Conservation Careers Fair Kenya-2020

Young people are stepping out to make a positive difference in the conservation of nature and wildlife all across the world.

With the many challenges facing our environment becoming more pronounced, we need more young people in every household to have a successful career in conservation thus promoting the conservation of nature and wildlife.

However, the number of students taking up a conservation-related course in Kenya has drastically reduced. To be able to change this narrative, Biophilic Conversations will be hosting the first-ever Conservation Careers Fair in Kenya in 2020.

Networking and making important professional contacts are often the most important components of any successful job search. The Conservation Careers Fair Kenya will bring together different potential conservation organizations and prominent Kenyan training institutions offering environmental and conservation-related study programs. This will create a platform for young people in conservation and employers to connect.

The careers fair is for any young Kenyan who wants to spend their career promoting coexistence between our wildlife and people and develop sustainable ways to ensure we live in a planet where both people and nature thrive. For students, this will guide them in a successful conservation career.

“It is still not too late to act. It will take a far-reaching vision, it will take courage, it will take fierce, fierce determination to act now, to lay the foundations where we may not know all the details about how to shape the ceiling. In other words, it will take cathedral thinking. I ask you to please wake up and make changes required possible” – Greta Thunberg

Through this careers fair, Biophilic Conversations aims to cultivate an environment more conducive to participation by young Kenyans, who are the future of conservation in our country. By partnering with various representatives from Kenya’s conservation scene, we will demonstrate to young Kenyans that environmental conservation is a rewarding and viable career path to take.

The event includes career talks, panel discussions and various other engaging activities covering a host of career-related topics that open minds to the opportunities available in this diverse sector.

We need your support to be able to achieve this, if you have links with Kenyan conservation government agency, local or international universities that offer conservation-related courses, local and international NGOs, please drop us an email on

We aim at inspiring the next generation of conservationist and we need your help in every step we take. If you are thinking about a career in conservation, then this is for you.

Feel free to tag the conservation organization you have always wanted to work with, and let them join the Careers Fair.

Successful Egg Harvest Breaks New Ground in Saving the Northern White Rhinoceros

There are only two northern white rhinos left worldwide, both of them female. Saving this representative of megafauna from extinction seems impossible under these circumstances, yet an international consortium of scientists and conservationists just completed a procedure that could enable assisted reproduction techniques to do just that. On August 22, 2019, a team of veterinarians successfully harvested eggs from the two females who live in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya — a procedure that has never been attempted in northern white rhinos before. The eggs will now be artificially inseminated with frozen sperm from a northern white rhino bull, and in the near future the embryo will be transferred to a southern white rhino surrogate mother. The successful procedure was a joint effort by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) BerlinAvanteaDvůr Králové ZooOl Pejeta Conservancy and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

With neither Najin and Fatu, the two northern white rhino females, able to carry a pregnancy, the future of the northern white rhino now rests solely on pioneering artificial reproduction techniques. The successful harvesting of their eggs means that scientists are one step closer to being able to save the northern white rhino from complete extinction.

The procedure was the result of years of research, development, adjustments and practice. “Both the technique and the equipment had to be developed entirely from scratch”, says Prof. Thomas Hildebrandt from Leibniz-IZW and Dr. David Ndeereh from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who headed the procedure. “We were able to harvest a total of 10 oocytes – 5 from Najin and 5 from Fatu – showing that both females can still provide eggs and thus help to save these magnificent creatures.”

The procedure was conducted with a probe, guided by ultrasound, which harvested immature egg cells (oocytes) from the ovaries of the animals when placed under general anaesthetic. “The anaesthesia went smoothly without any complications although these animals had not been immobilized for the last five years,” says Frank Goeritz from Leibniz-IZW.

“The number of harvested oocytes is a wonderful success and proof that the unique cooperation between scientists, experts in zoos and conservationists in field can lead to hopeful prospects even for the animals that are imminently facing extinction”, adds Jan Stejskal from Dvůr Králové Zoo, where the two rhinos were born.

It was the partnership between Dvůr Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and KWS that led to the translocation of Najin, Fatu and two male northern white rhinos from the Czech Republic to Kenya in December 2009, when it was hoped that breeding would be stimulated by the rhinos being closer to their natural environment. Although mating attempts were witnessed, there were no pregnancies. “We came to the conclusion after a health assessment in 2014 that, owing to various health issues, neither Najin or Fatu are able to carry a pregnancy”, explains Dr. Robert Hermes from the Leibniz-IZW. Two males – Suni and Sudan – died of natural causes in 2014 and 2018 respectively. Their sperm was cryo-preserved in the hope that assisted reproduction techniques would advance enough so that they could pass on their genome to a new generation.

“On the one hand Ol Pejeta is saddened that we are now down to the last two northern white rhinos on the planet, a testament to the profligate way the human race continues to interact with the natural world around us.  However we are also immensely proud to be part of the groundbreaking work which is now being deployed to rescue this species.  We hope it signals the start of an era where humans finally start to understand that proper stewardship of the environment is not a luxury but a necessity,” says Richard Vigne, Managing Director of Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

“The concerted efforts to save the last northern white rhinos should guide the resolutions the world makes at the ongoing CITES meeting in Geneva. The assisted reproductive technique should galvanize the world’s attention to the plight of all rhinos and make us avoid decisions that undermine law enforcement and fuel demand for the rhino horn,” says Hon. Najib Balala, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife.

“We are delighted that this partnership gets us one step closer to prevent extinction of the northern white rhinos. This is particularly touching given the heartbreaking death of Sudan, the last male, who died of old age last year in Kenya,” says Brig. (Rtd) John Waweru, the Kenya Wildlife Service Director General.

“Yesterday’s operation means that producing a northern white rhino embryo in vitro – which has never been done before – is a tangible reality for the first time,” says Cesare Galli from Avantea, the Italian laboratory of advanced technologies for biotechnology research and animal reproduction. Avantea will now fertilise the eggs in vitro using the cryo-preserved semen of Suni and Saút.

The procedure is part of an international research project named “BioRescue”, a consortium to which Leibniz-IZW, Avantea, and Dvůr Králové Zoo are a part, and which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). As well as harnessing the collective knowledge and expertise of the consortium to conduct the in vitro procedure, the project will also lead the development of techniques and procedures to create artificial gametes from stem cells. This will involve transforming stored tissue from northern white rhinos into induced pluripotent stem cells, and then into primordial germ cells. Germ cells can then be matured to develop into eggs or sperm cells – essentially widening the genetic basis and the quantity of the gametes. The stem cell approach is primarily carried out by BioRescue consortium members Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (Germany), Kyushu University (Japan) and Northwestern University (USA).

The whole procedure was conducted within an ethical framework that has been developed beforehand by ethicists and the other scientists and veterinarians involved in the procedure. “We developed a dedicated ethical risk analysis in order to prepare the team for all possible scenarios of such an ambitious procedure and to make sure that the welfare of the two individuals was totally respected”, says Barbara de Mori, the conservation and animal welfare ethics expert from Padua University. In addition, the procedure was conducted in compliance with Kenyan laws, policies and the relevant international requirements.

