Into the Wild

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After some procrastination involving cats and dogs, we made our way to the Shimba Hills National Reserve. We arrived an hour later and after some meet and greets with the wardens we were whisked off to find some elephants. We first stopped at the Mwaluganje elephant sanctuary where we were told how the locals not only looked after the park but also made products there. This cottage industry has taken the form of producing paper by mixing elephant dung with old paper and binding it with wood glue. The finished product can take the form of anything from photo albums, bookmarks and note pads.IMG_0311

Once they had finished explaining the project and we interviewed some of the project members, we set off once again in our truck, making our way down Shimba Hills’ roads. During that two hours we spent driving around, we passed through some of the most beautiful and cut off areas of the world that I have visited to date. The wildness literally stretches off into the distance in all directions at points and there are very few signs of human habitation. Sadly though, whilst we had some encounters with some warthogs and water bucks, we did not see any of the elephants or sable antelope we had come to find. However we may be able to go back on Monday, so fingers crossed for next week.

a fleeting look at a warthog

a fleeting look at a warthog

Saddened by the lack of elephants on show, we retreated back to the elephant sanctuary. High up in the trees we had spotted some woven basket like nests populated by yellow birds. After consulting my Kenya guide book we discovered that they were masked weavers.

A masked weaver bird

A masked weaver bird

These birds are common to Kenya and are noted for the well crafted nests. It seems that the nest is constructed by the dexterous males before being inspected by the females. If she finds it unsatisfactory she will ruthlessly destroy it and find another mate. After observing these beautiful birds for a time, we headed back to the cottage. We hope that we will be able to see the elephants on Monday so stay tuned.

 

Chickpea Balls with Fresh Tomato Sauce

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We made these chickpea balls for dinner one night. With not many ingredients to chose from chickpeas was the best option to make something special. These balls were delicious especially with the fresh tomato sauce, the fresh tomatoes add sweetness to the dish. You don’t need many ingredients for this and it is super quick and easy to make. Try this at home!

 

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Ingredients (serves 8)

Chickpea Balls:

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 bread rolls (or slices of bread)
  • 2 eggs

Fresh Tomato Sauce:

  • 12 tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion

 

Method

  1. Mix the chickpea ball ingredients together and blend. Create small balls with the mixture and place on a baking tray.
  2. Chop the onion, garlic and tomatoes. Cook in a pan over a medium heat.
  3. While the tomato sauce is cooking place the chickpea balls under the grill for 15-20m minutes or until brown and crispy on the outside.
  4. Simmer the tomato sauce until the chickpea balls are ready to eat.

 

By Sam

 

Dinner at Forty Thieves Restaurant

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A few nights ago we had dinner at Forty Thieves Restaurant situated at Diani Beach. The food was reasonably priced, a good size and was also very tasty. They have a variety of food including; burgers, pizza, curry and salads. Most of our group had pizzas with a variety of toppings, free of charge and the rest has burgers or bbq chicken. We washed our food down with dawa (cocktail made with vodka, honey and lime over crushed ice) and beer.

 

By Sam

Pasta Bolognese with Soy Mince Recipe

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I had never tried soy mince before until I had this, the soy has a very salty taste to it that we had to add sugar into the recipe to even out the flavours. This dinner was delicious, the sauce has a nice sweetness to it and the paprika and pepper gave it a bit of heat.

 

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • 3 onions
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tins tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 vegetable stock cube with 4 cups of water
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • pepper to taste

Method

  1. Fry the chopped onion and garlic in a pan with the mixed herbs and paprika. Cook until the onions are soft.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, ketchup and brown sugar.  Simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the stock water and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
  4. Serve with pasta.

 

By Sam

Elephant dung: an unexpected tool for human-wildlife conflict resolution.

