A little help goes a long way. This is felt first hand by the ASSETS team as they visit the homes surrounding Arabuko-Sokoke Forest to discuss bursary allocation details with the parents and guardians of the pupils who had excelled in the recently concluded Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations. Gratitude and pledges to conserve and protect the Forest were offered everywhere we visited and we could feel how much the little we had to give meant to their lives.
Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Eco-Tourism Scheme meets the social and economic needs of the locals around the forest through the provision of secondary school scholarships. It also promotes the conservation of two of Africa’s most important ecosystems: Arabuko-Sokoke Forest (ASF), and the associated tidal inlet of Mida Creek. Through donations made directly to the organisation and eco-tourism projects such as the boardwalk at Mida Creek, funds raised are pushed towards this cause and have continued to assist so many students through the years in achieving their goals.
However, it is not easy, as with all worthwhile work. In order to get a scholarship, one must attain the PassMark required for shortlisting and be a disciplined student willing to fight for our cause in conservation. Those who qualify for an ASSETS scholarship have roles which they have to play in order to maintain their place in the programme.
- They automatically become our ambassadors in conservation. By talking to their neighbours and friends about the importance of ASF and everything in it, they help curb illegal logging and poaching that has been threatening the survival of these two ecosystem powerhouses.
- They are required to participate in tree planting activities. This is done in their farms, within and around the forest and around the creek. Thanks to ASSETS, Muvera Wa ASSETS came up as an organisation of the parents and people who are grateful for the work ASSETS is doing. They germinate tree seedlings and offer them for the tree planting sessions while also participating in those sessions.
- They are required to attend weekly meetings and environmental education seminars. Weekly meetings are attended by the parents, and their children are present for the seminars. By doing so they get to learn what more they can do in terms of conservation and also to air out their challenges and views.
- They are required to be honest and disciplined. Parents should inform the ASSETS officials in good time if they have received scholarship opportunities from other firms and individuals in order to avoid mismanagement of funds. Students must maintain and improve on their school performance records and should present their report cards to the ASSETS administrators at the end of every school term. They should also be upright in morals and uphold the good name of the organisation that’s supporting them.
As the ASSETS team moves around these neighbourhoods they have come to know for so long, they get to meet so many of the people ASSETS has assisted over the years. Occasionally, ASSETS beneficiaries have gone on to intern with or work for A Rocha Kenya.
We can’t help but be grateful to everyone who has played a part in the ASSETS programme, not only in saving the forest but also in helping students to fulfil their ambitions of furthering their education.