It occurred to me, as I was posting my previous entries here, how easy it is to enjoy the pretty pictures of all the incredible wildlife that surrounds the AEFF headquarters, and our home, here in the Tsavo region of Kenya. It struck me that it might be easy to forget sometimes that our work here has a very serious and critical mission, for the natural wonders which surround us are every day are being threatened across the continent – indeed across the world. Everything we enjoy today, could be gone tomorrow…
For example, while the river below our house is a daily delight to behold with all its wildlife dramas unfolding before our eyes (and yours through this blog), take a look at these images taken from AEFF’s films which show what is happening to the environment not so far away from here, and in many other parts of Africa…
Here’s what’s happening in many of the great forests around the world. It begs the question: What happens when all our natural resources are stretched beyond all endurance?
What happens to the people when all the trees are cut down?
What happens to cattle and other domestic livestock when there’s no grass left to eat?
What happens to the wildlife when there’s no water left?
This is why AEFF makes films: to show people what is happening to their environment (both positively and negatively) and, through showing successful working examples and highlighting role models in the environmental field, illustrating how people really can improve their livelihoods by adopting environmentally sustainable ventures.
And does education through film really work?
To answer that question, I’d like to quote from a report sent to us by one of our key distribution partners, Amara Conservation (a US non profit working alongside AEFF in Kenya, who using their mobile cinemas show our films to over 100,000 children and adults each year). It’s quite a long account, but please do read it if you can, for I think it clearly demonstrates the very real effects our films are having in the rural areas of East Africa, as well as highlighting the important role played by our distribution partners in disseminating our films far and wide:
“…We have shown films all over Kenya but mostly focused our work on the borders of the Tsavo National Parks. We focus here for several reasons including the remoteness of the populated areas and therefore the need for the information, the significance of the habitat for wildlife, and the infrastructure that is in place in the communities whereby most people belong to groups of various kinds and therefore have the ability to come together to institute changes. These changes can only occur if people want to make them, and through your educational films, we have clearly seen changes in the minds of many.
These are manifested in many different ways. Indeed, if we didn’t see these changes occurring, we would not show the films!
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 films repeatedly, in several communities/schools/churches/market centres around the area. Over time, people have come to know that when the Amara Land Rover arrives it means “CINEMA” and they all come. They are taking in the information in the films in a very real way.
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.
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 and discussions 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 beginning 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 – it’s not just ‘film’, but the AEFF films in particular…”
Executive Director – Amara Conservation
The Amara Conservation mobile cinema screen is erected on the side of their specially adapted Land Rover, ready for the screening of one of AEFF’s educational films.