The East African Wild Life Society has received recent news that the Ugandan government intends to proceed with a plan to construct a hydropower dam at the Murchison Falls National Park on River Nile with alarm and consternation. We are joined by a number of conservationists inside and outside the country, in raising the alarm against this project, given the importance of the Falls to Uganda’s tourism and the potential damage to ecosystem that supports a large number of species.
According to media reports, the government has given the green light for a feasibility study to be carried out on the construction of the 360MW power project on Murchison Falls.
It is shocking that authorities in Uganda would be so insensitive as to consider the implementation of a project that would be disastrous to a crucial ecosystem and a key tourist attraction.
Murchison Falls National Park, which has a span of 3,900km2 and extends from the northern end of the western Rift Valley, is Uganda’s oldest and largest conservation area. It was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1926.
The waterfall itself cuts across the park and is considered the crown jewel of the park. It is here where the Victoria Nile plunges some 45 metres over the remnant Rift Valley wall with an 80-kilometre stretch of rapids.
The park is home to important African wildlife species, including an estimated 76 species of mammals, such as buffalo, giraffe, crocodiles, a rising elephant population and 451 varieties of birds.
This biological diversity as well as the park’s unique landscape on the Nile attracts over 100,000 visitors and generates over 15 billion Uganda shillings (US$4.1 million) annually, according to figures from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Private investors have not only established accommodation facilities for visitors to the park but also pay the relevant taxes and provide jobs to Ugandans.
Damming the river at Murchison Falls will have far-reaching adverse consequences for both the fauna and flora species in the conservation area and greatly undermine the park’s contribution to the Ugandan economy through tourism.
Even before the hydropower project was conceived, the Murchison Falls ecosystem faced challenges. Over the past decade, oil and gas installations have been established. Such energy initiatives also mean the construction of roads through previously undisturbed wildlife habitats.
In their petition to President Yoweri Museveni and the government, Ugandan conservationists have pointed out that Murchison Falls is a designated Ramsar site, meaning that the waterfall is recognised as being of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Uganda is a signatory to the convention and the country’s authorities are therefore obligated to protect and conserve Murchison Falls.
The electricity production project in Murchison Falls once again brings to the fore the question of whether infrastructure projects in developing countries should be implemented even at the expense of irreplaceable natural heritage.
The stance of the East African Wild Life Society is that the protection of a country’s natural heritage takes precedence over development needs.
Conservationists in Uganda are genuinely outraged by the government’s apparently cavalier attitude towards the integrity of one of the country’s most iconic landmarks. The East African Wild Life Society stands with them in opposition to this ill-advised project.
Hydro-power dam projects are some of the main causes of the decline in river water levels. Such reductions can have devastating environmental consequences, including damaging wetlands. They can also engender changes in river ecosystems that have adverse effects on people and the environment.
A dam at Murchison Falls is surely going to change the landscape in a most dramatic way and have far-reaching negative impacts on the ecosystem as we know it. This project must not proceed. The Uganda government must seek alternatives to enhance the country’s power production capacity. Alternatives include other clean energy projects such as solar and bio-energy.
Murchison Falls is a natural resource that is already paying dividends to the people of Uganda mainly through the tourism industry that it supports. It must not be destroyed in the name of development.
Voicing their opposition to the Murchison Falls hydropower project in a letter to the government on 20th June this year, the Honorary Wildlife Officers’ Association of Uganda stated that “Murchison Falls is the most spectacular falls on River Nile and are the biggest tourist attraction in the park. They provide tourists with an amazingly unrivalled experience. They are therefore a must-see iconic feature […] The falls also create a spectacular view that leaves tourists yearning for more and have enhanced the attractiveness of Murchison Falls.”
The government of Uganda must heed the call of its citizens and cancel plans to implement the project.
Presenting the 6th Edition of the Forest Challenge
The East African Wild Life Society Leads the Way in Sounding the Alarm for
Kenya’s Forests and the Dangers of Deforestation
NAIROBI, KENYA – For the 6th year in a row, The East African Wild Life Society – in partnership with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) – is hosting The Forest Challenge, an annual event meant to raise awareness amongst Kenyans on the importance of forests and the threats of deforestation.
