FORS Environmental Education package with Igingilanyi Primary School!

Due to global financial downturn Friends of Ruaha Society (FORS) team decided not to stay in the office doing nothing rather work with some primary schools which are near our office. After having welcomed meeting with District Education officer, Ward Education officer, Head teacher, teachers and few representative students from Igingilanyi primary school, FORS has started to work with this primary school which is near by Iringa  town.

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FORS team visited the school and we have identified some Environmental risk within their area which are deforestation particularly cutting down of indigenous trees, soil erosion, un proper disposal of wastes and wild fire.

Head teacher from Igingilanyi primary school Mr.Benard Ngoitanile revealed that: ‘‘Some of Teachers and kids / learners like environment in general, they have tried to greening our school by growing different tree species and flowers but things didn’t work out due to lack of support and critical innovative from experts like you and the problem of shortage of water in our school. In early 80’s we received good support from one big organization known as Concern who provided some of these big trees you can see now but since then no other external support. So I would like to promise you that we will love to work together with you. ’’ img_1668.JPG

Apart from film shows, we are planning to initiate some of the outside projects like greening the school compound, proper waste management (how to handle degradable and non degradable wastes) and Sanitation before we introduce to teachers to start teaching Environmental issues in the class.

We hope this won’t cost us much while we are still struggling to get funds and donations to continue support our Environmental Education program with schools and communities surrounding Ruaha National Park.

Friends of Ruaha bringing conservation education closer to home!

Since we are going through a sticky patch funding-wise, but since we don’t want to sit around in the office doing nothing, we have decided that we will engage in almost zero-cost work in schools which are near enough to our office to mean that we don’t have to use any diesel to get there! Of course it is good to be working out in the villages which border on Ruaha National Park, and we consider that it is vitally important for children brought up in those villages to be aware of conservation issues, to understand about the wildlife which co-exists with them. But this concentration on those village near the park also means that those nearer town miss out – there are various funds for environmental education for schools and communities near to national parks, but not necessarily for those who have no particularly remarkable natural resources close by.

Friends of Ruaha have a projector and a wide selection of conservation and wildlife films which we could show in the schools and the communities, in much the way that we have done in Idodi and Pawaga. We have already contacted the District Education Officer who is enthusiastic and recommended three schools near to town where we could start work. The films will provide an opportunity for us to see how interested the schools and the teachers are in environmental issues, and if they show a particular interest, then we will see whether we could start up environmental clubs at the schools. Again, there are low/zero cost activities which we could do, to stimulate some interest in children who may have never had any opportunity to consider the environment they live in and the marvelous wildlife their own country is full of! We will keep you up to date as we make a start on the work!

In the meantime, we are continuing to search for funding. Please do give a donation to us, so that we can carry on with our work in our original villages and perhaps keep on visiting the nearer schools too.

Schools on boundary of dry Ruaha National Park stay green!

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Kids living on the boundaries of Ruaha National Park in Tanzania have to learn to live with very little water in a long dry period season which stretches from April to December. Friends of Ruaha Society (FORS) encourages schools to have pleasant surroundings in their schools but wer stress the importance of doing this without wasting water. Typical ways of managing this is for child to bring one small (2litre) container of water to school every day, or for the whole class to go to the nearest water source with a small container to bring water for the garden. We emphasize that this should be done late in the day before going home, so that the water won’t evaporate in the sun although we suspect this sometimes doesn’t happen.

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We also help the schools to think about which plants are suitable for a very dry environment, and we are really happy to see an garden of aloe vera plants in one school, which has just been laid out.  More on this in a future blog!

One interesting thing that we have learnt while working with Friends of Ruaha schools is that there is a big difference between what we mean when we say ‘environment’ (or ‘mazingira’ in Swahili).  When I talk about the environment, I think of everything surrounding me – the forests, the mountains, the rivers, the birds, the insects, etc etc, but when most people here use the word ‘mazingira’, what they mean is their immediate surroundings, i.e. the garden in school, the yard at home.  Getting across this difference is quite a challenge in our work!  When we say that we are coming to work with the environment, the expectation is often that we will help schools to arrange an attractive garden, and once that is done, then we have ‘sorted’ the environment.  However, we feel that with all our schools in Idodi and Pawaga we have already got beyond this point! 

