three weeks to cut the branches of mature Commiphora trees, find a tractor to haul them to his boma and wait for the branches to dry before planting them around his boma. This may seem like a long time, but he won’t have to do it again for at least another 25 years.

 

“Prior to my Living Wall, I had to replace the thorn bushes around my corral every three months. It takes three weeks just to get enough thorns because all the bushes in the area are gone,” Yohana said. Like many other Maasai households, Yohana’s wives and the elders at his boma are responsible for replacing the thorny bush fences. As time passes, the women and elders have to travel farther and farther to get the bushes because the closest ones were cut long ago – a classic case of deforestation.

 

The Commiphora trees used to reinforce the chain-link fencing for Living Walls are branches or cuttings from mature trees. The “parent” tree isn’t cut down or killed in the process.  Our technique helps to prevent habitat loss and further deforestation, in fact we are increasing the number of trees on the Steppe. Livestock owners dry the Commiphora branches for about a week and then plant them around the boma.

 

“It’s extremely hard work cutting the thorns for traditional bomas,” Yohana said. Remarking on his new Living Wall, he adds, “Not only are the women happy, but I am happy too because now the cattle can’t break out of the boma and I don’t have to collect them when they do.” Yohana isn’t sure how many times carnivores attacked his cattle over the years. But, he says the majority of the attacks happen when the cattle break out of the boma and run off into the open fields and grasslands. Earlier in the year, he lost two cows to lions that had attacked the herd after they had escaped from the boma.

“There isn’t anyone who doesn’t want a Living Wall. Everyone with a boma wants a wall,” Yohana said with a wide grin as the last foot of chain-link was nailed into a commiphora post.

Camera Trapping with the Warriors for Wildlife – The Challenges of Big Cat Monitoring

Nothing brings people together like a Serbian military lorry – especially when the seats are removed to accommodate huge cement moraines. The APW camera-trapping vehicle of choice, affectionately called “Tammy”, can only be described as a green beast: a glorious and practical green beast, but a beast nonetheless. Standing four feet tall atop its six wheels, and ten feet at its full height, Tammy can withstand even the deepest potholes, which are often more like small chasms here. You would never think to describe such a machine as practical unless you lived in Tanzania.

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Our warriors for wildlife were busy all week lifting heavy moraines in and out of Tammy to set up camera traps for monitoring the local wildlife.

This past week, our Warriors for Wildlife were busy setting up camera traps in local korongos (riverbeds) with Dennis Minja, APW’s wildlife monitoring program officer. Don’t let the word “local” fool you – after all, this is not the suburbs. A two-mile trip usually involves navigating through a herd of cattle, multiple winding detours due to the lack of roads, and one or two close calls with the acacia thorn. After five full days of hard work, the team managed to set up 16 cameras at 8 different locations, with two facing cameras per trap.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the procedures involved in camera trapping, you should note that it does not require any actual trapping of animals – just pictures.  It does, however, require a lot of planning, a lot of manual labour, and a whole lot of patience. And like life, you always have to account for the fact that things don’t always work out the way you plan.

First of all, the moraines that are used to hold the cameras are probably about as heavy as a baby elephant, and not nearly as cute. In essence, they are metal boxes attached to metal poles, which in turn are embedded rather unceremoniously into a large block of concrete. If that doesn’t sound appealing, try lifting one (or 16) over your shoulders a few times over.

Secondly, we had a bit of a warm spell this week – thank you climate change – and the warriors’ uniforms are made for protection, not for breathability. After a couple of hours in those things under the “jua kali” (harsh sun), fatigue and dehydration come fast. And in Tammy’s open-air rear, with the dry season air virtually vacuuming water out of your body,   it is hard to avoid.

Finally, it takes a surprising amount of strategy to choose a camera location within a korongo. To be effective for identification purposes, the camera must capture the maximum surface area of the maximum number of animals passing across the designated area, all the while maintaining view of the opposing camera. The cameras are placed in locations that will allow us to monitor the impacts of our conservation programs over time by giving us estimates of animal densities, individual health, and population statuses. To do that, it’s best to ensure that you’re going to get a good view of most animals passing through in order to be able to identify individuals. This involves clearing any brush that may obstruct the shot, which can be hard in a place where everything has evolved to defend itself. There are many things to keep in mind, from varying animal heights to direction of travel. To test shot quality, each game scout took a turn as the hyena throughout the day, trying to create the best impression in gait and call, with both impressive and hilarious results. Why a hyena, I couldn’t tell you, but perhaps it is due to the healing powers of laughter.

We will be checking the traps in the next few weeks, and hopefully we’ll be able to show you what our friendly neighborhood predators are up to. Keep track of our Facebook page for updates, and remember to keep in mind what it takes to get those photos, because it’s a bit more than a walk in the park!

Women’s Association Helps Empower Women on the Steppe

Ninety-four women from sub-villages all over Loibor Siret attended a meeting on Thursday to discuss the formation of an association of women. The meeting was hosted by our conservation enterprise and development program officer, Joyce Ndakaro, along with our assistant environmental education officer, Revocatus Magayane.
Dressed in their brightest kangas, the women came ready to listen to the details that Joyce had outlined for the formation of the association. Earlier this year, some of the women formed their own women’s groups to support each other in the establishing of environmentally favorable businesses. Three or four women from each of the thirty women’s groups attended the meeting. As well as individuals outside of the groups who are still interested in joining the association.
“The purpose of the meeting was to solicit the interest of the women, gather ideas and answer any of the questions they might have,” Joyce said.
The meeting began with a short introduction on the idea for the association. The idea came from APW—facing the challenge of how to reach the women together—and from the women themselves, through the entrepreneurship training they had at Noloholo. The association will help us communicate and connect with the women as one unit. The association will also serve as an outlet for the women to share thoughts, ideas and experiences, as they develop their small businesses through the micro-loans that APW will supply.
Three women from each group will serve as representatives in the association for their respective groups. On Monday, Joyce collected a list of the names of the women that had been chosen to represent their groups as the presidents, the treasurers and the third additional representatives. We believe by giving women on the Maasai Steppe a chance to lead and contribute to their households, we can empower them to influence others to protect and defend the environment.
Men in the community have already been influenced by the unity of the women in Loibor Siret. A few men’s groups have been formed, and some groups even allow some men to attend their meetings, however no men will be allowed to join the association.
“It is very important to the women, that they are making contributions to their households and their children. It creates better relationships for women, men and children in the communities,” Joyce said.

A group picture of the 94 women who attended the meeting on Thursday.

A group picture of the 94 women who attended the meeting on Thursday.