BirdLife volunteers receive prestigious prize
A group working to conserve the Kikuyu Escarpment forest Important Bird Area (IBA) in Kenya has won the prestigious Equator Prize for 2008. The Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) were chosen from 310 nominations and received the award at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, in Barcelona, Spain.
Site Support Groups (SSGs) like KENVO are key to BirdLife's work and one of the most practical ways of achieving conservation by local communities. They work to protect the most threatened biodiversity sites, whilst ensuring benefits from the wise use of the natural resources. SSGs are valuable tools for the future, due to their intricate relationships with the wider community and to the resources within IBAs.
KENVO are providing local communities with the information, education and resources they need to advance environmentally friendly businesses, by connecting local entrepreneurs with low-interest loans. They also provide practical training in bee-keeping and eco-tourism guiding, and work with clubs and local schools to promote conservation education. They contribute to direct management of Kereita forest - part of Kikuyu Escarpment forest - through a tree-planting initiative focused on indigenous species.
"KENVO’s work shows what can be achieved with consistent effort and determination" —Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife’s Director of Science, Policy and Information
The SSG was one of 25 winners, chosen out of recommendations from 70 nations in the tropics. They were selected to celebrate outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation of biodiversity. KENVO, which works with NatureKenya (BirdLife in Kenya), has shown remarkable success in addressing conservation issues at Kikuyu Escarpment forest, where human pressure has been increasing. This IBA is rich in bird species and is home to regionally threatened species such as African Olive Ibis Bostrychia olivacea and Crowned Hawk-eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus.
In their congratulations to the winners, Kemal Dervis, Administrator for the United Nations Development Programme and Timothy Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, emphasised that winners exemplified the capacity of local groups to adapt and effectively combat climate change at local level. "I'm delighted that the substantial contribution KENVO has made to the local community and IBA conservation has been recognised. KENVO's work is really inspirational and shows what can be achieved, in the face of great challenges, with consistent effort and determination", added Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife's Director of Science, Policy and Information.
Back in Kenya, the KENVO team received the award with excitement. David Kuria, pioneer of the group said: "We are humbled by this award and acknowledge that success is only achieved if teamwork, patience, focus and commitment prevail within a group". He added: "Our group is committed to conserving Kereita Forest while at the same time supporting communities to improve their lives and reduce poverty".
Credits: Harriet Vickers