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Why Coals Poisonous Legacy is Unwelcome in Lamu Kenya

Lamu old town is a picturesque Swahili town frozen in time and embellished with antique Swahili settlement architecture, illuminated daily by glowing sunrises and sunsets. Turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean playfully lap its idyllic shores that have remained cocooned away from the dictates of ‘modern’ life. Intricate winding streets too narrow for cars are dotted with donkeys, the main mode of transport in this oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement.

Grand and elaborately engraved house doors line either side of the streets forming a delightful guard of honour as one strolls through this 700-year-old town. So unique is this hidden iconic treasure that Lamu old town is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage site List along with other quintessential cultural sites like Tahj Mahal in India, Timbuktu in Mali, Old City of Jerusalem in Israel and Giza Pyramids in Egypt. As visitors and tourists can attest, the real treasure of Lamu is its warm, kind, welcoming people who have by and large maintained their cultural way of life and preserved their pristine environment. While the rest of Kenya contends with an alarming reduction of forest cover, Lamu County has approximately 18% forest cover, is home to unique indigenous forests as well as 70% of all the mangrove forest in Kenya. Lamu old town is located on Lamu Island which forms part of the greater Lamu County which is comprised of mainland Lamu and the Lamu Archipelago.

A planned 1050MW coal-fired power plant to be located in Kenya at Kwasasi, about 21km from Lamu old town threatens to shatter not only this world heritage site but also the health, environment and livelihoods of Lamu County residents. 975 acres of farmland, mangrove forests and indigenous flora are to be cleared to set up the fossil fuel plant. Grave and legitimate concerns have been raised ranging from the economic viability of the project to detailing how the plant will irreversibly alter livelihoods, fragile ecosystems, fishing grounds and air quality of Lamu mainland and the Lamu Archipelago. The proposed 2.1 billion dollar plant is a project of Amu Power Company Ltd. The plant will unsurprisingly be largely funded by financiers from China, which is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Not to be left out, the American conglomerate General Electric (GE) in 2018 signed an agreement to design, construct, maintain the coal plant as well as a proposed share acquisition in Amu Power.

At the heart of opposition to the planned plant are the correlated environmental and health ramifications of coal power production. Ahmed Ali, founder of Lamu Youth Alliance is deeply concerned. He contends that Lamu residents may soon be breathing toxic air and eating tainted food cultivated on lands contaminated with heavy metals from acid rain, all because of an uneconomical and superfluous project. Ahmed added that the unwarranted and controversial developments like the coal plant or the massive port under construction will not only impact the cultural heritage in Lamu but may also lead to a loss of UNESCO world cultural Heritage Status.

Coal ash from the plant will be disposed in ash pits which will inevitably contaminate groundwater, ocean waters and marine ecosystem through leaching, spills or even monitored discharges. most residents in Lamu depend on wells and borehole water for domestic use and contaminated groundwater is thus a real and potent health risk. An analysis of 2018 data from 265 coal-fired power plants in the USA carried out by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice found that 91% of those plants were contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of coal ash heavy metals like arsenic.

Nitrous oxides from coal combustion cause cardiovascular and lung diseases and children are particularly susceptible to such airborne pollutants. Particulate matter from coal combustion is associated with smog, respiratory diseases, cardiac diseases, low birth weight and premature births. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides similarly contribute to the formation of nitrates and acid rain which acidifies water bodies, damages vegetation and coastal ecosystems. Whereas the above repercussions will be felt profoundly in Lamu, neighbouring counties and the country in general, the plants carbon dioxide emissions will spawn global consequences. Carbon dioxide emissions from this single plant will equal the current total emissions of Kenya’s entire energy sector thus doubling the national carbon dioxide emissions and contributing to accelerated climate change. Manda bay area where the plant is to be situated is endowed with extensive mangrove forest, seagrass beds and coral reefs. Dredging to operationalize the plant will result in permanent loss of those habitats. Warm water discharge from the plant and into the sensitive Lamu marine ecosystem will be detrimental to organisms like corals and other marine creatures but conducive for invasive species to thrive. Khadija Shekuwe, the coordinator of Save Lamu, believes that the plant is detrimental. “Communities in Lamu are marginalised and women in rural-based marginalised communities experience marginalisation quite acutely. Such a toxic project only aggravates the state of affairs.” She also stressed that Lamu residents generally struggle to meet their basic needs and will not afford healthcare for ailments caused by coal combustion. Khadija added that boreholes in Lamu which residents, especially women, depend on for water for domestic use was turning salty and contamination of groundwater will exacerbate the water stress or force residents to consume contaminated water.

There is a global coming to terms with the toxicity of coal and its longstanding hazardous effects on human health and the environment. Coal consumption for energy production in the US energy sector has been shrinking for 12 years and is projected to decline by a further 8% in 2019. Across the Atlantic, EU leaders have endorsed the objective of reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 – 95 % by 2050, as compared with their 1990 levels. The German Coal Commission has recommended coal-fired power generation be completely ended by 2038. Coal energy is peddled as being low-cost. However, when factored in, the social and environmental costs of coal-generated electricity like pollution, greenhouse gases and terminal diseases make the full price of coal-fired electricity substantially expensive. Justification for such a counterproductive development in Kenya is lacking bearing in mind that demand for electricity has not outstripped supply. Kenya’s peak energy demand currently stands at about 1,832MW against a total installed capacity of 2,351MW. Plans to increase energy generation capacity should focus on renewable energy. Kenya is endowed with a mix of renewables like geothermal, hydro, wind, solar and biomass which are all begging to be harnessed. Installed geothermal energy capacity stands at 690 MW against a potential capacity of between 7,000 MW to 10,000 MW. A host of geothermal plants are planned and the 54.6MW Garissa Solar plant commenced operations in late 2018. The Lake Turkana Wind power farm is now operational and is expected to add about 310MW when operating at maximum capacity. Renewable energy is capable of sustaining energy demands in Kenya for the foreseeable future as rapid technological advancements in the renewable sector gather pace. The injection of the above Megawatts into the national grid has made the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) change the tune. The ERC which had earlier dismissed objections raised by civil society and energy specialists about the viability of the coal plant released a statement warning that creating too much-installed capacity without proven demand to absorb the same will lead to under-utilised capacity which must be paid for by end-consumers. The regulator also recommended that projects like the planned coal and nuclear plants be delayed for some years and the capacity of the 1050MW coal plant be reduced by half. This shift of stance is profusely welcome yet worrying for it points to either poor strategic planning by authorities in the sector or mischief by politicians and ‘tenderpreneurs’ wanting to force through an unnecessary project just to make profits. The project ought not to be slowed down but entirely done away with.

The Kenyan Constitution guarantees the right to a clean and healthy environment including the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. Coal is considered the dirtiest of all fuels and is therefore at absolute odds with the right to a clean and healthy environment. Omar Elmawi of Decoalonize Africa which works to halt new coal infrastructure in Africa while encouraging clean, renewable energy questions why the government plans to utilise dirty fuel while the President continues pledging a 100% transition to green energy to help fight climate change. Mr Elmawi also expressed frustration at the impending loss of livelihood for fishermen who operate out of Manda Bay where warm water from the plant will be released into the ocean. He also faulted the transparency of the planned resettlement process for those who whose farmland are to be compulsorily acquired since there have been allegations of imposters appearing on the government compensation list for the planned compulsory acquisition while some affected landowners were allegedly allocated smaller acreage for compensation as compared to the land to be compulsorily acquired.