Kenya’s forests are on a rapid decline with deforestation taking place at a rate of 0.3% each year due to pressure from increased population, wood fuels, building material and other land uses. The Forest Challenge, the premier annual forest conservation event in East Africa, seeks to reverse this trend by increasing awareness on forest conservation while helping to protect and manage the degraded forests of Kenya’s water towers.
The Forest Challenge is a fun, competitive and challenging obstacle course through Kereita Forest (part of the Southern Aberdares Water Towers block) which aims to sensitise Kenyans on the need for forest conservation while helping to protect and rehabilitate over 600 Ha of degraded montane forests in Kenya’s water towers.
This year, the Forest Challenge has partnered with several companies including UAP, Madison Insurance, Micro Enterprise Support Trust, Safaricom PLC, PKF, Total Kenya, Royal Media Services, Sunworld Safaris, RSA Kenya as well as the Kiambu County Government in order to achieve this noble ambition.
In attendance this year will be Chief Conservator of Forests, Mr. Julius Kamau, CEC Environment Kiambu County, Hon. David Kuria and over 500 participants from different corporate and environmental organizations.
Members of the Media who wish to attend this event should contact firstname.lastname@example.org, | +254 (0) 701 980575
It’s that time again when we tag our friends/colleagues along to interact with nature, brave the elements, test our fitness, and compete for the title of ‘Forest Champion’, all for the noble cause of raising funds for the rehabilitation and restoration of key water catchment forests in Kenya.
Here are a few hacks to make sure you’re maximizing fun and minimizing impact during your #Forest Challenge Experience:
WHAT SHOULD I BRING?
- Your e-ticket.
- Running shoes that you don’t mind trashing.
- Change of clothes, sandals and a towel are highly recommended.
- Cash for parking and additional money for beverages and food.
- Sealable plastic bag if you want to keep keys, phone and money on you while you race.
- Blanket to spread out for friends and family (spectators) who you’ve brought along to cheer you on!
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?
EVERYTHING will get muddy, so make sure you don’t wear your favorite running attire.
We suggest wearing:
- Light, quick drying running shorts and running shirt
- Older pair of running shoes. They’ll be all muddy at the finish, and you can donate them if you wish
- Socks you don’t mind throwing away (or being brown from now on)!
Sunglasses are nice, but make sure to hold on tight when in the mud and water.
Cameras are a blast, but make sure they’re waterproof!
Have a crazy costume? That’s fine, as long as your clothing does not put anyone (including yourself) in danger.
WHAT IS THE MINIMUM AGE?
Forest Challenge participants must at least be 14 years old to race. Any participants younger than 18 need to bring a parent or legal guardian on race day to sign a waiver.
There are a number of activities for spectators including with more accommodating age limits:
- Zumba dancing
- Treasure Hunt
- Ball games
You will need an ID no matter your age to register at the information stand.
WILL I HAVE TO SWIM?
No. Any water that you may need to cross will be no more than 3’-4’ deep.
WILL THERE BE WATER AND AID STATIONS?
Yes, the course will have aid stations along the course with water only. Snacks will be available at the finish line.
WHAT HAPPENS IF IT RAINS?
Really? You’re worried about getting wet? The Forest challenge will continue if it’s raining, snowing, or whatever! We do everything we can to put on the challenge in nasty weather but if participant safety or the venue is threatened by the weather, we may have to cancel. Sorry, there are no refunds due to weather.
WHAT IF I GET HURT ON THE COURSE?
Because we know how awesome our participants are, we do have volunteers roaming the course at all times in addition to the medical tent at the finish line.
If you do get hurt, and are around an obstacle, there will be a volunteer or a medic there that has direct communication with the event directors and we can send one of our medical teams to your location. If you are not around an obstacle, please tell a fellow participant to let the next obstacle volunteer or medical teams know and we’ll get help to you ASAP.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO FINISH?
It depends how hard core you are! The obstacle course is 8k but is WAY more fun and will take longer than your normal race. Just add 20-30 minutes onto your normal 5k race time.
