Been posting A LOT of blogs this summer written by various students on their school teams. So much happens over the 8 weeks summer season, often not easy to really digest it all. Our Camp Kaya Project team have finally had a chance to sit back and share the inside story to Kaya Muhaka Sacred Forest Protection Program. It's very exciting times for us at the forest as we are now almost completing our gray water recycling system at the camp, and establising a new wood lot from moringa trees on the perhiphery of the forest. Big thanks to Harare, Kofa, Dennis and the rest of the Camp Kaya team and all the school groups ...
The gray water system set up is arguably the most interesting project that has been initiated recently here. It was quite necessary for us to consider it since there has been need to conserve water. We share the community water pump with the community for our daily water requirements though the community comes first when it comes to who fills his or her water container first. All the water that will be coming from the showers and kitchen will be fed into the system where it will undergo purification using locally available materials ranging from manually picking all the soap studs and other wastes to absorption of minerals in the water by suitable aquatic plants.
Treated and pure water will be stored in the water storage chamber from where it will be pumped periodically to the just established tree nursery and to the toilets. The storage chamber will be an underground tank built entirely from bottles and cement. Filling the bottles with soil has been fun and one just needs to find a comfortable place and before long a pile of plastic bottles would form. The target is 3000 bottles before we can start building the storage chamber.
Connected to the grey water system is the tree nursery. Kaya being a conservation center for the natural forest bordering the camp, lots of indigenous trees need to be replaced at the indigenous trees buffer zone. The custodians of the forest never had a permanent tree nursery but we have now made a permanent tree nursery for them and it is already in use! We also used more bottles to fill the trenches which stop soil erosion during heavy rains. We have planted more than 400 indigenous trees at the indigenous tree buffer zone and we were so lucky to have done that just before the rain season ended. We have also planted trees around the camp to mark the camp boundary. Whereas plastic bottles pose as pollution threat to most hotels along Diani Beach, to us bottles have so many different uses.
With the growing popularity of moringa tree in Kenya we have a feeling that moringa tree is going to be an important source of income for people living around Muhaka in the next 2 years or so. One of the most intriguing facts about moringa is that it can relieve stress and has 7 times the nutrients found in an orange (you can learn all about the miracle moringa tree by clicking HERE)! And we have started setting up a one kilometre long moringa buffer zone next to the camp.
The intentions are to improve the conservation efforts by the local community mainly through solving some of the financial constraints which, sadly, pose the most serious challenge so far. Lots of hoes, machetes, slashers, rakes and, well, muscles! We all can’t wait to see the young trees grow though. Hopefully, our neighbours-monkeys, baboons and wild pigs will behave themselves and leave our plants alone! They are only allowed to wake us up with their early morning chattering.
In addition to all this hard project work, we have to take our volunteers for nature walks in the sacred Kaya Muhaka forest - following the baboons right into their territory. This is mainly done by the two chief custodians –mzee sururu and mzee musa who lead the way. While going we have to maintain a single file through the narrow and winding paths hoping over protruding buttress roots and dodging over hanging low branches and twines while taking in the damp smell of the carpet of leaves covering the ground.
It is also a common sight for anyone who has been to the Kaya to see a group of us shouting and racing on the road with a handcart full of water containers making yet another water run. We normally hold competitions to see who uses less time to fill a 20 litre container. The current record is 43 seconds! Sometimes the policemen who guard our camp help with this. It is great fun but very important too.
Kaya is also the place to learn how to prepare chapati which is undoubtedly the most popular food. Done in less than 2 hours and we all get down to enjoy chapatti for dinner. As part of cultural tour we have been preparing unga from which the staple food, ugali, is cooked. It is quite a long process though as it involves pounding maize first with a mortar and a pestle and later grinding the maize using the traditional stone. We do make makuti too here which is the most common thatching material being used. Makuti is made from coconut fronds. To crown everything is a visit to mganga the traditional witchdoctor before joining the locals in a very interesting mdundiko dance. That’s why at night we sit around the fire place long after lights out to chat and discuss the day’s activities as we wait for daybreak to encounter more trees and develop more muscles at the water pump!