Coal remains the most polluting source of energy while renewable energy is a more sustainable economic development option, especially where the demand for energy is not acute. Kenyans must not be subjected to such levels of toxic pollution by an economically unfeasible project while viable opportunities of renewable sources of energy exist.


About the author

Leslie Olonyi is an Environment and Natural resources Lawyer. He is also a Mandela Washington Fellow under the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) and the UN Environment 2019 Kenya Bio Voice in the Africa Bio Voices Project.

Follow him on twitter @safarijunkie


Black Panther mytery demystified


Letoluai Ambrose, Research Assistant, Sandiego Zoo Global

The story of a black leopard being allegedly seen in Kenya for the first time in 100 years broke out this week – but a young Samburu warrior is really the silent figure behind the discovery.

“The remote camera that I helped set up started capturing images of the black leopard from January 2018. I have many images and videos of the animal,” Letoluai Ambrose, a Research Assistant with Sandiego Zoo Global told me. He seemed perturbed by the interest that the leopard has received from all over the world since last week.

Letoluai, 24, grew up in Koija near Loisaba Conservation. He studied wildlife science at Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute and returned home to support conservation efforts.

He was hired by Sandiego Zoo Global as a research assistant in a project that studied the behaviour of leopards in the Laikipia plateau. Part of this research is finding ways of mitigating the problems that leopard cause within the pastoralist communities.

During his interaction with the community, he heard about the presence of black leopards.

Letoluai Setting up remote cameras

“At first I did not believe what they were telling me since historically we have been hearing such stories from old people,” he said.

At a later date, an elder asked him “Why don’t you capture the big black one in Lorrok area with your cameras?” He also confirmed with the owner of Lorrok ranch about the sighting.

He wrote an email to his boss and fellow scientist, Nicholas Pinfold, about the presence of the black leopard and they agreed to place trap cameras with the hope of capturing images.

The activities of the black leopard started appearing in the cameras and a paper about its presence was published here.

Melanistic Leopard that was captured since Jan 2018 and circulated on social media as the #blackpanther

A pseudo-melanistic leopard has a normal background colour, but the spots are more densely packed than normal and merge to obscure the golden-brown background colour. Any spots on the flanks and limbs that have not merged into the mass of swirls and stripes are unusually small and discrete, rather than forming rosettes. The face and underparts are paler and dappled like those of ordinary spotted leopards.

But the leopard became famous when Letoluai was requested by the owner of Lorrok Ranch to take a British photographer Will Burrad-Lucas to see the leopard. He showed the photographer where to place his remote cameras.

“Will Burrad captured quality images but the media should not state that he found the leopard. He was only here for three days,” Letoluai mused.

Letoluai states that no individual can take credit for research findings because so many people are involved in the activity.

”Were it not for that elder, the local rangers, the landowner and the involvement of scientists from Sandiego Zoo Global, we would not have made this discovery. Everyone had a role and no one person can claim credit,” said Letoluai.

Some sections of the media have claimed that this was the first time that a black leopard has been seen in Kenya in 100 years but to the contrary, the cats have been sighted many times in different parts of Kenya.

Credits: Published by Naloolo Explorers

Author: John Kisimir –


Letoluai Ambrose    Closing remarks: Black leopard sighting has attracted global attention and I believe wildlife conservation in Laikipia, Samburu and Kenya will attract the interest of many. I also believe pastoralist communities which face direct conflicts with this carnivores will be considered for benefit of conservation African leopards.
Conservation of African leopards can only be successful if Local communities will be involved in the process.
About Photographer I will be reluctant to speak about it .” He has the picture and we have the leopard at Laikipia nothing we can complain at all. Let us focus on the conservation of African leopard and understand why melanism on them at this particular area

Call for Volunteers Global March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions #gmerl2019

This is an invitation to you to support the Global March Nairobi Edition, which takes place on April 13th 2019.

We shall be marching 10KM from National Museums of Kenya at 8 AM TO Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarter where we aim to arrive at 12. Marching, singing, chanting, dancing, spreading the message to all near and far, making sure our voice is heard both national and international media.
Then between 12 pm and 2 pm we shall have Edutainment, Exhibitions, music (live performances) networking opportunities, and speeches from our esteemed guest speakers.

As you know, the Global March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions (GMFERL) is a worldwide call to action to condemn the poaching of elephants, rhinos and the trafficking of wildlife trophies. It is a call for governments, civil society, grass root communities, media and all stakeholders to be proactive and collaborative towards ensuring the survival of elephants and rhinos.

This year we are advocating for our stance as a country and as the Continent of Africa at CITES Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species. We want to not only let our voice as Kenya be heard on the issues that matter most to us from closing domestic markets of Ivory Trade, to protecting our Giraffes, Whales, Pan Cake Tortoise, Pangolin, Lion and rhino by ensuring their protection on a local and international scale is at its highest. But we also want Africa to realize that an animal does not need a visa to roam across our borders, and the actions of any African country in regards to our wildlife and biodiversity affects us all and hence we must speak with ONE VOICE if the future of our wildlife is to be safeguarded.

This year we are hosting the biggest march yet and in order to do that, we need an army of dedicated, disciplined, energetic passionate volunteers.

This is an invitation to you to support the Global March Nairobi Edition, which takes place on April 13th 2019.

We shall be marching 10KM from National Museums of Kenya at 8AM TO Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarter where we aim to arrive at 12. Marching, singing, chanting, dancing, spreading the message to all near and far, making sure our voice is heard both national and international media.
Then between 12pm and 2pm we shall have Edutainment, Exhibitions, music (live performances) networking opportunities, and speeches from our esteemed guest speakers.

As you know, the Global March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions (GMFERL) is a worldwide call to action to condemn the poaching of elephants, rhinos and the trafficking of wildlife trophies. It is a call for governments, civil society, grass root communities, media and all stakeholders to be proactive and collaborative towards ensuring the survival of elephants and rhinos.

This year we are advocating for our stance as a country and as the Continent of Africa at CITES Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species. We want to not only let our voice as Kenya be heard on the issues that matter most to us from closing domestic markets of Ivory Trade, to protecting our Giraffes, Whales, Pan Cake Tortoise, Pangolin, Lion and rhino by ensuring their protection on a local and international scale is at its highest. But we also want Africa to realize that an animal does not need a visa to roam across our borders, and the actions of any African country in regards to our wildlife and biodiversity affects us all and hence we must speak with ONE VOICE if the future of our wildlife is to be safeguarded.

This year we are hosting the biggest march yet and in order to do that, we need an army of dedicated, disciplined, energetic passionate volunteers.

This is an invitation to you to support the Global March Nairobi Edition, which takes place on April 13th 2019.

We shall be marching 10KM from National Museums of Kenya at 8 AM TO Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarter where we aim to arrive at 12. Marching, singing, chanting, dancing, spreading the message to all near and far, making sure our voice is heard both national and international media.
Then between 12 pm and 2 pm we shall have Edutainment, Exhibitions, music (live performances) networking opportunities, and speeches from our esteemed guest speakers.