The ticket price includes:
- Transport to and from Kereita Forest
- A healthy, filling snack
- Participation in the obstacle course
- Sponsors 10 trees towards rehabilitation of the forest
HOW DO I REGISTER/BUY A TICKET?
- Click here to view categories and pricing.
- Choose how many registrations you would like to purchase.
- Purchase your ticket via Mpesa or Visa Card.
HOW DO I JOIN OR CREATE A TEAM AFTER PAYING?
If purchasing less than 5 tickets (a team), no worries! A team will be created for you on the event day at Kereita, upon registration at the information stand.
Will you be our next Forest Champion?Register today!
The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) through its flagship event “The Forest Challenge’’ has participated in efforts to rehabilitate some of Kenya’s most degraded water towers over the past six years.
One of the water towers that are in great need of restoration is the Maasai Mau Forest, a key catchment for the Mara and Ewaso Ngiro rivers. The forest has been badly degraded, mainly through human activity, over the years. The Mara River basin stretches through the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and Tanzania’s Serengeti plains, before it drains into Lake Victoria.
The Forest Challenge gives participants a unique opportunity to interact with nature by taking part in competitive yet fun activities in the Kereita-Aberdare Forest. The aim is to raise funds for the reforestation project.
Through its ‘Call to Action’, EAWLS has been able to rally support and participation from the government, the private sector and individuals to contribute towards forest restoration activities to achieve the national target of at least 10 per cent forest cover in Kenya.
Corporate support and participation in environmental conservation efforts have gone a long way in addressing some of the ecological challenges we face as a nation.
Proceeds from the Forest Challenge have so far been used to grow 6,000 trees in more than 15 acres degraded forestland. This year, EAWLS through the Forest Challenge aims to raise funds to rehabilitate at least 600ha of forest degraded lands in Kenya’s water towers.
With just two months left until this year’s Forest Challenge at Kereita on November 30, several corporates, including Safaricom, have already come on board to support the event through various participation categories that include sponsorship, participation and in-kind support.
The East African Wild Life Society is looking for more partners in the Forest Challenge 2019. The Society invites all concordant partners to take part in the Forest Challenge and make a difference one tree, one acre, one forest at a time.
The Forest Challenge Proposal can be found here.
Safarilink, now a Corporate Silver member of EAWLS, is Kenya’s premier safari airline, distinguished for its commitment to the environment as the first carbon-neutral local airline.
EAWLS has revised its membership categories due to market demand for sponsorship rates. We wish to re-affirm our commitment to work tirelessly towards ensuring that we meet and exceed our strategic goals. By supporting EAWLS you are contributing to a cause that will have immense impact on the people, full diversity, beauty and richness of nature in the East African region.
The East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS) had the honour of hosting Dr. Matt Walpole− Senior Director of Conservation Programmes for Flora and Fauna International (FFI) on the 30th and 31st July 2019 at the EAWLS offices in Nairobi. The purpose of this workshop was to hold consultations with the EAWLS staff and Board of Directors regarding the development of the Society’s new strategic plan which will come into effect in 2020. The activities of this session entailed a critical examination of the internal and external activities of the Society to forge a clear path for its future.
The consultation session between Matt and the EAWLS staff on the 30th July was initiated with an overview of the work of FFI whose mission is largely focused on strengthening organisations to allow them to effectively fulfil their roles in conservation. The participants were challenged to share their outlook on the current position of the organisation including its strengths and areas for improvement. The final consultation session on the 31st July was focused on reflecting on the participants’ views on the long term vision of success for the Society.
EAWLS looks forward to further collaboration with FFI as we work to strengthen our organisational capacity to fulfil our mission of promoting the conservation and wise use of the environment and natural resources in East Africa.
It has been noted that the elephants of Mt. Elgon are the only elephants in the world known to go deep into caves to mine salt for their own consumption. This unique elephant culture, along with severe threats to the survival of elephants on Mt. Elgon and the fragile ecological status of the mountain call for urgent action to protect the pachyderms in that environment.
