The 2007 Samburu teams
In the summer of 2007, fourteen individuals from across Africa travelled to the Samburu region of Kenya, to take part in an Earthwatch Capacity Development Programme. The participants were divided across two separate teams, one which went in March and the other in May, and came from 8 different countries.
The teams joined Earthwatch scientists Dr Nicholas Oguge, Dr Donald Ogweno, Dr Paul Muoria and their field staff and divided their time on the programme between 2 distinct research projects. The first was Wildlife Habitats, which aims to identify critical habitat sites for key wildlife species and assess the role of Protected Areas, in maintaining the integrity of the overall habitat.
The second, Grevy's Zebras on Community Lands aims to monitor declining numbers of this CITES listed species, only found in Kenya (less than 2,000) and Ethiopia (about 110) down from a total of about 15,000 in the 1970's. A better understanding of their ecology, through data collected by the Fellows will help to enable scientists to stem the decline and conserve this important species.
An integral part to successful conservation initiatives is the inclusion of local community groups into all aspects of the research - and this is strongly part of the Earthwatch initiative in the Samburu. One participant Andrew Hawela Kataya, a Parks and Wildlife Assistant with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, in Malawi says:
"I gained a lot from the Earthwatch project in Kenya. Working with scientists from different African countries with vast experiences in the field was priceless. I also enjoyed working with the Samburu people; I actually experienced community based conservation at its best. It was interesting to see how the Samburus live with wild animals in harmony. I really leant a lot from their approach"
A common theme from post-project evaluations supplied by the Fellows was that the opportunity to work with scientists, field staff and students from other countries and the collaboration with the Samburu Community, were hugely beneficial experiences and offered opportunities to explore possible future international collaborations between their respective organisations.
It was not all work however and opportunities to relax and improve team dynamics and relationships with the local community arose through an impromptu, but earnestly played, game of football, between Fellows and Field Staff, (apparently named Lorepiri FC. after the locally abundant prickly grass surface played upon), versus the Wamba (High School for) Boys FC, who won the game 3-0.
One participant on the project, Moses S Kaoma, a Wildlife Police officer with the Zambia Wildlife Authority states:
"Generally all the experiences in Kenya were very interesting, however I would say that working with all the Earthwatch Team (Volunteers) and the local communities was the best! The group comprised of different Cultures and different work experiences and that gave us the opportunity to learn from each other. I thank Earthwatch for the support and the opportunity given to me and the other Volunteers, because such research programmes will eventually sustain not only the environment but also the livelihood of people in and outside the protected areas in Africa".