As you know, the Global March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions (GMFERL) is a worldwide call to action to condemn the poaching of elephants, rhinos and the trafficking of wildlife trophies. It is a call for governments, civil society, grass root communities, media and all stakeholders to be proactive and collaborative towards ensuring the survival of elephants and rhinos.

This year we are advocating for our stance as a country and as the Continent of Africa at CITES Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species. We want to not only let our voice as Kenya be heard on the issues that matter most to us from closing domestic markets of Ivory Trade, to protecting our Giraffes, Whales, Pan Cake Tortoise, Pangolin, Lion and rhino by ensuring their protection on a local and international scale is at its highest. But we also want Africa to realize that an animal does not need a visa to roam across our borders, and the actions of any African country in regards to our wildlife and biodiversity affects us all and hence we must speak with ONE VOICE if the future of our wildlife is to be safeguarded.

This year we are hosting the biggest march yet and in order to do that, we need an army of dedicated, disciplined, energetic passionate volunteers.

Any information needed about the march please email or

See you there

Call for proposals Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme

GEF Small Grants Programme

The Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) implemented by UNDP, awards
grants on a competitive basis for initiatives implemented by civil society organizations, to enable them
implement environmental projects while at the same time support poverty reduction and local
empowerment objectives.
In the current 6th phase of GEF, SGP’s geographic focus is in the production land/sea-scapes of (i) the lower
and middle river basin of Lake Bogoria, (ii) the kaya forests in Kilifi county with World Heritage site status
+ a 5km buffer zone surrounding each one, and (iii) the Shimoni-Vanga seascape of Kwale county.
However, the geographic focus is not limited to the 3 areas mentioned above, but is open to the entire
country, for proposals that promote the use of renewable energy technologies for generating income, or
for strengthening partnerships with the private sector.

SGP seeks proposals from the following categories:

1. Projects implemented within a 5km buffer zone radius of the sacred kaya forests in Kilifi county
to address biodiversity conservation, agro-ecological farming, sustainable land management,
community-based eco-enterprises, and sustainable livelihoods.
2. Projects implemented within lower river basin of Lk Bogoria to support biodiversity conservation,
holistic and sustainable grazing, climate-smart agro-ecology, community-based eco-enterprises,
and sustainable livelihoods.
3. Projects implemented within the Shimoni-Vanga seascape to support biodiversity conservation,
implementation of the Joint Co-management Plan, community-based eco-enterprises, and
sustainable livelihoods.
4. Projects implemented to support uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies
(i) through partnership with private sector and (ii) to increase income generation of local
communities through productive use. These projects are not limited to the geographic focus of
the 3 sites mentioned above.
5. Capacity building of local groups that will include organizational development, governance, financial
management, participatory monitoring, proposal development, use of social media for development
and resource mobilization. Three (3) capacity building grants to be selected; 1 per site.
6. A strategic project that will operate largely at the land/sea-scape level to address an already identified

pertinent issue and work closely with relevant stakeholders including the county
government and private sector

Three strategic projects will be selected; 1 per site.

1. Only proposals from Civil society organizations (CSOs) are awarded funds.
If your organization submitted a proposal in response to the previous Call for Proposals (Sept – Nov 2018), and
has not been notified of a grant award, then consider the application unsuccessful. However, your organization
can re-submit another proposal, but not the same one; a revised version or a completely new proposal will be
Organizations should select from one of the 6 categories on page 1 and submit one (1) application in response
to this Call.
The GEF Small Grants Programme is a global programme operating in 125 countries that seeks to foster an
enabling environment for addressing global environmental issues and achieving sustainable development
goals. It is managed by a small team in New York, which develops a 4-year strategic framework, to which each
SGP country program aligns its objectives and activities, guided by national priorities. For GEF 6, SGP Kenya is
building on prior experience and lessons of previous phases, to partner with key stakeholders operating at sites
of global importance, to support local initiatives while contributing to national commitments and global
SGP is an efficient model for channeling GEF funds to communities, through registered civil society
organizations, for implementation of environmental projects that improve local livelihoods and general wellbeing.

In Kenya, SGP has provided funds to over 400 community-based projects in different parts of the
country. The projects, many of which fall under the GEF focal areas of biodiversity conservation, climate change
mitigation and prevention of land degradation, are selected by a voluntary National Steering Committee (NSC)
comprised of members of civil society, academia, government and donor organizations.
Gender mainstreaming
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 recognizes women as a special group deserving protection. The
Constitution espouses the rights of women as being equal in law to those of men and affirms that
women are entitled to enjoy equal opportunities in the political, social and economic spheres. Despite
the rights-based progressive Constitution that provides a framework for advancing the cause of equality,
according to UN Women, Africa women still face challenges including the ability to participate
effectively in decision making and leadership.
SGP requires that throughout the various stages of the project including conceptualization, planning,
implementation, monitoring and lesson-sharing, gender matters are fully incorporated, to ensure equal
opportunities to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from project resources, activities and results.

Vulnerable groups
Youth groups, groups comprised of persons with disabilities, women groups and groups of indigenous
persons are strongly encouraged to apply.
Grant awards
GEF SGP awards grants only to civil society organizations on a competitive basis. These include national
NGOs, CBOs, development arm of (i) financial institutions and (ii) faith-based organizations. Partnerships
with the private sector, national and county governments, and institutions of higher learning, are highly
encouraged. The following are the grant award levels:
(i)  A maximum of USD 30,000 for Community-based organizations; self-help groups, beach management

(ii) A maximum of USD 50,000 for organizations that operate at a regional or national level, such as
NGOs, development arm of faith-based organizations,
(iii) A maximum of USD 100,000 for strategic projects implemented by national organizations.
It is a requirement by GEF that applicants demonstrate co-financing. For SGP funded projects, the
requirement is 1:1. i.e. for every dollar requested from GEF SGP, the applicant should be able to raise an
additional dollar. The applicant should show in the proposal the amount of co-financing it will raise (both
cash and in-kind) during the implementation of the project and indicate the source of the co-financing.
Typology of projects
Below are the 6 categories mentioned and that highlight the types of
projects that will be considered for funding. The outcomes and corresponding types of projects were
identified after extensive consultations with key stakeholders at the respective sites.
Note the following:
1) A grant will be awarded to 3 different national NGOs to operate one at each site, to enhance the
capacity of the SGP-funded grantees. These are marked as follows: **
2) Funds are availed for each site to facilitate the implementation of a strategic project by a national
NGO. This is a project that will enhance partnerships between key stakeholders (county government,
local communities, and private sector) and will operate at the land/sea-scape level to address a key
challenge. These are marked as follows: ***

Shimoni-Vanga seascape
Seascape Outcomes
Type of projects
 Protection and conservation of critical habitats and biodiversity
1. Integrity of habitats and biodiversity
 Improve management of co-management areas within the seascape is enhanced
 Support to relevant county policy development processes through
community consultation and awareness creation
2. Livelihoods of communities living around the seascape are strengthened and diversified
 Improve and diversify incomes of communities
 Enhance community access to climate change economic
 Promote CSO-private sector ventures for eco-enterprises

Strategic projects are projects that will be implemented by national NGOs as follows: (i) at one of the 3
production landscapes or seascape, in accordance to the description given in tables below under the sub-title
“Typology of projects” and marked as follows; (ii) projects in the climate change mitigation portfolio that
clearly demonstrate innovative partnerships and high levels of CO2 tons of emission avoided.
 Support information centers that incorporate local and conventional knowledge
– Knowledge management among different players is enhanced and shared
 Capture, document and integrate indigenous knowledge in management of seascape resources
– The capacity of local institutions enhanced
 Training of local CSOs on organizational development, governance, financial management, participatory monitoring, proposal development, use of social media for development and resource mobilization.
 A specific value chain enhanced in which communities are supported to maximize their role and partnerships along the chain strengthened.