But a greater challenge is the one of having pleasant surroundings without actually harming the environment, e.g. by using huge quantities of water which will evaporate and only produce a few straggly flowers wilting under the sun.  Pawaga and Idodi divisions are on the banks of the Great Ruaha River which is a living example of what can be done to a once impressive water source by human activity.  A huge river in the past, the Great Ruaha now dries up for several months a year.  Getting the children (and the teachers..) to understand the connection between excessive amounts of water poured pointlessly onto their gardens and the drying of one of Tanzania’s largest rivers is something that we have worked on for the years that we have been visiting the schools in this area.  It is quite a leap of imagination, but we believe that we are gaining ground.

Friends of Ruaha Society school success, against the odds!

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Friends of Ruaha Society have not worked with Magombwe school, very near to the border of Ruaha NationaPark, for very long, simply because it has not been in existence for very many years.  It was set up in to accommodate children who had several kilometers to walk to the nearest school in Isele village.  Now small children who weren’t able to walk to that distant school can attend classes in Magombwe school.  And it has not yet got a full complement of staff yet either – in fact it is run by two ‘babus’ – old men, one from Magombwe village, the other from a neighbouring village.  But despite having a whole school to run, they are managing to come first with their environmental education programme, far ahead of schools with 10 or 12 members of staff.  And not only have they done what Friends of Ruaha have suggested – they have gone beyond that and have brought in several innovations of their own.   Last year, Friends of Ruaha Society brought some tree seedlings to help out new schools with few trees in their grounds – we brought a variety of species, including fruit trees (mango, orange and zambarau (Syzygium)), ornamental trees such as mkrismas (Delonix regia) which blooms red at Christmas time, Terminalia and Senna spectabilis with its impressive yellow flowers, and neem, which has various uses for people here.  Some of the schools just went ahead and planted these trees, but in Magombwe, the teachers suggested that students find tree seedlings at home or in the bush and bring them to add to the collection.  And in addition, they have set up their own nursery.  In our experience, people who have wanted to grow trees have often failed because they lacked all the equipment, such as polythene tubes, watering cans, etc.  But since there is no way they can afford the polythene tubes, Magombwe have experimented with planting directly into the ground and transplanting the seedlings, with considerable success – they have mostly planted Acacia species which they are adding to their area of indigenous species in the school grounds.   It was for this reason that this year Magombwe school, working against all the odds, won the Friends of Ruaha World Environment Day prize for best school, partly for their attractive school grounds, but also for the innovations that they came up with and the sheer effort put into it all.  At a recent headteachers’ meeting in Pawaga division held by Friends of Ruaha Society, one of the headteachers, speaking for several others came to us and said, ‘We need to visit Magombwe school, to see for ourselves what these babus are doing and to get inspiration for our own schools!’ 

Fire in boarding house ends in tragedy (Idodi Secondary School, on the road to Ruaha National Park)

On Saturday night a student in the girls boarding block at Idodi Secondary School decided she would continue studying after the school generator had been switched off.  She lit a candle and began to read through her notes.  But it had been a long day, and she soon nodded off.  The candle, left to its own devices, wavered in the breeze and caught the edge of the mosquito net.  The flames soon licked towards the cheap sponge mattress on her bed and the bunk above, then up to the tinder dry hardboard ceiling boards.  The girls were alerted to the danger, but the wooden bunks were so closely packed that in no time the whole building was blazing.  The building housed around 460 girls and there was only one door.  The windows were firmly barred with iron rods, for security.  Tragically, twelve girls were burnt to death and 24 are still in hospital, some in a critical condition.  The ones who died were unidentifiable, but the government sent up an expert who was able to identify them.  The parents of the girls agreed that they should all be buried together in the school grounds as a memorial, so Tuesday the funeral took place, attended by hundreds of people, some from distant parts of the country.  Jackson and Mary from Friends of Ruaha were present at the funeral and were able to talk to teachers and students about the tragedy, and give their condolences personally.

Although Friends of Ruaha didn’t work directly with Idodi Secondary School, most of its students would have taken part in Friends of Ruaha activities in their primary schools, and since Idodi is a small community, we know many of the teachers and students.  The school received much funding from Ruaha National Park as part of its community fund, and Friends of Ruaha were able to give some environmental education support in the early days when there were still few teachers and students.