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The Recipe for Elephant Dung Paper

The Recipe for Elephant Dung Paper

In Kwale County, adjacent to Shimba Hills National Reserve, farmers have been coexisting with wildlife for years: animals such as baboons and elephants that cannot understand the human construct of fences and happen to enjoy eating many of the same crops we do.  Presented with once carefully cultivated fields now trampled and eaten by elephants, some farmers began to retaliate, with no way to keep the elephants out and few options to compensate for the loss of livelihood brought about by the destruction of their crops.  For the elephants, simply roaming the land on which they’ve had free rein for generations, this was a further pressure to add to the habitat loss and poaching already affecting their species.  With a conflict this complex, it is hard to know where to begin finding a solution that benefits both humans and wildlife, without detracting disproportionately from either.  Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary is one such initiative.  If there’s one thing elephants provide a lot of, it’s dung, and the founders of the project turned this to their advantage, creating a business with its roots in this free and abundant resource.  When cleaned and processed, elephant dung can be made into paper products, which are sold to visitors in the project’s shop.  Not only this, but visitors can also learn about – and have a good chance of seeing – the elephants themselves, guided by the sanctuary’s rangers.  During our visit, we spoke to Fatuma Hasira, one of the project’s managers, who told us that the money raised through the sale of the paper products is of huge benefit to the community, and that people now enjoy watching the elephants browsing in the distance as they pass through.

Another project making the most of elephant dung is the Pasha Self Help Group, led by John Monroe Kioka, who used knowledge gained while travelling the world during his career to help his community overcome the challenges of living and farming next to Shimba Hills’ large population of elephants, the densest in Kenya.  On returning to his farm at retirement, John realised he was unable to cultivate most of his land because the crops would be destroyed overnight by elephants and baboons.  This issue was far-reaching, and the community was struggling to maintain a livelihood.  Remembering farmers in India using chillies to protect their crops from elephants, John hit upon the idea of combining chillies and tobacco leaves with elephant dung to create a potent, slow-burning mixture whose acrid smoke proves extremely effective in keeping elephants at bay.  The baboons, trickier to deter, are now dissuaded from entering the fields when farmers spray their crops with water infused with chillies.  Entrepreneurial in spirit, John continued to look for ways to give the elephants a value beyond the intrinsic, thus further safeguarding their future despite their proximity to humans around Shimba Hills.  Noticing that the mudfish on his farm attacked elephant dung that fell into their pond by chance with ferocious greed, he began deliberately to use it as fish food – combined with tiny dried fish, it forms a cheap, chemical-free alternative to the commercial fish food brands available before.  The Pasha Self Help Group has saved enough money from the sale of their undamaged crops to be able to dig fish ponds; with a bit more support, they’ll be able to line them and fill them with water, and will soon be able to add tilapia to the products they have available to eat and sell.  John also aims to afford a pelleting machine so that they can start making the elephant dung and fish combination into a marketable form and generate income that way too.

Living with wildlife is fraught with challenges, and often threatens human lives as well as livelihoods.  As population increases and pressures on land grow, it is certainly not a problem that is going to go away, and there is no simple, cure-all solution.  It can seem an insurmountable problem, but is not one that can be ignored, and the reason for this is summed up best by John himself:

“Wildlife has a right to live, just as you have a right to live.  Elephants don’t have the tools to resolve human wildlife conflict, but we do, so we must use them”.

To find out more about the initiatives above, go to: http://blogs.wwf.org.uk/blog/author/ekimaru/

Vegetable Curry Recipe

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Last night it was the first time the whole team ate dinner together that had been prepared by us. We have been put into three cooking teams, that day it was the leaders turn to cook (Laurence, Emily and Lucy). Unfortunately Emily and Lucy became ill so we all helped Laurence cook this vegetable curry. The curry is quick and easy to prepare and does not need much attention whilst cooking on the stove. If you like your food a bit spicier I suggest you add more curry powder or chillies.

 

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 large potato
  • 5 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 ltr boiling water
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Prepare the vegetables by peeling and cutting into chunks. 
  2. Add the onion and carrots to a large pan until softened.
  3. Add the crushed garlic and curry powder and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Add the boiling water and simmer with a lid on until all the vegetables are soft.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and serve with rice.

