Postcard from Kenya
Kenya has been in the news this month because of the massacre at Garissa University.
Supporters have been asking about any impact here on the coast, where A Rocha has its field study centre, Mwamba. As far as I know, no students at Garissa were from the coast. If young people here go to college or university, they choose local institutions, or ones on this side of Nairobi.
We feel perfectly safe here and are keen to welcome visitors: we’ve just said goodbye to a church group from England and will have a British family staying next week. But tourist numbers to the area have been very low for some time. Turtle Bay Beach Club, our nearest hotel, had 40 cancellations just before Easter. Another local hotel is being converted into flats. It’s tragic because most overseas tourists don’t have the experience to assess the risks − they just hear in the media about problems in another part of the country and decide not to come. The Malindi coastal villages are feeling the consequences. So many locals were employed by hotels and the general lack of income is affecting all the businesses.
Our own visitor numbers are drastically reduced, which is seriously impacting our income and activities. We have an Australian student with us for three months, researching shorebirds, but Benjo Cowburn, a marine science student from the UK, has had to postpone his visit. We recently started to employ some of our former ASSETS students who had been volunteering with us, but may not be able to continue paying them.
Most of the visiting groups are local. We’re currently training five Community Forest Associations (CFAs). Three of them are from Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, one is from Dakatcha Woodlands and the other is from nearer Nairobi. Their role in the protection and restoration of Kenya’s forests is increasingly important, as management of forest resources is being decentralized. We are training them so that they can effectively negotiate with the Forest Service and be more independent in designing projects and seeking funding. This week, some of my colleagues are on an exchange visit with one of the CFAs to Voi, learning from the carbon trading experience of the Association there.
The good news from Kenya is that as a nation, we have responded to the violence with restraint. Muslim leaders have condemned the perpetrators as criminals and warned that we must not allow terrorists to divide Kenya along religious lines. Christian and Muslim leaders are working together for peace. Here, for example, the local Bishop and the Chair of the Muslim Council of Kenya held a joint press conference.
Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ (Matthew 5:9). We ask you to pray for this tolerance and understanding to continue.