This year’s Great Primate Handshake expeditions have now drawn to a close, leaving staff and volunteers to reflect on two incredible months in Kenya and Uganda.
From the coast and colobus monkeys in Mombasa, to community conservation projects in Kibale Forest, via tree planting projects, mountains, conservancies, sanctuaries on islands and forests buzzing with life, the Handshake team covered some truly inspirational projects and produced digital media content to be proud of. The content, including videos, photographs and web materials, is going to be released over the coming weeks, but for now, a summary of the people, primates and places of The Great Primate Handshake 2012 is below.
Kenya, 17th July – 13th August 2012
After completing volunteer orientation in Mombasa, the first two projects we undertook in Kenya were for The Colobus Trust and WWF Cymru, who, along with Size of Wales, provide funding and support to projects in Kwale County. With lots of work to cover, the team split in two, with half documenting The Colobus Trust’s incredible work, including the successful raising of orphaned colobus monkey Betsy, and the other half visiting a tree nursery, Lima self-help group, Shimba Hills National Reserve, and Kaya Kinondo Sacred Forest to create content highlighting the fantastic efforts of people in Kwale County to protect the environment and improve livelihoods.
Leaving Diani Beach and Mombasa behind, but remaining in Kenya’s Coastal Province, we next travelled to Bore to continue the Great Primate Handshake’s work with Community Carbon Link and Size of Wales. While in Bore, we visited Kundeni Primary School to find out about Community Carbon Link’s recently launched One Tree, One Child, One Planet initiative; saw how a well, solar pump and water storage tanks have positively impacted the community, and hiked with members of Bore Green Umbrella to Hell’s Kitchen, an incredible escarpment which hosts newly-planted trees and is the proposed site for a visitor and research centre.
After a few days in Nairobi spent catching up on content creation, the staff and volunteers headed North to Ol Pejeta Conservancy to undertake some important projects for Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary , who officially opened their new chimpanzee house while the Handshake team captured footage and photographs. While at Ol Pejeta, we were also privileged to see incredible, rare wildlife, including black rhinos, Northern white rhinos, elephants, big cats and Grevy’s zebra, all of which are being conserved by the tireless work of Ol Pejeta staff.
The penultimate project of the Kenya expedition took us to the Mount Kenya region to work with the Green Belt Movement. Starting at Arahuka Tree Nursery, where we learned how the women’s group there grow and nurture seedlings to benefit the environment and improve their livelihoods, we spent an incredibly inspiring couple of days documenting every aspect of the organisation’s work in the area, from reforestation in Gikamba Kabendera to a tree-planting, sustainable farming and self-help group project in Tumutumu and a very successful reforestation project in Gakanga in Zaina.
The Kenya expedition finished with the Handshake’s third visit to Kakamega Forest, to work once again with Leonard Muhanga Likhotio and Kakamega Environmental Education Programme. Surrounded by blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and black and white colobus, we learnt about the work of KEEP and joined in with a tree-planting day which saw hundreds of seedlings planted near the River Yala in Kibire.
Uganda, 21st August – 17th September 2012
After meeting the new group of volunteers in Kampala, the Uganda trip began with orientation in Mabira Forest, where the volunteers also began work on their first project, a video about Mabira Forest Integrated Community Organisation (MAFICO) and Griffin Falls Camp Site. While there, we were lucky enough to spot great blue turaco and grey-cheeked mangabeys in the forest, and were thrilled with the warm welcome we got from Hussein Kato and Betty Nakazzi, who work for MAFICO and keep the camp site running.
Our next two projects were for the same organisation, the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT), but in very different areas. We first travelled to Entebbe and took a boat across Lake Victoria to Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary, which is run by CSWCT and is home to 48 rescued chimpanzees. In addition to rehabilitating and caring for these animals, CSWCT runs conservation and community initiatives to improve livelihoods and protect wild chimpanzees. One such project is in Hoima, to which we travelled next.
In Munteme, a town in the Hoima region, there is a privately-owned forest called Itohya, where CWSCT habitat monitors track wild chimpanzees and monkeys, carry out mammal surveys, and watch for signs of damage to the forest environment. Handshake staff and volunteers joined habitat monitors Livas Mucunguzi and Ntegeka Bosco to find out how they carry out their vital work, before travelling with CSWCT Education Officer Silver Birungi to Kyamaleera Wildlife Education Centre to take footage of a conservation-based drama day.
Our final two projects were both based in the Kibale Forest region, where we spent a fantastic 12 days working with The Kasiisi Project and Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED). The Kasiisi Project, with which we also worked on two previous expeditions, encompasses multiple initiatives to enhance education and conserve the environment around Kasiisi Primary School and Kibale Forest, and this time we documented the new biogas digester and Porridge Project farm, as well as catching up with the latest developments with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptop project, Wildlife Club and literacy programme. At the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary, where KAFRED is based, we learned about the links between women’s livelihoods and the environment, and spoke in-depth with Tinka John, KAFRED Programme Manager, about the project’s history and achievements.
Of course, visiting all of these projects in Kenya and Uganda would not have been possible without our Oasis Overland truck and driver, Colin, who not only kept us moving and kept us safe, but threw himself into Handshake projects as well.
To the organisations we worked with; the people who helped us, inspired us and taught us; the primates and other wildlife which underpin everything; the people who followed and supported us from afar, and of course to our brilliant volunteers, thank you for making the Great Primate Handshake 2012 a huge success, and we look forward to working with you again in the future.
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