But one thing that we have always considered when recruiting staff for Friends of Ruaha is to have young Tanzanian women working for us, who can act as role models for girls in the primary schools of Idodi and Pawaga.  The tradition of secondary education, especially for girls, is far from strong in this area, but we have always felt that girls working with Anna Maria, Magreth and Mary might think ‘If they can do it, so can I!’  We have encouraged girls to think ahead, we have worked with organizations who sponsor girls to attend Idodi School rather than drop out of the education system and we have linked Friends of Ruaha donors with individual girls who have gained a place at the secondary school but lacked anyone to pay their fees.

And now this happens.  Twelve girls, whose families may have made such sacrifices to ensure a brighter future for their daughters, have had their lives snatched away from them.  There are many areas where blame can be laid, but basically it all boils down to poverty.  If there were more secondary schools or better roads and buses, children wouldn’t have to board.  If there were more resources, better, safer, less crowded boarding houses could be built, and electricity installed.  It was heart wrenching to see that four of the dead girls were from one small village, Makifu, where Friends of Ruaha rented a house for a while – Anna Maria and Sarah lived there, and would have particularly interacted with the students and teachers of that primary school.

Conservation of the environment is a key factor in reducing poverty, and this is what Friends of Ruaha has been working on since it began.  It is not easy and tangible rewards are few.  But we believe that through our actions we can make a difference to the people of Idodi and Pawaga, by educating their children in ways to live more sustainably with the environment, and by showing them how they can use their natural resources at the same time as conserving them.

Friends of Ruaha sends its condolences to everyone in Idodi, and our hearts go out to those who have lost daughters, sisters, dear friends.

MORE EE EFFORT IS NEED FOR CONSERVATION OF WMA

It was amazing and surprisingly since I started my trips to Pawaga Division which is near by Ruaha National Park in April 2009. Along the road which is passing through MBOMIPA (Matumizi Bora ya Malihai Idodi na Pawaga – Sustainable Use of Natural Resources in Idodi and Pawaga) Wildlife Management Area (WMA) I saw Giraffes. They were crossing the road and once they heard noise from our Landrover they were running and hiding themselves. This shows that the area may be having many other wild animals but because of the destruction of the miombo woodland which is within the WMA, animals are decreasing tremendously. However this incidence encouraged me as it reveals that at least some of community members have started to be aware about this precious ecosystem as we heard from them saying due to this Environmental Education (EE) we received from Friends of Ruaha Society (FORS) wild animals have started to increase day after day in this area.pa010284.JPG

The woodland within the WMA is under destruction. Villagers are cutting trees for charcoal and firewood, grazing huge number of cattle and goats and others are burning to get farms to cultivate maize, rice and other green vegetable. Due to this animals’ habitats are destroyed and thus they have to shift to other places for food, water, and places for reproduction.

Due to this more efforts should be put on conservation of this area so that good habitats can be made and if really wild animals are there, they can survive well. As we know tourism is one of biggest sector for Tanzania to earn its income, so through conserving this woodland within WMA we can come up with a very good source of income for our nation.

Ruaha National Park is in Danger

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As many of you know the Great Ruaha River (GRR) which is the Heart of Ruaha National park (RNP) was in a drastic state, it was completely dry from October 2008 right through to mid March 2009. That is five and a half months which is the longest dry period ever recorded. It is true that generally, the rain in the immediate RNP catchments was extremely poor over much of the season. As a result many of the small rivers such as the Jongomero, Itiku, Mdonya, etc only flooded for very short periods, the water never reaching the GRR. Thus, the GRR remained completely dry until Mid March, at which point the rainfall in RNP catchments improved a little giving the sand rivers enough to flood. Thus the GRR was ‘flowing’ in short sections for only a few days at a time.  Finally the ‘black water’ from Usangu (Ihefu water) arrived towards the end of March, giving the river new life.
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The rivers flowing into the Usangu Basin, Mbarali, Ndembera, etc all of these rivers and their upper catchment areas had extremely good rainfall, which was way above average. These rivers were all flooding from Mid November right through to April. That means four and a half months of flood water from seven rivers have largely been used by agriculture in the Usangu basin.