 

By Sam

Exploring Kenya with Sam Wheatley

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Sam Wheatley

Sam Wheatley is a music enthusiast, aged 23 from Doncaster. With a degree in BSc (Hons) Music Technology and Production from the University of Derby she enjoys music from metal to clubland. Her favourite band is Avenged Sevenfold and in her spare time she helps manage a friend’s band and is currently organising Oxjam, one of the biggest independent music festivals for charity in Doncaster. Sam plays the guitar and will be doing her grade 7 in flute in March.

Sam heard about The Handshake from a friend and thought is was “the right opportunity at the right time”. Sam loves that the locals are very friendly in Kenya and that cows roam freely in the streets. When the project is over Sam would love to rejoin The Handshake to discover more animals and experience local food.
 

Sam gives light writing a go on the first night of the Wildlife Handshake

Sam gives light writing a go on the first night of the Wildlife Handshake

Meet Alex Polley, the sword waving media enthusiast…

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Alex Polley

Alex Polley

Alex, a recent graduate from Lampeter University, hails from Oxford and has a passion for photography, writing and practising Kendo – the art of Japanese fencing (where he enjoys waving his gigantic sword). Alex decided to join the Wildlife Handshake after receiving lectures during his media course from some of the Handshake staff at his University. Alex first heard about the projects two years ago and spent this time working hard and saving hard at supermarkets, warehouses and a hospital after his studies. He is most looking forward to seeing all the wildlife that Kenya has to offer, in particular he would like to spot a rhino whilst on safari, and he has also been entertaining the idea of seeing a lemur (shhh…we haven’t told him yet that they don’t actually live here!).

Since Alex arrived in Kenya, he expected it to be hotter and is not a fan of the current rainfall. He has been surprised at the abundance of wildlife trotting, flying and skipping about and this has given him a great excuse to use his fancy camera on regular occasions. His first impressions of the group are that they are a very friendly and pretty bunch, but Laurence has some way to go.

Alex hopes to have a great time with everyone, help out with the group and the projects as much as he can, and avoid the tourist traps on Diani Beach.

Alex gives light writing a go on the first night of the Wildlife Handshake

Alex gives light writing a go on the first night of the Wildlife Handshake

A Kenyan Experience

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A Handshake Honey

A Handshake Honey

Working as a PA in the UK, Anna has joined us on this year’s trip in order to push her own limits as a individual and expand her understanding of other parts of the world. “Seeing a different way of life, and different animals…something like that anyway”  she says with a smile.

A massive fan of primates, Anna is delighted whenever we come across a mischievous Sykes’ Monkey, excited by a troop of vervets and positively drooling at a bush baby. Anna is also looking forward to seeing the other wildlife that Kenya has to offer, such as leopards, lions (or cats with mops strategically placed on their heads) and rhinos.

Anna spends her free time watching up and coming names on the music scene, as well as giving it a try herself. She has a cat and hamsters with her boyfriend Dan, who she has been with since February.

When Anna first came to Kenya, she was surprised by the regularity of wildlife sightings, the friendliness of the people of Kenya and how green the country is.

Anna gives light writing a go on the first night of the Wildlife Handshake

Anna gives light writing a go on the first night of the Wildlife Handshake

Finding our feet

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As the sun rose over the cottage, our first proper day of orientation began. After breakfast we were treated to a talk by Lucy on conservation projects in Africa. This focused mostly on the ethics of creating conservation projects and the impact that these can have on local people.

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After a short break we proceeded to be interviewed for the projects blog, each of us being filmed and filming in turn. After some tinkering and hilarious vox pops, we finally had some clips with which we could begin to edit. We took a break once we were finished and headed back to the cottage for a swim in the pool. Once we were all kitted up, we hopped in and quickly engaged in the team building exercises the regular Handshakers had prepared for us.

After lunch, Samz and Anna began the editing under the supervision of Laurence whilst the other Sam and I went to get transition shots with Emily. This took us from our base/hut all of the fifty metres back to our cottage. However in between that we got some interesting shots of the banda we’re working in, the pool outside our cottage (involving monkeys) and the equivalent of a short film’s worth of cat footage.