Their security profile and exposure to poaching has been largely unassessed. EAWLS’ Mount Elgon Elephant Project (MEEP) has kicked off with the training of community scouts on Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) and Cyber Trackers as monitoring tools to help collect data using smart phones on the Mount Elgon Cave elephants. Trainees were drawn from the Kenya Wildlife Service and the local community.
The African continent is endowed with rich biodiversity and natural resources from which its people derive their livelihoods. Increasingly, the continent’s rapid population growth and need for infrastructure and economic expansion pose threats to its ecological integrity.
The perception that conservation is about the preservation of nature at the expense of the well-being of the people has influenced and shaped conversations about development and the continent’s natural resources.
The good news is that the challenge of linking economic growth to environmental protection and sustainable resource consumption is possible; they need not be mutually exclusive. There are numerous opportunities to safeguard Africa’s natural resources and ensure its economic development.
A group of African leaders in conservation met in December 2017 and decided to form a platform where proponents of conservation in Africa could come together and engage in shaping the discourse around conservation in Africa. Consequentially, the African Conservation Platform was established to promote African leadership and voices to influence policymakers in the African Union and the African Development Bank on sustainable and inclusive future for Africa. The Platform acts as a catalyst in changing the conservation narrative in Africa; making conservation relevant to the African people.
World Ranger Day (WDA) is marked on July 31 every year to pay tribute to rangers who have been injured or killed in the course of their duty and to celebrate their colleagues who are still boldly performing their roles in protecting the world’s natural and cultural treasures — wild animals and their habitats. Rangers do not only ensure safety for wildlife but also that of people visiting our parks, reserves, sanctuaries, and conservancies.
EAWLS in partnership with Embassy of Finland to Kenya, Embassy of China to Kenya, Mara Conservation Fund and Intrepid Foundation has been supporting rangers in an array of ways through its conservancy support programme since 2014. The programme focuses on building the capacities of conservancy rangers through trainings and provision of equipment.
A total of 30 rangers have been trained on different aspects, including ecological monitoring, field safety, planning effective patrols, incident reporting and response, and professional ethics.
The most recent beneficiaries are rangers from Ol Kinyei, Mt. Suswa and Enonkishu Conservancies. The trainings have enhanced good working relationships among rangers, boosted their morale, enhanced quality data gathering as well as accurate and effective reporting of incidents.
The programme also supports rangers through the provision of anti-poaching equipment such as binoculars, motorbikes, portable tents, camel backpacks, sleeping bags, boots, uniforms and unit huts for radio room. These have not only boosted the morale of the rangers but also enhanced their effectiveness and efficiency resulting in reduced poaching of wildlife. In total, the programme has supported rangers from up to 20 conservancies in Maasai Mara, Amboseli, and Taita Taveta and the coastal and northern regions.
Rangers are on the frontline in defending not only our wildlife but also people and their livelihood.
EAWLS would like to encourage our partners, members and the public to support our rangers programme through funding or donation of equipment. The Society also appeals to you to plant least one tree to commemorate our rangers who died while defending our heritage.
Since its inception in 1995, the Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG), an EAWLS-led forum, has been carrying out advocacy work and has driven policy reforms in the country’s forestry sector. The network has been key in the development of forestry laws, regulations and sound governance. KFWG also runs a monthly forum every last Friday of the month that brings together stakeholders from various parts of Kenya in the forest sector to deliberate on emerging issues that require urgent action.
The KFWG secretariat at EAWLS collaborates with government agencies and local communities and has played crucial roles in promoting the integration of local communities in forest conservation and worked to improve the capacity of communities for effective participation.
Since the beginning of 2019, KFWG’s Management Committee and the secretariat have been looking into ways of making the network more vibrant and efficient in executing its advocacy mandate and playing its watchdog role to ensure sound management and conservation of forest resources in the country.
Following a meeting held on the 18th June, 2019, a resolution on the way forward was passed. It underlines the need for the network to review its strategies further to ensure continued impact through engagement in the sector with other partners. The secretariat organised a stakeholders meeting on 2nd August, 2019. The forum deliberated on a plan to revise the KFWG strategy later in August.