Visit to Ol Pejeta

By John Nyaga

Every Quarter, a team of JWS staff heads out to work out with communities and organisations towards a noble cause. Last month a team of nine departed for Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia. The team was made up of Annie, Audrey, Judy, Shreya, Ben, Bob, John Muturi, Moses and I (John Nyaga). We left chilly Nairobi at around 1.00pm and after an enjoyable drive, we arrived in Nanyuki Town at around 5.00pm.

On our first day Nancy and Abraham of Ol Pejeta briefed us on the communities around the conservancy. The community to the North is mainly nomadic. That would be our first stop and the activity there was a jigger-eradication exercise. As we drove up North, most of us were a bit apprehensive as we had no idea what we were up against. None of us had been involved in this sort of exercise before. The sight of Zebras, gazelles and buffaloes made for a beautiful interlude, momentarily taking away the worries and fears. After half an hour, we got to the dispensary where the local health officers were waiting for us. After a briefing, we got down to work and it was enjoyable interacting with the children as we washed their feet (I am definitely going back there!) The cleaning exercise basically involves washing the infected persons feet with soap, then dipping them in Potassium permanganate for 15 minutes, and finally applying jelly. By the end of the exercise, 146 children had been cleaned. Unfortunately, we had to leave early as we had another activity lined up for the afternoon. Nancy and the Ministry of Health officials were very grateful to JW Seagon for the support that has enabled Ol Pejeta’s outreach program advance the fight against jiggers.

For our second activity we headed out to the South, where the community is predominantly made up of settled, subsistent farmers. Here Ol-Pejeta has partnered with the locals in making eco-friendly jikos (fireplaces or stoves, if you like) at subsidised cost. These jikos, use less firewood and emit less smoke, therefore the benefits are threefold: Healthwise, economically and environmentally. The process starts with clearing and flattening an open surface. This is where the bricks used for making the jikos are placed to dry. We then dug out soil and carried it to another clear area. This is then mixed with small pieces of cut hay and cow dung! By hand! You then add water. Our ladies and Ben then had a good time dancing in the mud until it was the right mix (not too hard, not too soft). We then used some blocks to shape out the bricks and carried them to the space we had cleared at the beginning. Our target was 90 bricks, but we didn’t quite hit the target. Good effort all round though. Our hosts then served us a hot cup of coffee and we left for the camp.

On the final day, we headed for Moran Camp, the unit that protects rhinos within the conservancy. At the camp we were briefed about the rhinos, and especially the endangered Northern White Rhino, which is sadly facing extinction. The last male, Sudan, died last year and the remaining females are unable to carry pregnancy to term due to some disabilities. All of them were brought to Ol Pejeta from a zoo in the Czech Republic. It was sad to hear. We also had an opportunity to watch one ranger get up close with the rhinos as he fed them pellets. We also met Baraka, the blind Rhino who owns 140 acres of land. We later went for a game drive and had a behind-the-scenes session where we saw chimpanzees being fed (it is a sight to behold).