-Social and economic benefits optimized from sustainable use of coastal and marine resources

Lake Bogoria Production landscape
Landscape Outcomes
Type of projects
1. Ecosystem and Biodiversity conservation enhanced
 Promote community-based initiatives that improve biodiversity
 Conservation of endangered/threatened species, including those
targeted for charcoal burning
 Support to relevant county policy development processes through
community consultation and creation awareness

2. Improved sustainable land management practices
 Adoption of agro-ecological principles and practices by local farmers
 Promote improved grazing practices
 Enhance resilience through diversified food production systems
 Rehabilitation of degraded areas
 Control and management of invasive floral species
 Support to Charcoal Producers Associations (CPAs)

3. Eco-friendly enterprises strengthened
 Support to community-driven eco-enterprises through the value chain
 Promote joint partnerships with private sector
 Facilitate development of new products
 Support commercialization and value-addition

4. Conservation of water resources is enhanced
 Support conservation and protection of water catchment areas for
fresh water (River Weseges; Majimoto; Emsos)
 Initiatives to improve water quality and quantity
 Support to WRUAs to effectively deliver on their mandate
 Support efficiency and sustainability in irrigation scheme

 Training of local CSOs on organizational development, governance,
financial management, participatory monitoring, proposal
4. development, use of social media for development and resource mobilization.

5. The capacity of local institutions enhanced6. Social and economic benefits optimized from sustainable use of natural resources in the landscape
 Specific value chains based on natural resources in the landscape e.g prosopis, aloe among others developed
 Communities role and partnerships along the chain strengthened
 Best practices in value chain development of natural resource-based products documented and shared with County government for further support and upscaling
 Policy briefs on government action to support sustainable use of natural resources to economically benefit communities

Production landscape of Sacred Mijikenda Kayas in Kilifi County
Landscape Outcomes
Type of projects
1. Conservation of Kaya Forests, Ecosystem and biodiversity enhanced
 Support restoration of traditional cultural conservation practices and systems
 Support forest restoration through natural regeneration, enrichment planting and other methods
 reduce dependency on Kaya forest resources such as development of alternatives for energy, domestication of medicinal plants, etc

2. Sustainable land management practices adopted.

 Support Farmers to adopt agro-ecological principles and practices
 Support to communities for diversified food production systems (including traditional crops) to enhance resilience
 Documentation of traditional knowledge and practices associated with land management and Natural Resources management.
 Promote climate-smart agricultural practices including improvement of water management, harvesting and storage.
 Build capacity of community groups/institutions on mining legislations, negotiations for benefit sharing and rehabilitation of mined sites

3. The livelihoods options for Mijikenda kaya forest landscape community significantly enhanced/diversified
 Promote partnership with the private sector to enhance financial investments to drive innovation.
 Explore product development and marketing of Non-Wood Forest Products,
 Support women and youth groups on agro-enterprises development
 Training on enterprise development, management and marketing covering production/processing techniques and principles and marketing strategies

4. The capacity of local institutions enhanced

 Training of local CSOs on organizational development, governance,
financial management, participatory monitoring, proposal development, use of social media for development and resource mobilization.
5. The resilience of community enhanced

 A climate-smart agriculture project that will focus on: against adverse impacts of climate change and land
Introducing and re-introducing orphaned drought-resistant crops, on-farm rainwater harvesting technologies and Integrated Agroforestry practices including (Fruit trees and fast-growing tree species)

Climate Change Mitigation Portfolio Portfolio Outcomes
Type of projects Strengthened partnerships with private sector for increased uptake of renewable energy (RE) or energy efficiency (EE) technologies
 Provide sustainable, affordable alternatives to charcoal and kerosene for cooking for low income urban households e.g. bio-ethanol, carbonized briquettes, pellets, biogas
 Support the establishment of mini/micro-grids and/or policy initiatives that create a more suitable environment for private sector participation in mini/micro-grids. Applicants should demonstrate that community and key stakeholder engagement (e.g. county/local government and Energy Regulatory Commission as applicable) and detailed site assessments have already been undertaken
 Support the distribution and sale of low cost off-grid lighting products (single light or single light with phone charging) in new and challenging markets e.g. remote, un-served households in arid and semi-arid areas

Adoption of renewable energy technologies (RETs) for productive use and increased income generation

 Support the use of solar PV (or other RE based solutions) for on-grid and off-grid water pumping applications for water service provision and agriculture (i.e. irrigation or livestock watering)
 Support the engagement of vulnerable groups; such as persons with disabilities, youth and children-headed households with opportunities to engage in renewable-energy enterprises
 Promote use of RETs for community eco-friendly enterprises, such as eco-tourism, bee-keeping, etc as well as for value addition.

The purpose of the private sector–CSO partnership is to take advantage of the combined but differentiated
strengths and capabilities of both, to expand the number of households that will benefit from low carbon
emission systems. Although the proposal will be submitted by the CSO, it will be jointly developed, and will
highlight the market barriers that the partnership will address. A well thought-out, written and signed
agreement between the CSO and the private sector should accompany the proposal. The proposal should
indicate the number of households targeted and provide an estimate of the metric tons of CO2e that will be
Among the key elements to address related to market barriers are:
Awareness and acceptability – providing information to customers that facilitate making
informed purchases e.g. information on economics (e.g. cost saving potential), health
(e.g. reducing indoor air pollution), safety (e.g. reducing risk of fire or burns), quality of
service (e.g. brighter light output, reduced time for preparation of meals) and other
additional non-financial benefits

Access – developing sales and distribution networks and/or expanding into new unserved
or underserved areas
 Affordability – developing and implementing innovative consumer financing models that
target low income households or developing and implementing smart subsidies (proof
must be provided that these subsidies would not result in market distortion and the
market growth can continue after removal of the subsidy)
o After-sale service – provide training to persons who may carry out various levels of
after-sale service, from simple to complicated tasks.

Points to NOTE:

1.  Proposals that request for funding to engage in income generating activities and entrepreneurship,
should take into consideration the value chain approach and demonstrate linkages with relevant
2.  Every proposal that has a business component (e.g. eco-enterprises and income generating projects)
is expected to develop a simple business plan and submit it together with the proposal.
3. Any organization that has been in operation for less than 2 years is not eligible for funding.
4. Proposals that demonstrate linkages and collaboration to address the same or related issue within
the same landscape (Bogoria or kaya) or seascape (shimoni-vanga) will be at an advantage.
5. Organizations are strongly encouraged to liaise with the SGP competitively-selected strategic
partners, during proposal development, and during implementation. The strategic partner for lake
Bogoria is the Kenya Organic Agricultural Network (KOAN), the partner for kaya forests is the WWF
Kenya and for Shimoni Vanga it is COMRED.

