Alternative livelihoods for Ex Poachers, Kenya

Jul 8, 2014

Satao the Elephant

Dear Supporter,

This month Tsavo has had some extremely sad news. Thought to have been the largest and most loved elephant in Kenya, Satao was killed.

Satao had a special type of genetic makeup that produced unusually large tusks - 6.5 feet long. Unfortunately this made Satao worth a lot of money to the ivory trade.  Despite big conservation efforts even air patrols, Satao was shot with a poisoned arrow and his tusks were removed.  Elephant numbers continue to fall only 500,000 elephants roam the continent down from over 5 million in the 1940s. Its estimated 40,000 elephants get poached every year for their tusks.

But there is hope; the number is dropping. The work that GVI, in partnership with Tsavo pride, is doing is targeting the grassroots of the issue- the poachers. Poaching is a scary and risky business sometimes even causing fatalities and tearing families apart and most poachers’ welcome alternative lifestyles.

The efforts that come from our volunteer and partners to create a new life for these poachers turned protectors is vital not just for the people but for the conservation of the wildlife that surrounds them. 

Tsavo national park is still bursting with wildlife and thanks to your donations we can help keep it that way. 

Thank you again,

All the best

GVI Kenya


Apr 22, 2014

Returning to Ngoyaki

Dear Supporter,  

In February 2014 GVI returned to work with Ngoyaki to complete the work from 2013 and begin looking at alternative livelihood projects for the community members. Livestock herding places large pressures on the land in this area with soil erosion and pollution of the creek having adverse effects on the habitat. We worked to complete the construction of a cattle trough whereby herdsman could take their livestock to water them thus protecting the creek and the valuable water source downstream.

However GVI undertook another project while working in Kasokoni. There is great potential for eco-tourism in the area with great biodiversity particularly among bird species. The CBO Ngoyaki also has long term aims of establishing an eco-tourism site with guided walks encompassing views of Kilimanjaro and a visit to the adjacent Crater Lake. Already possessing a rich Taveta culture and extensive knowledge on local plant and animal species Ngoyaki could become a great eco-tourism spot. Areas that we mapped during our time with Ngoyaki are the Northern range of their territory, a short walk from our campsite to the nearest road and a possible tourism trail visiting Lake Chala through an abandoned hotel.

While being guided by the group we were also taking note of all animal species that were sighted and identified along the way to add to our ongoing species list for the area, another way of encouraging tourism. Mapping the area was a great help to Ngoyaki because it utilises resources GVI has access to that the group would not be able to fund themselves. GVI has used Google Earth to create a KML file showing satellite images of the territory that Ngoyaki owns and the routes they guided us on. This will be a valuable resource for eco-tourism as it gives them a tangible document they can present to possible visitors and is something they can include in any tourist brochures they produce.

Looking to the future Ngoyaki are aiming to build a catchment area and pump to fill the completed cattle trough and expand their knowledge of ecotourism and develop a tourism centre. GVI, in partnership with Tsavo Pride and Ngoyaki are optimistic about the continuing partnership and goals with the community and land management focusing on anti poaching, alternative livelihood and wildlife conservation collaboratively to protect the habitat around Kasakoni. 

Many thanks for your continuing support

GVI Kenya


Feb 4, 2014

Voices of our forefathers

Dear Supporter,

GVI Kenya and Tsavo Pride are working together with former wildlife poachers in the Taveta District of Kenya to promote environmental awareness, engage in anti-poaching activities, reduce the bush meat trade, create alternative livelihoods and encourage community ownership of wildlife, waterways and the natural environment in and around Tsavo West National Park.

In 2013 GVI Kenya set up camp in Kasokoni, about 20 minutes from Taveta town at the foot of the Challa crater Lake on the border of the Tsavo west National park to support the Ngoyaki community based conservation organisation. Ngoyaki – a conjugation translating as ‘voices of our forefathers’ rose from two older but largely inactive groups and now incorporates 20 members. Based on merit the group has been allocated the management of a large portion of land around Kasokoni and Challa Lake. The area harbours several vital natural springs, a creek, and a pocket of riverine forest forming a sort of oasis in an otherwise very dry landscape.

Any first visit will make the main conservation issues painfully clear. The creek is a vital biodiversity pocket, provides clean water to surrounding communities and attracts a range smaller as well as bigger wildlife. However, the heavy use from cattle has eroded the banks significantly, cow dung is making the creek-water unsafe to use and visibly interfering with the ecosystem balance.

Fencing-off the area will restore biodiversity rapidly and is the obvious solution but not a very favourable one with stakeholders such as  the Maasai herders that have use the area for hundreds of years. To move forward and avoid conflict at the same time the group has decided to first provide a cattle trough, an alternative water drinking point for the cattle. Fencing – depending on funding – might come later.