In normal years the flood water from Usangu reaches RNP in February. (Assuming that the rains start in mid December). Therefore, as the rivers have been flooding since November the water from Usangu should have reached RNP in Mid January this
year.  But it didn’t reach until the end of March.

The river is now flowing bank to bank. I think we are all aware that the situation of the GRR is now critical.  It is of National importance that we take measures to ensure
that the water from this life giving river sustains all its stakeholders, the RNP, Mtera Dam, the fishermen there and on down to the Rufiji basin developments. It is very possible to have great agriculture in Usangu and still have the river flowing down to the
sea.  All it will take is positive cooperation from all parties concerned.

JACKSON’S IDEAS FOR UPDATING FORS EE MATERIALS GAINED FROM ESD WORKSHOP

This year from 5th to 10th April I was among nine participants from SADC countries who had the chance to attend a workshop in South Africa on developing the learning support materials for environmental education (EE) and education for sustainable development (ESD). All the participants work in different environmental sectors so they had great working experience and expertise.  We made presentations on the different resource materials we are using in our own environment. Some of the resource materials presented support learners in learning in their classes or in communities, and other materials guide educators during teaching activities. The workshop was inspiring and educational because we had time to learn from each other through discussion and sharing of our experiences on the resource developing process. Apart from participants’ expertise and experiences, we had a wonderful presentation from the facilitators and the experts from Rhodes University.

The workshop came at right time as FORS is planning to update many of its EE resources, including the teacher’s manual and teaching aid materials that will be distributed at upcoming training workshops. It was good for me to participate in this workshop as I have gained a lot of knowledge on what kind of resource materials my other colleagues are using in different countries in the SADC region. I am excited to use these good approaches to come up with more quality EE resources for FORS. Beside that, I have been able to identify and learn different gaps in EE that may prevent the delivery of knowledge to certain target groups, something which will help to improve my work and better serve all FORS stakeholders; students, teachers, and villagers.

I would like to extend my gratitude to all people who work in environmental conservation and those that help build there capacity . Thank you FORS for giving me the chance to attend the course, SADC REEP for organizing this marvelous training, and all donors who supported this program.   lsm-workshop-5-8-april-09-057.jpg

MOST SUCCESSFUL WORKSHOP WITH PAWAGA TEACHERS

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On Wednesday I went to the field for the first time to facilitate a teacher training workshop. Together with Jackson and Alexander who were facilitating this training I learn many things like time management as Alexander was very good in timing all activities as they were planned. Also how to cooperate in conducting the workshop or training if you are in a team of two or more. This was very clear as Jackson was giving out comments, suggestions and additions everywhere possible so as to make the participants understand the topics and also active in the workshop.

It was great to meet the teachers and talk to them about their work and their perspective on the FORS program. Also I was very happy that many teachers attended the workshop as it was planned and through the participatory methods like group discussion, concept map, playing 2Truth 1Lie and energizers we were able to participate fully and enjoy the workshop. Apart from that I also appreciate teacher’s contribution to the workshop as they were answering questions and giving out their views about FORS modules and participatory method.

I enjoyed seeing the environment specifically in Magozi Primary school compounds were attractive and also the villages of Pawaga. During the workshop we had outside activities where we were able to discuss with teachers about waste management (Degradable and Non degradable waste)  and their effects and conducting school compound assessment. Really FORS is doing great to educate communities about environment and it’s important. I am glad that I am among the team member and I will cooperate with FORS and these communities so that we can conserve our environment for our benefits.

Meet Mary, New FORS Program Manager!!

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My name is Mary Joseph, a Tanzanian woman born 25 years ago in the Kilimanjaro region. After completing my secondary education I joined Sokoine University of Agriculture for the B.Sc. Environmental Sciences and Management.

My career goal is to focus more on environment especially how environmental degradation affects women and children in particular. I am very happy to join FORS as a Program Manager; this opportunity is the best way for me to achieve my career goal and to bring environmental education to the community.

This is my first blog post, and I am excited to be communicating with all of you around the world through WildlifeDirect. Check regularly for updates and pictures from upcoming FORS activities.