The role of the strategic partners is to coordinate activities at each land/sea-scape to reduce duplication, to
enhance synergy and to support collaboration among key stakeholders. The email address for KOAN is; the email address for COMRED is and the email address for WWF Kenya

Grant awards

GEF SGP will award grants on a competitive basis only to local civil society organizations (CSOs), registered and in operation for more than 2 years. The grant award levels  are 3; they range from a maximum of USD 30,000 to a maximum USD 100,000.

Submission of proposals

All proposals must be developed  using  the GEF  SGP  proposal  guidelines  template,  available at and should reach the following email  address with a copy

to no later than March 10th  2019. Only 1 application per organization will be accepted. For enquiries and clarifications, send an email to

Additional information

Kindly visit the Kenya page under the SGP global website found at, and check the full contents of the Call for Proposals (CfP) under the Documents folder.



Every year, from the 1st of January to the 31st of March AFEW  Giraffe Center normally has an environmental competition. This year is no exception, are you a student with a passion for environmental conservation? or better yet have a sibling or know of or a young individual whose talented in drawing? or a school teacher? Well, the annual national environmental competition 2019 is calling for participants, and if you know of anyone in the cader or if you are eligible then don’t hesitate here is your opportunity to portray your talent and get awarded for it.

  This is an environmental competition hosted by AFEW Giraffe Centre. Its aim is to encourage Kenyan students to get involved in environmental conservation through Art and essay writing. The winners of the competition are awarded gifts and the best of the best get to go on a one-week safari around different conservancies and national parks around Kenya, free of charge.

The poster above elaborates more about all you need to know about the competition, there’s something for everyone. Get started, circulate the poster to the schools around you or better yet share it with the students and teachers you know and for the tertiary level students, here is your opportunity to make your best of your writing skills “personally this is where my writing skills came to play” so make the best out of your talents, bring in your creativity and zeal for conservation.

The top prize of a one week adventure on a fully sponsored safari for the trophy winners to some of the best touristic destinations in Kenya should not just pass you, dare to take part.



World-leading UK Ivory Bill becomes law- hope for the Survival of African Elephants

The Ivory Bill has gained Royal Assent to become law. The Act is expected to come into force in late 2019. The end of the ivory trade in the UK removes any hiding place for the trade in illegal ivory and sends a powerful message to the world that ivory will no longer be valued as a commodity. Ivory belongs on an elephant and when the buying stops the killing will stop.

One of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales has become law in the UK today as the Ivory Bill gained Royal Assent to become the Ivory Act 2018.

Since the Bill was introduced on 23 May 2018 it has rapidly cleared Parliamentary processes, with support from across the House. It is expected to come into force in late 2019.

The number of elephants has declined by almost a third in the last decade and around 20,000 a year are still being slaughtered due to the global demand for ivory.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said:

It is an extraordinary achievement to have passed this Act of Parliament. The Ivory Act is a landmark in our fight to protect wildlife and the environment. The speed of its passage through Parliament shows the strength of feeling on all sides of the House on this critical issue.

The UK has shown global leadership and delivered on a key commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan. We are determined to end this insidious trade and make sure ivory is never seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol.

Once commenced, the Act will:

  • Introduce a total ban on dealing in items containing elephant ivory, regardless of their age, within the UK, as well as export from or import to the UK.
  • Create narrow and carefully defined set of exemptions.
  • Establish a new compliance system to allow owners to continue to trade in exempt items
  • Introduce tough new penalties for those found guilty of breaching the ban, including fines and possible imprisonment.

During October 2018, the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove launched a coalition of political leaders, conservationists and celebrities dedicated to defeating the illegal trade in ivory and establishing ivory sales bans in other countries around the globe. It is called the Ivory Alliance 2024.

Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand said:

I am delighted to see the UK’s domestic ivory ban is now law and to be part of the Secretary of State’s Ivory Alliance 2024, which will tackle the demand side of the severe poaching crisis we have seen in the past decade. This crucial agenda has my strong support, and I look forward to playing my part by engaging government leaders on strong legislation and enforcement.

This show of leadership from the UK comes at a crucial time for wildlife conservation internationally — and will go a long way towards influencing countries, including New Zealand and Australia, on movement towards their own bans.

Support from Non-Governmental Organisations working in international conservation:

Will Travers OBE and Virginia McKenna OBE, Co-Founders the Born Free Foundation, said:

Protecting wild elephants from the ravages of the bloody ivory trade requires anti-poaching; intelligence gathering; trafficking interception; deterrent sentencing; public education in market countries; and ending the trade in ivory – all ivory. The measures taken by the Westminster government to bring near-complete closure to the UK’s domestic ivory market – one of the largest in the world – are fully endorsed by the Born Free Foundation and have overwhelming support in the country. They are not only practical, workable and effective, but send a powerful signal that we no longer value the teeth of dead elephants, but champion the compassionate conservation of wild, free-living elephants and the habitats they rely on.

Professor Lee White CBE, director of the Gabonese National Parks Agency said:

This is an important step towards taking action to protect our precious elephants in Africa. At the Giants Club summit in April, Gabon along with many of our African partners called on Europe to implement a ban on commercial ivory sales. I am delighted to see the UK has listened to us in Africa and has continued to be a key partner, with Gabon, in this fight against the Illegal Wildlife Trade.

Old or new ivory and its continued sale around the globe helps to fuel the illegal killing of Forest Elephants in Gabon, as it creates a demand for this commodity. We must stop it by encouraging more domestic sales bans, like the UK has introduced.

I want to congratulate the UK for showing leadership on this important issue.

Charlie Mayhew, Founder and CEO of Tusk Trust said:

The significance of Royal Assent for the Ivory Bill should not be underestimated as we continue our fight to save one of the planet’s most iconic species. Tusk has worked closely with DEFRA and Government Ministers over the last three years to introduce this legislation, for which there has always been overwhelming public support. Whilst recognising the need to include pragmatic exemptions to protect items of important historic, artistic and cultural value, this Bill sends a clear message that there is no place for the use of ivory in the 21st century.

The UK Government has once again taken a lead on tackling the trade and reducing the poaching that has decimated elephant populations over the last three decades. We sincerely hope that this move will now persuade the EU and other countries to follow suit and bolster vital efforts to halt all illegal wildlife trade.

Paul De Ornellas, Chief Wildlife Advisor at WWF said:

Stopping the brutal trade in ivory is crucial to end trafficking and ensure a future for elephants. The UK government has listened and is showing decisive leadership. Now, we need China, the major destination for illegal ivory in recent years, to resolutely enforce its trade ban. It’s also equally important, for other countries on the Chinese border, to commit to closing their ivory markets.

John Stephenson, Stop Ivory CEO said:

We welcome the new Ivory Act. It represents an important milestone in the eradication of the ivory trade, a trade responsible for the poaching that threatens the very survival of elephants as a species.

The new law is exactly what African governments on the front line of the poaching crisis have been calling for.

The 19 African countries that form the Elephant Protection Initiative see this law as a breakthrough in their struggle to save their elephants.

We urge those remaining governments which continue to allow the ivory trade, including the EU, to follow the UK’s leadership and hasten the day when ivory is no longer valued as a commodity. When the buying stops, the killing will stop.

