In 2006, three communities bordering Tsavo West national park who were well renowned for their reliance on illegal bush meat, made the courageous decision to give up poaching for the protection of wildlife. Their move away from poaching, was initiated with an intervention from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) trying to extirpate inhumane ways of killing animals. WSPA has strongly supported the formation of several officially registered community based organisations. In 2006 GVI started assisting these groups in partnership with the WSPA. At the end of 2012 GVI was up in Tsavo supporting the community group in Kaasani a village of not more than 100 people. The group in Kaasani for instance, has a classic set-up and consists out of key players within the community, mostly former poachers themselves who are well able to be factors of change.
Most former poachers and their families have never been involved in activities other than poaching or farming. They have little knowledge or skills relevant to other income generating activities and are aware of few other economic opportunities besides poaching. With a high level of poverty, the development of alternative livelihoods is the only resilient way to protect and conserve local wildlife. From this realisation in 2006 there came an economic development strategy which now includes alternative livelihoods that vary from bee keeping to an eco-tourism centre. From 2007 until now, GVI volunteers have helped the Kaasani community group to teach basic English, write proposals, develop business skills, promote organic farming methods, beekeeping, sunflower farming chicken farming. Those initiatives have had varying success; the level of English and basic trading has improved much, but the bee-hives were destroyed by a herd of over 150 elephants in 2010 and the chicken farming stopped as chicken feed prices climbed with the recent world food crisis in 2011. Candle making, perhaps one of the more out-of-place initiatives, is however becoming a big success.
Recently the Kasaani group had a large order for candles. The handmade candles are sold in tourist gift shops along the coast of Kenya. The candles have a distinct natural feel and look and once finished they are packed in a small cardboard box made out of a mixture of elephant dung and old paper. The flattened out and dried elephant dung mixture is cut it into labels and then attached to the candles as well. The materials are costing next to nothing but the cards and boxes – and quite likely the explanation on the flip-side of the label – seem to add crucial value to the finished product.
“The money we have raised through this order will be divided amongst the families of Kasaani and will provide us with food and water for some time to come. Thank you to GVI for showing us how to make these products in a much more effective way. Next time we will complete such an order in two days!”- John Mandu village chairman
The Kasaani group is already beginning to receive more orders, and the market for such handicrafts seems sustainable enough, for now at least, to keep the bush meat trade at bay. Thank you sincerely for all your support you have given to this project!
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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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