Rhino Ark community projects aim to provide alternative, sustainable livelihood programmes which assist forest-adjacent communities. We offer extensive support in terms of training, and technical advice, and we team up with partners to meet the costs associated with programme delivery.
So far, we have community programmes running in the Aberdares, Mau Eburu, Mt. Kenya, South Western Mau, and the most recent Kakamega Ecosystems. Our number one priority is to secure long-term commitment to our projects that will provide sustainable solutions in saving our key Water Towers.
Our focus has been:
Kenbro Bird Project
Kenchic Limited and Rhino Ark partnered to support local Mau Eburu communities’ livelihoods. Under this partnership, with support from Rhino Ark, Kenchic introduced Mau Eburu farmers to the Kenbro chicken breed. The Kenbro bird is a hardy, free-range bird that is resilient to disease. It can be used for subsistence or commercial farming for meat or eggs, and provides an alternative to indigenous chicken. It is suitable for farmers who would like to manage their flocks with less intensive inputs and provide an organic product which has tastier meat.
This project supports farmer groups selected from across the Mau Eburu Forest adjacent communities. The initiative began with an initial training of 30 farmers in 2019 at Kongasis, and followed with on-farm practical training at Morop.
The farmers have enthusiastically embraced the Kenbro breed. This initiative adds to the growing number of sustainable alternative community livelihood activities that have been made possible through Rhino Ark’s partnership approach.
Fruit Farming Project
Fruit farmers in Nakuru County teamed up to start a project – the ‘Eburu Fruit Farmers’ – with the aim to conserve the Eburu Forest and boost their sources of income.
Initially, water was a challenge due to low rains brought about by the degradation of Eburu Forest. Charcoal burning, fuelwood, and logging were among the activities that were practiced in the forest.
Consistent conservation efforts over the years, including Rhino Ark’s work with the communities through capacity building, as well as establishing a beneficial connection to the Ministry of Agriculture, has enabled the farmers to harvest their fruits up to four times per month. This yield is further facilitated by the good climate and fertile volcanic soil, and has resulted in improved livelihoods and a reduced dependency on forest resources.
The abundant indigenous plant life and climate of Eburu forest provides an ideal habitat for one of nature’s hardest workers: the African honey bee. For generations, the Eburu Ogiek community have practiced traditional beekeeping in the forest, drawing sustenance from the sweet, golden honey. Previous generations of the Ogiek were forest dwellers, living the hunter/gatherer lifestyle. Now, they live adjacent to the forest but continue to depend on it and are among its foremost guardians.
In 2014 Rhino Ark, with funding support from the MPESA Foundation initiated a bio-enterprise programme in Eburu forest. The Ogiek and other community groups received training in modern beekeeping and linkage to market opportunities through this programme. This opportunity has helped the community appreciate the commercial value of beekeeping and encouraged them to increase their production capacity through more hives and better methodology.
In 2019, this capacity was further enhanced with additional support by MPESA Foundation in the form of a modern honey processing kit. The kit, which includes a honey press, was donated to the Naretui Beekeepers Self Help Group.
Maseto Kusen is the Chairman of the Naretui Beekeepers Self Help Group. Born and raised in Eburu forest, he hails from the Ogiek community and is passionate about bee keeping. He has practiced it all his life, learning from his father and grandfather, and has upheld the family tradition. As a member of the Eburu Community Forest Association, he has prepared, placed and maintained many beehives in the forest, which he checks on regularly. November to December is the peak honey season, with the abundant Dombeya torrida trees in full flower in the forest. Bees that forage on Dombeya flowers produce the finest quality honey from their nectar.
Rhino Ark is pursuing further technical training for community groups in Eburu towards further improving their honey production capabilities.
Pyrethrum Farming Project
Towards empowering forest adjacent communities to improve their on-farm productivity, Rhino Ark is facilitating training for local community groups in Eburu location. We have arranged for training on Pyrethrum Growing for the Eburu Fruit Farmers community group. The practical, on-farm training, attended by farmers from the group, is conducted by agricultural officers from sub-county level.
This livelihood empowerment initiative is a complementary strategy of Rhino Ark to reduce dependency on Eburu forest resources by the community and creating a win-win relationship between conservation and local community livelihood needs.
Sustainable Energy Project
Farmers in Eburu are forging ahead in adopting alternative domestic Energy Sources that reduce pressure on forest resources. The uptake of biogas, in particular, has been a highlight of this trend and 58 biogas units have so far been installed by farmers within the Eburu ecosystem with logistical support by Rhino Ark Kenya Charitable Trust. The success of the biogas initiative in Eburu has enabled farmers to reach out to their counterparts in Nyandarua, along the eastern Aberdare mountain region. Through this engagement, the Nyandarua farmers are being trained on biogas and appreciating its advantages over traditional fuelwood sources.
Key community members driving this cross-ecosystem exchange programme include, Lydiah Nyota, a Rhino Ark Eburu Conservation Champion. Since June 2020, this team has facilitated training of farmers and the installation of 11 Biogas Units for their counterpart farmers in the Aberdares.
Herbal Medicine Project
The indigenous Ogiek community of the South Western Mau Forest ecosystem have a long tradition of beekeeping and using herbal medicine from the forest to treat various ailments.
Rhino Ark’s Community Conservation work initiated in 2017, has resulted in constructive engagement with the Ogiek, some of whom have already benefited from our honey production training from 2018 to date. This engagement is enabling development of conservation-based livelihoods amongst the community.
Our initiative is now extending further to upskilling in value-addition processing and marketing of herbal products. This will enable the Ogiek community to build on their traditional knowledge and derive economic benefits, whilst simultaneously participating in further forest conservation.
Faith-based organisations and their role in conservation
Rhino Ark’s conservation outreach programme in South Western Mau is targeting the wider community, including faith-based organisations. Initial engagement with the local churches across the ecosystem began with a conservation workshop that brought together 18 church leaders from the Korabariet zone, providing participants with the opportunity to interact, share knowledge and keep abreast of conservation programmes.
Building on the success of the workshop, ongoing technical support is being provided to churches, some of which have now established their own tree nurseries, and are participating actively in conservation activities. Community groups and individuals within the landscape are also participating in the beekeeping programme as a sustainable livelihood programme.
The integration of local churches into Rhino Ark’s Community Conservation Programmes has seen tremendous growth in the past few months. Our outreach team has been working closely with local churches at the grassroots level; reaching over 500 community members to date. Eight churches now have fully established tree nurseries, with two others, AGC Taita and AGC Kibaraa now in the process. The churches are influencing conservation in their localities by donating tree seedlings and providing a venue for training of youth and other community members in conservation.
WWCK church in Korabariet is taking the lead in one such activity. The church is providing seedlings from its tree nursery for rehabilitation of the nearby riparian area and to local primary and secondary schools. As a result of these types of community conservation activities, the ecosystem will be transformed over time.