I am happy to report this project as funded! GVI have been working in Shimoni since January 2006 undertaking research in this important patch of 'coral rag' coastal forest, aiming to highlight its biodiversity conservation value and monitor the status of its beautiful but threatened Angolan black and white colobus monkey.
We also recognise the importance of the forest to the local people as well as the wildlife and we aimed to build capacity to sustain a harmonious relationship between them. East Africa's coastal forests are a global biodiversity hotspot and here in Shimoni our forest supports one of Kenya's top 3 most critical populations of the Angolan black and white colobus, the critically endangered spotted ground thrush, near-threatened southern-banded snake eagle and the charismatic but vulnerable Zanj elephant shrew.
The communities of Shimoni, Anziwani and other local villages depended on their forest for fire wood, poles to build their homes and trees to make the dug out canoes and fish traps that they still depend on for their principal livelihood, fishing, as they have for hundreds of years. Shimoni forest also contains over 20 'kaya' forests - sacred shrines were ancestors were buried and village elders continue to respect centuries-old rituals and leave their offerings of honey and rose-water.
GVI have spent over 3 years surveying the forest, cataloguing the immense biological value of this isolated patch and also the rate of habitat loss. In November 2007 we helped set up Friends of Shimoni Forest, a community-based organisation that is taking our scientific research to the local community, raising awareness of both what they have and what they stand to lose.
The local community have begun their own patrols, supported by Kenya Wildlife Service, to protect their vital forest resources, their local administration has banned power saws, and with the help of GVI are reaching out to Shimoni's children so that they can take pride in their incredible natural resources and understand the global conservation value of their forest.
We have been working with Friends of Shimoni Forest to get eco-tourism on the agenda with guided forest walks to see the beautiful Angolan black and white colobus in one their few remaining natural habitats in Kenya. It was set up in collaboration with GVI who provided initial funding and training. The aim of the group is to raise awareness of the importance of the forest not just in terms of resource use and ecosystem services for local communities, but also in terms of eco-tourism benefits to the village. Their activities include; an indigenous re-forestation program, forest research program, active forest patrols with KWS rangers monitoring for illegal activity, alternative charcoal initiatives, the support and funding of alternative livelihoods, provision of scholarships to local school children and wildlife and conservation education to members of the local community and visiting external parties. Friends of Shimoni Forest have been offering eco-walks into the Shimoni forest’s for tourists for two years now, with support training in biodiversity research techniques from qualified GVI personnel. The Eco-walks involve tourists trekking into the forest visiting the home of endemic and rare plants and animals such as the Angolan Black and White Colobus monkey, the Black and Rufous Elephant Shrew and the critically endangered Spotted Ground Thrush. Tour guides also point out Kaya sites and provide cultural context pertaining to these.
FSF have designed a scheme of tourism activities and a new brochure which is being distributed in hospitality and tourism spots up to Mombasa. The brochure highlights both the significance of Shimoni Forest as well as promoting other local community groups and their activities, including Kisite Marine Park tours, Shimoni Slave Caves and various cultural experiences within Shimoni village. GVI provided computer training in brochure design and production, so in the future the group will be able to update and create new brochures when needed. The group is offering affordable full board home-stay experiences within the village for an authentic Shimoni experience. Alternatively tourists can receive a traditional Swahili style meal whilst learning about coastal culture. GVI staff members helped the group to identify suitable home-stay venues which had basic sanitation infrastructure. Increased tourism revenue will be invested by the group back into their core activities and objectives. The group also hopes that the brochure and organized activities will raise awareness of alternative tourism activities in Shimoni which complement the marine park experience.
Many thanks for all your support for this project, I hope you have enjoyed seeing over the years and reading the difference you have helped us to make.
All the best
Charitable Trust manager