Aug 15, 2010

FROM EWE, TO YOU: How wool spinning and weaving are helping to save threatened birds and unique natural habitats in Kenya

NOTA DI LUCA. Questo è un breve articolo scritto da Sammy, uno dei nostri borsisti di studio presso il National Museums of Kenya. Sammy insieme ad altri ragazzi di Kinangop gestisce un laboratorio di filatura e tessitura della lana di pecora, che aiuta a salvare un uccellino minacciato (lo Zampagrossa di Sharpe Macronyx sharpei) e crea posti di lavoro ecologici, eco-compatibili, ecopacifisti ed ecocardiografici. Sullo zampagrossa e sulla sua vita sventurata potete leggere di più in uno dei post precedenti clikkando QUI.
ALTRA NOTA (PER I LETTORI ITALIANI). Ewe in inglese vuol dire 'pecora' :-) 
NOTE FROM LUCA. This is a short article by Sammy, one of the members of the Njabini Woolspinning Workshop, a project that we have been helping since 2007. The workshop's goal is to save the habitat of Sharpe's longclaw, an endangered bird that lives only in Kenya's highland grasslands. To do this, the workshop buys wool taken from sheep grazing on the grassland, and transforms the raw wool into a variety of woven products. Thus, besides protecting biodiversity, the Njabini workshop created jobs that are sorely needed in Kenya

FROM EWE TO YOU, by Samuel Ngang’a Bakari,
Njabini Wool-spinning Workshop, POB 254- 20319, South Kinangop, Kenya. Email:

From Ewe, to you. Well, did you know this short chain can help conserve some globally endangered birds that only live in Kenya’s unique highland grasslands? Did you know you can contribute very much by helping complete the chain? Well, look at this.
The Kinangop Highland Grasslands of central Kenya have been identified as a globally important and highly threatened biodiversity area that requires extra environmental attention. The grasslands hold two globally threatened bird species, the Sharpe’s Longclaw and the Aberdare Cisticola as well as a suite of other rare species of flora and fauna. Now, unfortunately, the grasslands are severely threatened. Most of them are owned by small-scale farmers who steadily convert them to cultivations, where the endangered biodiversity cannot survive. Very little of Kenya’s highland grassland is protected inside Reserves or National Parks. That does not sound good, especially to those who care about the environment.
Kinangop’s highland grasslands were originally inhabited by nomadic Maasai pastoralists, but since the 1960s they have been increasingly settled by farmers and now more than 80% of all the indigenous grasslands in Kinangop Plateau has been converted to crop cultivation or plantations of eucalypts and other non-indigenous trees. The small bits of remnant natural grassland that are left are owned by farmers with big families and very low incomes. It is clear that an effective and sustainable conservation strategy for these unique grasslands must include economic benefits to the local owners.
Livestock farming was a major source of income in the Kinangop plateau for many years and up to 1990s, when market prices of milk and wool products took a nose dive. Farmers who had for long preferred dairy and sheep rearing had to turn to crop cultivation to cater for their needs. The crops were no better and the farmers were forced to convert more and more grasslands to crop cultivation. This means that nowadays the few tiny remnants of natural grassland are the last refuge for a large number of species of flora and fauna, among them the birds are the most well-known – but by no means the only ones.
But not all is lost. The Friends of Kinangop Plateau, a group of community-based conservationists, are not sitting and watching, they came up with a far-sighted strategy to protect the grasslands whilst at the same time trying to ensure that the people who live on them also benefit. FOKP run a Wool Spinning and Weaving Workshop that tries to address all these problems. The workshop is located in Njabini village, at the southern edge of Kinangop plateau, and is run by youths and women. Basically the workshop buys wool from the farmers paying a convenient price to them. This has persuaded several farmers to rear sheep in the natural grasslands, rather than cultivating them. The Njabini Workshop then adds value to the wool through spinning and weaving it into end user products like carpets, mats, bags and other knitted items. These are then sold to local people and tourists who visit the workshop. Unfortunately, this business is still limited to a very small and local scale, due to the lack of convenient outlets in large towns. Therefore, FOKP is now trying to improve the quality of their wool products and to achieve better marketing opportunities, which will allow them to expand their market to towns or to the routes used by foreign tourists. In due time, exporting to foreign markets is also considered a major future breakthrough.
The wool spinning workshop is an excellent way of motivating farmers to retain the livestock and preserve the pastures that also are the habitat to the threatened wildlife. It therefore gives the farmers a financial reason to keep the land as it is giving a win-win situation for the farmers and the conservationist.
Do you want to be part of the winners? You are not left out. Buy one of these locally hand woven products and contribute to the success. Don’t be left out!

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