|Date||3 May 2005|
This project is a result of concern for the sustainability of the crafts industry in Kenya and particularly so for Crafts of Africa producer groups who happen to come mainly from the poor segment of the community and are therefore struggling to meet their daily needs. Poor people often struggle for their immediate survival more than conservation hence the environmental degradation observed in the project area. As a fair trade organization we work with community based producer groups for whom we seek market for their products internationally within the mainstream and fair trade buyers. We have observed with concern that unless positive conservation measures are employed we stand to in the near future lose all our slow growing indigenous carving trees and more so because there is a high exploitation rate and slow regeneration.
The Kamba community dominates the woodcarving industry in Kenya. It is estimated that there are 80 000 carvers currently active in the country with an extended family network estimated at half a million people. These people are found in Kenya’s Eastern Province, which is a semi arid region with a fragile ecosystem. Therefore tree destruction as is happening in the case of carving trees raises a lot of environmental concern.
The preferred woodcarving tree species include Muhugu (Brachylaena hutchinsii), Ebony (Dalbergia melanoxylon), Mvule (Chlorophora excelsa), Satinwood (Fagara macrophylla) and Brown olive (Olea Africana). About 50 000 trees of these scarce species are felled each year. This is equal to ten trees per hectare of natural closed –canopy forest in Kenya. Also threatened are rare animals like the Sokoke Scops Owl (Otus irenae) and the endangered Golden- rumped elephant – shrew (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus).
Often, development projects ignore the inputs and knowledge of local people hence imposing “foreign ideas” on them, the result being failed initiatives. This project hopes to come up with participatory conservation strategies developed in partnership with the target communities. Understandably therefore, the projects outcome will play a crucial role of offering a long term base for economic and social development of the Kamba people and other carving communities in the country and beyond.