Building a cattle trough is though. In this area houses are built of clay, sticks and leaves, there is no power, and certainly no running water, the average income is about 2 US$, temperatures rise above 30°C every day,  and the closest DIY store is two hours away. GVI funded the undertaking and coordinated the effort motivation and man-power of 14 GVI volunteers, 9 group members, 5 GVI staff experts, 2 staff from our local partner Tsavo Pride and a local contractor to build the trough in 20 days.

For Ngoyaki this is an iconic first step. Although self proficiency for the group is thinkable, the group will rely on support and funding for years to come. GVI and Tsavo Pride are working alongside to reduce illegal poaching activities and to assist communities living side-by-side with wildlife to improve living standards, reduce conflict with wildlife, and prosper. We believe that utilisation of the knowledge former poachers have of the local environment as well as behaviours, attitudes and challenges within communities bordering the national park can help us to transform local attitudes towards the consumption of unsustainable resources such as bush meat and charcoal and to solve local problems using local, sustainable resources.

Many thanks for your support for this project.

All the best,

GVI Kenya


Nov 11, 2013

Orchard construction started

Dear Supporter, 

Following on from our last report, early in 2013 the group had been inspired to start an orchard after conversations with Tsavo Pride – a successful locally operating NGO started and run by previous GVI staff and volunteers. In April 2013, a group of GVI volunteers assisted in the research and planning stages of the orchard project using workshops to create a long term plan for the area. The plan now includes everything from composting to selling fruits and from ecological windbreakers to transferring knowledge on growing.

Recently, a group of 10 GVI volunteers travelled to Kaasani to support the group in the execution of the first steps. The first steps included a mapping exercise, facilitating more exact planning, a fence construction project, to provide security to the orchard, and the install of a rainwater harvesting facility ensuring a sustainable source of water. With six days of hard work digging holes for fence poles, fencing, cement mixing, painting and putting up gutters, the team contributed directly to the community’s infrastructure. The result of our efforts were a perfectly fenced and thus secure 100m x 100m piece of land, a completely plastered and painted very smart looking room which is to be used for environmental education and awareness, full gutters on the main buildings, and a solid floor for the communal harvest store.

The bulk of the fruits of this orchard project are anticipated to be seen in 10 years time which is a long time away, however the blisters on our hands and feet, and the dusty sets of cloths from the brown earth are our fruits for now. GVI has supported and continues to support the Kasaani group and two other groups in the area on their long term objectives to acquire new skills facilitating alternate livelihoods. 

Many thanks for supporting this project

Zeno Wijtten

GVI Kenya Country Director


Aug 15, 2013

GVI supports ex-poachers in planning an orchard

Dear friend,

Kasaani village in Kenya is located right between the borders of the famous Tsavo West National Park and the foothills of the Kilimanjaro on the Tanzanian border. GVI have been working for years with the Kasaani group for the protection of animals which is made up of members of the Kasaani community. Most members are reformed poachers or bush meat traders, who gave up these activities several years ago to look for safer, alternate sources of income.

Several months ago the group became inspired after conversations with Tsavo Pride – a very successful locally operating NGO that sprung from previous GVI efforts – about an orchard. Not much grows in the very dry and dusty grounds around Kaasani and agriculture rarely proves a viable option, but trees are a different matter. With the right knowledge, planning and a lot of physical labour, orchards that are planned and laid out well have a chance to sustain and conquer the heavy winds, the droughts and the blistering sun.

After a briefing and communications with Kasaani, a group of 7 GVI volunteers bundled efforts in preparing a long term plan for the area. The plan included everything from composting to selling fruits and ecological windbreakers to transferring knowledge. With these ideas, the GVI team prepared workshops, with the goal of transferring as much knowledge as possible while leaving enough room for input from the group itself using specific expertises. The workshop covered a participatory mapping exercise, fence construction and maintenance, energy cycles (mulching and composting), the basics on seedlings, nurseries and planting trees, inter-cropping, a farming calendar creation exercise and the basics of water harvesting.

If all goes well, in the middle of the dust right on the Tanzanian border there will be a Kaasani orchard within 10 years from now that grows enough fruits to sell and parents are teaching their children about growing fruit trees, composting and wind fences. Honesty compels me, however, to say that all rarely goes well and 10 years is a long time. But if one approach fails we try another, get-up and try again and again.

GVI has supported and continues to support the Kasaani group and two other groups in the area on their long term objectives to learn new skills for alternate livelihoods. Already, plans for the future include a tree growing education centre, from which people from the group can provide information to the community members and setting up a tree nursery in such a way that seedlings can be sold to community members and other people in the area.

As the late Wangari Maathai, Kenyan founder of the Green Belt Movement and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate says: “It’s really amazing, you plant a seed; it germinates and looking so fragile, in a very short time it becomes a huge tree. It gives you shade and if it’s a fruit tree, it gives you fruit, to build and transform lives.’’

Thanks as always, for your kind and generous support for this program.

All the best

GVI Kenya


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Project Leader

Sophie Birkett

GVI Charitable Trust Manager
St Albans, Herts United Kingdom

Where is this project located?

Map of Alternative livelihoods for Ex Poachers, Kenya