Head of Policy and Campaigns at IFAW, David Cowdrey, said:

The UK ivory ban is a momentous victory for elephant conservation. With populations being decimated by the poaching crisis at the rate of one elephant slaughtered every 26 minutes, it is vital that we close down ivory markets. The British public are strongly rejecting ivory ownership in favour of elephant protection and we are delighted that the UK Government has succeeded in putting in place one of the toughest ivory bans in the world. We hope that others will follow their lead so that in future, ivory is only valued on a live elephant.

Matt Walpole, Director of Conservation Programmes at Fauna & Flora International said:

This ban sets a global standard and, by removing opportunities for trade in ivory, sends a clear message that elephants are more valuable alive. Poaching for trade in ivory is arguably the greatest threat to elephants today. Other countries with legal ivory markets must now follow suit so that elephants will be one step closer to a brighter future.


Ivory Act 2018

Create narrow and carefully defined exemptions to the ban for:

  • Items with only a small amount of ivory. Such items must be comprised of less than 10% ivory by volume and have been made prior to 1947
  • Musical instruments. These must have an ivory content of less than 20% and have been made prior to 1975
  • Portrait miniatures. A specific exemption for portrait miniatures – which were often painted on thin slivers of ivory – made before 1918
  • Sales to and between accredited museums. This applies museums accredited by Arts Council England, the Welsh Government, The Scottish Government or the Northern Ireland Museums Council in the UK, or, for museums outside the UK, The International Council of Museums
  • The rarest and most important items of their type. Items of outstanding artistic, cultural or historic significance, and made prior to 1918. Such items will be subject to the advice of specialists at institutions such as the UK’s most prestigious museums

Ivory Alliance 2024

  • The ambition of the Ivory Alliance 2024 is to reduce the illegal killing of African elephants by at least one third by the end of 2020, and two thirds by the end of 2024, a decade on from the 2014 London Declaration committing governments around the world to fight the illegal wildlife trade.
  • Our ambitions for the Ivory Alliance are based on data from the CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme.
  • Tracking and measuring elephant poaching and populations is a complex science. We are setting up a Group of Specialists that will inform the Ivory Alliance campaign. The first task of this group will be to determine the most robust and appropriate metric to measure the success of the Ivory Alliance against its target ambition.

Elephants mourning one of their deceased


The month of December this year is packed with wonderful astronomical events to look up to.

The most notable and certainly my favourite is the Geminids meteor shower which is famous for its bright multicoloured meteors. It also produces the most meteors an hour! Last years show was absolutely fantastic. It lit up the night sky. My stargazing journal reminds me that I began watching the ‘show’ at 11.20 pm right till 3.35 am! Wow (the only time I’ll stay up for sure). The best part of all this? I observed over 60 meteors! And this year, I hope to surpass that number.

Photo was taken with Nikon P900

A weekends stargazing session at Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary offered plenty of stars and planets to see, of course, the night sky is dark with almost zero light pollution. The most prominent constellation was Scorpius the Scorpion. It is home to many deep sky objects such as the Butterfly Cluster. A cluster is a group of stars or galaxies that appear near each other.

And bright stars like Antares (Alpha Scorpii). This is a red supergiant that is about 500 light years away.

A light year is the distance light travels in one year which is roughly 9.5 trillion Km.

Scorpius covers a very rich and varied part of the night sky and when you gaze upon this constellation and its ‘neighbours’, you are looking toward the centre of our Milky Way.  The actual core lies behind dark clouds of interstellar dust. But between us and the core lie thousands of stars and nebulas that adorn the entire region.

A question raised during our interactive stargazing night was, “how can we tell the difference between a star and a planet?”

well for a start and one of the easiest ways to distinguish between stars and planets in the night sky is by looking to see if the object twinkles or shimmers.  If indeed the object twinkles then it is most likely a star. Planets remain constant in their brightness.

Here we see our Moon & Jupiter (left) with four of its Moon’s; Lo, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto

Note whether the object rises or sets. If the celestial object appears to move in a more or less straight line across the night sky (similar to the sun & moon) then it is most likely a Planet as they rise in the East and set in the West. Stars on the other end, orbit in a circular pattern around the North Star. They do not rise or set.

Compare their brightness. Planets typically appear much brighter than stars as they reflect the suns light. Stars emit their own light.

If you are still unable to tell the difference,

Identify the ecliptic. Planets are usually found along an imaginary belt across the night sky. Note the location and trajectory of the sun and moon in the sky.

A cluster of stars (Photo taken with Nikon P900)


Dec 13-14– Geminids meteor shower. This is the king of meteor showers. Producing up to 120 bright meteors an hour.

Dec 15—Mercury at Greatest western elongation. This is the best time to view mercury as it will at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky.

Dec 21—December Solstice. The south pole of the Earth will be tilted towards the sun. this is the first day of summer in the southern hemisphere and the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere.

Dec 21-22– Ursids meteor shower. This shower produces up to 10 meteors an hour.

Dec 22 — full Moon. The moon will be located on the opposite side of the earth and its face will be fully illuminated.

Annamarie Borges

Annamarie is very enthusiastic about the cosmos and all its fascinating & mysterious aspects.  She spends most of her time, including those cold but clear nights plotting constellations.


Annamarie stargazing with friends. In between is her 50mm Telescope.


Alberto Borges is a Young National Geographic Explorer, an Honorary Member of the Scientific Exploration Society—UK, and the Founder of The Explorer’s  Club of Kenya and magazine which was first published in 2014. Presently, a 3rd year at Catawba College.

 The previous days’ desert run from Marsabit to North Horr had obviously tired us out. A not-so-cosy bed and a lukewarm shower were comforting but the high temperatures gave us a restless and sleepless night.

At the crack of dawn I watched several desert birds such as the Jackson’s hornbills, crowned starlings and fan tailed ravens forage scraps of food in the sand. It seemed strange as I couldn’t figure out what they kept picking out from there. The locals were now taking their goats and camels for grazing; a typical day in North Horr was beginning.

As there is little to do for a visitor, except to visit any of the three oases and engage locals in ‘chitter-chatter’ on how and what their goats feed on for the day. We however, decided to conquer North Horr’s only highest spot, Daban-Dabli some 1000 ft a.s..l, but only a few hundred feet above the surrounding terrain, and a few miles north of the settlement. It was not an easy climb, since it was steeper than it had seemed. The summer sun scorched us mercilessly.

However, once we got to the top, we had an excellent view of the surroundings, open glades below and Mount Kulal on the southern horizon. The breeze was pleasantly cool and refreshing.

 On our return to the settlement, we saw a herd of Thompson gazelles prancing away to a safe distance. A local cautioned us against climbing down from the steeper incline as there was a high chance of encountering hyenas.

In the middle of our delicious mbuzi choma (roasted goat meat), slaughtered by the locals to welcome our arrival, the D.C received a call with sad news. Some 130 miles from here en route to the border town, Ileret, at an oasis called Darate, two lorries transporting relief food to Ileret were barred from proceeding due to ethnic differences of Gabbra (Kenyan) and Dassanach (Ethiopian) people who frequently crisscrossed the border. The situation was made worse by the killing of four Gabbra men by the Dassanach herders during this period.


