Lakes of the Rift Valley
Since November 2006, four separate teams have visited the Earthwatch project Lakes of the Rift Valley to join principal investigator David Harper and his team, as part of the Capacity Development Programme. The four teams comprised 44 individuals from either Tanzania or Kenya, with the latter three teams being sponsored by the Darwin Initiative.
The teams visited various different lakes along the length of the Kenyan and Tanzanian Rift Valley to understand their ecology and that of the lakes flagship species, the Lesser Flamingo.
Late November 2006 saw 4 Kenyans and 4 Tanzanians descend on Lake Bogoria and was followed by a Darwin workshop in Nairobi about the Lesser Flamingo and Soda Lakes.
There were numerous learning benefits that arose from the Team. Asked what the main learning elements for him were, participant Elias Mungaya highlighted the following:
"Field work: Assessment of the health status of flamingos and necropsy of flamingo carcasses; water quality analysis; collection of microscopic algae in water samples and counting their abundance; collection of different development stages of butterflies and moths along the lake shore and rivers discharging water into Lake Bogoria. Workshop Presentations on findings of different studies undertaken on Soda Lakes of Kenya."
As well as learning new skills and techniques from the project scientists and staff there was also an element of personal development with regards to how the participants approached their work upon returning from the project:
"The project was a career booster and the scientists are whole heartedly devoted to conservation and the sustainability of the environment; a role model Africans need in environmental management." Emmanuel Wachira
Alongside the fieldwork conducted at Lake Bogoria this project was trialling a bolt-on workshop in Nairobi at the end of the team. The workshop invited the participants of the project as well as other interested parties with experience in soda lake ecology.
Of the workshop participant Kilewo Morris suggested the following conclusions:
"The proposed extension of the project to Tanzania is a positive decision at the right time. It will enable scientists and conservationists to explore more on the ecology of the soda lakes of East Africa. It will probably help to understand the cause of recent mortalities of flamingos in relationship to environmental changes. The recommendations which were raised during the workshop on Flamingos and Soda Lakes at the Kenya Museums on 29th and 30th November should be considered during the implementation of the project. There is a need to organise more training for personnel working in soda lakes. "
The knowledge gained on the project has wide ranging implications for other lakes and organisations in the area. Many of the participants work for agencies that are involved with soda lakes, but which lacked the knowledge to accurately record the health of this unique ecosystem. Thade Clamsen suggests:
"The benefit of my participation to my Institute is that I can do any relevant research work related to ecology of soda lakes. Since my institute is mandated to conduct, coordinate and disseminate research findings to stakeholders and end users it is a right time to do to research and coordination of Flamingo research in soda lakes and monitoring of ecological requirements of Flamingos. Nevertheless I increased the capacity of my Institute in that specific field. I will share my knowledge through meetings, seminars and workshops with my fellow conservationist and non conservationist."
But in the end the project was about more than just work. It provides a networking opportunity for people in similar situations but different organisations to bounce ideas of one another. It can also be a great deal of fun:
"I cannot forget the team spirit and the supportiveness of everyone about another that made us friends for a life time. I now have close friends from all over the world. The conservation part was a great boost to my Environmental Sustainability career." Emmanuel Wachira