According to one of our distribution partners, Amara Conservation, who show our films using mobile cinemas in the Taita area of Kenya, AEFF’s films have played a pivotal role in the creation of a new wildlife conservancy on the Mbulia Group Ranch land bordering the Tsavo National Park. We recently received this report from Amara Conservation:
“…after years of working with them, through AEFF’s films primarily but adding in some barazas and capacity building, the Mbulia Group Ranch have at long last signed a deal to set aside the Ranch as a conservancy. This is the area that KWS [Kenya Wildlife Service] told me several years ago was the most critical elephant habitat outside the Parks, and one of the highest human elephant conflict areas – which is why we focussed there and Kishushe/Oza. This is powerful and irreversible proof of the effectiveness of the films!”
Amara Conservation have been screening AEFF films in the Mbulia/Kishushe area since the early 2000s. It is interesting and fulfilling to note the transition between the community’s former stance and its new attitude towards wildlife conservation as a sound economic alternative, thanks to AEFF’s films and Amara’s follow-up discussions with the community. To explain the background and illustrate how long it takes for ideas to germinate and then become reality, here is an excerpt from Amara’s report to AEFF back in 2008. This report also illustrates that, while the positive effects of AEFF’s films may not be noticeable from one day to the next, over time they do become very clear indeed:
“What has happened in our areas of key focus in the Taita Hills region (an area of highest human wildlife conflict in Kenya according to the Kenya Wildlife Service) is that people are now asking to be helped to make the changes that they now see as important. They are living rather marginal lives eking a living growing traditional crops of maize, cowpeas and holding minimal livestock, mostly goats and sheep. The area is very arid and the soil is not conducive to farming – the people have only moved into the area in the last 60 years due to population growth. They are now seeing that the agricultural practices they are maintaining are actually causing damage to the land, that the bushmeat they consume is destructive and not sustainable, and they want to make changes.
This has come to be because we have shown AEFF’s films repeatedly, in several communities/schools/churches/market centres around the area…
…In some key areas, specifically the Group Ranches of Mbulia, Kishushe, Maungu, Sagalla, and Mugeno – the people are now looking to form wildlife sanctuaries on their land. For Mbulia and Kishushe this is very critical – as each ranch is in a key elephant migration route/seasonal feeding ground, and outsiders before have approached each to lease land and make sanctuaries/put up camps or lodges – yet they have always refused. NOW, they are actively seeking to make these sanctuaries a reality as they know the benefits to them in terms of financial gain and more importantly – they now want to stop the destructive practices they have been engaging in for years.
Mbulia and Kishushe are identified by the KWS as their number one priority region for habitat conservation. When Tsavo was gazetted, these areas were delineated as ‘Wildlife Dispersal Areas’ as it wasn’t imagined that they would one day have human residents.
The fact that these communities who live on the border of the biggest Park in East Africa, with the highest level of human elephant conflict – have formed committees, lobbied amongst their members, made trips to view their areas for tourism, attended workshops to learn about running sustainable group projects – this has come to be because of what was learned in the AEFF films, combined with the meetings/discussions/barazas that we have held in conjunction with those films.
There are innumerable instances when I have seen eyes wide opened, people from 5 to 80 years of age really begin to understand the role that humans play in the larger environment, even beyond the village boundaries where they may not ever have traveled, and the evidence of which can only be shown through the medium of film. Once they learn about how the animals live, how the trees and water are intertwined, once they SEE THIS – its not just ‘film’, but the AEFF films in particular.