The Dist. Commissioner (DC) summoned the O.C.S, the O.C.P.D, the area chief and about twenty police officers. After a long discussion, the DC concluded that they must immediately rush to the troubled area, and try to bring peace to the two communities who were then preparing for war. I thought this would be a perfect time to tour and explore one of Africa’s most remote regions and to understand the hardships of the people living there. I requested the D.C for me to tag along as an observer and to my surprise he agreed. However, he made it clear that it was highly risky as the area could turn to a battleground if things didn’t go as planned and that my life would be at jeopardy. None the less, I was excited to experience the adventure in a totally new way.

We sped off just after lunch in a convoy of two Land Cruisers in a westerly direction, churning up huge clouds of dust. The scenery quickly changed from sand dunes to pans and barren lava fields giving us an impression that we were on the surface of the moon.

For two hours the track was relatively smooth and progress was fast as we drove at nearly 100km/h in straight stretches.

 The track then climbed for several hundred feet until we reached a fertile plateau as compared to desert standards, locally known as Little Chalbi. Here I saw hundreds of camels and thousands of goats grazing in lush  meadows however there seemed tbe no people let alone huts.

Leaving drought stuck North Horr heading to Derate

The track quickly meandered out of sight; the Cruiser snarled its way over thickets and ruts. With no GPS or mobile network, our phones had long been rendered useless.

I consulted my map only to find out, Little Chalbi which lay approximately between 3 – 4 North of the Equator and 36 – 37° East of the Greenwich, wasn’t even indicated on the map I had. We were now off the beaten track when out of the blue it reappeared.

Little Chalbi

We drove through several rock strewn lagas (dry river beds) off Puckoon Ridge.  I had the impression that we were in a time capsule travelling thousands of years back in time, as I had not seen even one person for nearly a hundred kilometres. The landscape was untouched by humans; the little vegetation cover was dry or maybe dead. It was wild, slowly weathering and seemed to come to life during short violent flash floods.

Puckoon, Ridge, East of Sibiloi National Park

I noticed strange tall birds that were least bothered with neither the Cruisers’ diesel grunt nor the deep rumble or the stones being thrown by the tyres whenever we abruptly came to a laga. Their heads were always tilted at a forty five degree angle and didn’t move as we whizzed by. They seemed deeply engrossed with what they were doing. These huge birds are known as the Kori Bustards; the world’s highest flying birds.

The journey was getting more rough and torturous; dusk was beginning to engulf us and several nocturnal creatures were awakening. Night jars were flying off from the ground, bush hares scampered off the road, jackals and dik diks were often being seen near thickets, their eyes glowing in the dark. Suddenly we saw a camp fire, tens of men and hundreds of goats on the side of the road. We ground to a halt in an area called Darate. The foliage was dry, with small ridges covered with lava fields and dry bush. Further ahead, was an oasis fringed with palm and acacia trees surrounded by two hills and several lagas. There was a wind blown dilapidated police post with a communication radio as their only connection to the outside world.

The officers jumped out of the Cruiser and went to interrogate the men. The area M.P, a member from Marsabit  County Assembly and other Gabbra men had been spying on neighboring Dassanach people and plotting against them. They however told the D.C. they were mourning the death of the four Gabbra men who were killed by the Dassanach.

We drove to the police post further ahead where we saw the two lorries we heard about earlier, their drivers and turn boys and nine Dassanach people, mostly women and children had hitched a ride to Ileret. The D.C. summoned the M.P and the member of M.C.A for a discussion along with the O.C.S and the O.C.P.D. It was now dark and the meeting took place under a tree with the clear, star studded sky as the only source of lighting. Meanwhile, two goats, respectfully donated by the M.P to the D.C were being slaughtered. This would soon be our supper.

During daybreak, the following morning, I was taken aback by the immense strength of the wind as I walked around the camp. Engaging the officers in small talks revealed that I wasn’t the only one who had a rough night. Most officers slept on bare ground whilst a few others in the back of Land Cruisers trying to get cozy and warm. I managed to squeeze my self and sleep awkwardly in the cabin of a Cruiser. It had been a long, lonely and sleepless night for everyone.  

Desolate wilderness roamed by tough nomads and survived by hardy plants

As we had breakfast, which comprised of tea made with goat milk, army biscuits and a few groundnuts the D.C had carried, there was a lot of confusion on what was the days’ plan. Everyone had their own imaginary plans but it was up to the D.C to decide on what next. He consulted the O.C.S and the O.C.P.D and not long after, they arrived at a decision. We would escort the lorries to Ileret where the relief food was desperately needed. 

 The next leg of the journey began at about mid morning; progress was slow due to the lorries and yet again several lagas where one had to drive slowly and cautiously. After a mere 10Km, the convoy suddenly came to a halt. We saw an old Dassanach man who was carrying a rifle and head rest cum stool. The D.C stepped out of the Cruiser to enquire the man’s activities. He took my binoculars with him of which somehow made him more superior… well, from a local’s point of view at least. The old man told the D.C that some twenty donkeys of his strayed away at dawn, one of which was a new born foal.

In the background are the wind swept structures that the Administrative Police once lived. This is one of the most remote police posts in E. Africa

He suspected that they went to the oasis to quench their thirst, just near the police camp as he pointed at the hoof prints along the track. I clearly remember seeing donkeys around the camp earlier, however it seemed nobody else did.

We continued clipping off miles of dry, desolate uninhabited wild country as the hours past by. There were several dry bush birds I kept seeing, such as Kori bustards, red and yellow barbets, chest-bellied sand grouse, yellow necked spur fowls, vulturine guinea fowl, superb starlings, fan tailed ravens and Jackson’s hornbills. All this time, Lake Turkana was beckoning us but was unseen, our view blocked by ridge after ridge. However, the tracks had gradually changed from small lava rocks to smooth sands which hinted we were getting closer to the lakeshore and border town. Suddenly, many huts and small structures appeared and soon, children were chasing after the convoy. We had reached.

Ileret is a small outlandish cluster of Dassanach settlements. There are fisheries stores, N.G.Os and missionaries and of course the lakeshores which are home to crocodiles and hippos. The D.C assigned an officer to take me to the lakeshores in his Yamaha motorbike whilst they discussed the situation.

The lake was beginning to flood its shores and the waters were calm and had a deadly brownish hue, this was contrary to what I was expecting. Tales of early explorers that I had read, to Lake Turkana told of the waters being jade in color, just like the oceans yet rougher than the North Sea.  The brownish hue was being caused by siltation from the over flooded Omo River which was carrying sediments from the Ethiopian Highlands.


At this time of the year, the over forty varieties of fish are more in the north than in the south as the sediments bring in nutrients hence breeding occurs. The fishermen harvest high yields of fish and the lake is teaming with plenty of water birds.

After spending some time by the shores, we headed back to the town, at the police station where the rest were having yet another goat meat lunch. We then toured the new Lake Turkana Basin Institute founded by Dr. Richard Leakey to study various fossils that he and his team discovered in Koobi Fora.  Later, we began our return journey to North Horr which took us more than five long hours through the boundaries of Sibiloi National Park. We arrived in North Horr by 9.00p.m safe and sound but tired, dusty and hungry. 

Darate Oasis


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