|The farmers are taught butterfly farming by members of Mwangaza Mudzo Womens Group in Kilifi|
|The farmers being addressed by members of the Dabaso Youth Group on the intricacies of mangrove conservation at Gede in Malindi|
|A representative of the visiting farmers addressing members of DIFAFA forest conservation committee in Malindi|
Members of two Forest Farmer Field Schools (FFS) from Meru North Forest Zone – the Ameru Cultural Group Farmer Field School and the Mazao Farmer Field School recently toured Coast Conservancy to interact and share experiences with fellow farmers on the various activities that the farmers are engaged in so that they can improve their livelihoods and promote forest conservation.
Led by their Zonal Forest Manager Mr. Stephen Kahunyo the 33 farmers who were sponsored by the Green Zones Development Support Project (GZDSP) visited farmer groups in Kwale, Kilifi and Malindi forest zones and learned how the coastal farmers are sustainably utilizing the various forest resources available to them to alleviate poverty in their midst.
Some of the groups in Kwale and Malindi have been allowed by Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to construct boardwalks in the mangrove forest as a way of promoting ecotourism and generating income by charging tourists a fee for visiting the various types of mangrove forests. Also involved in forestry Income Generating Activities (IGA) are Community Forest Associations (CFA) which incorporate various user groups all engaging in different IGAs.
In Kwale and Malindi, the visiting farmers learned of how youth groups have formed tour guide associations to guide visitors in excursions into the scenic Shimba Hills forest reserve and the unique Arabuko Sokoke forest respectively.
The Meru North farmers who are also involved in various IGA activities including soap making exchanged ideas with members of Lima Self Help Group in Kwale and DIFAFA farmers group of Malindi who are also involved in herbal soap and cosmetic products making using the aloe vera plant.
The visiting farmers also got to learn of how their coastal counterparts are involved in forest conservation and rehabilitation especially of the delicate mangrove forest ecosystems. The farmers have established nurseries and are replanting degraded areas all in a bid make their source of income sustainable. They encouraged their elated visitors to keep up the good work of conserving forests as it was the only way of ensuring a sustained income for them and their families.
Speaking to the farmers after the five day tour, Mr. Nicodemus Mwatika from GZDSP who was also the team leader for the tour urged them to implement the lessons they had learnt so that they can add value to their IGAs.
Story and pictures by Leakey Sonkoyo