The OPP – Ontulili Primates Protection – program is a community based organization set up by women along the Ontulili river in Nanyuki, Kenya. In 2021, OPP worked closely with Laikipia Forum (LF) and its donor, Over and Above Africa, to both monitor primates along the Ontulili and help reforest sections of the river.
On 1 May 2022, OPP won its second grant from Over and Above Africa, who have supported OPP in its efforts to protect local primate communities, and in particular the colobus monkeys, by training members of a women’s group who all live in the area, to monitor and report on the status of the primates along the river; replanting areas in the forest that had been cut and destroyed; improving the environment along the river with community clean-ups; and raising awareness through art classes and nature walks for local children. The small grant will help us operate in 2022.
The Primate Guardians are all women who are active members and live in the area, so are best placed to continue the monitoring. The Guardians earn a stipend that helps to feed their families and gives them a sense of purpose and self-respect. They have been extremely proud to be associated with the primates and riparian reforestation project. OPP continues its work empowering women who are the primary caretakers of households and communities.
On Monday 23 May, the Primate Guardians, led the Mt Kenya Trust Manager and MKT rangers to three possible sites for the colobus-bridges that will be installed in the coming weeks. OPP is working in partnership with Mt Kenya Trust to install the bridges in areas where there is reduced canopy for the monkeys.
Colobus monkeys have poor terrestrial movement and any fragmentation of the canop connectivity along the river, renders the population vulnerable to existing environmental challenges and to being harmed if they descend to the ground.
Children’s art classes have continued every other Saturday – the children meet at 10 am at a Board members house and start with a ten minute nature walk – recently led by Irene Kawira, the lead Primate Guardian, who explained the importance of tree planting especially along the riparian are of the Onutulili river (currently very low due to erratic and reduced rainfall this year).
Local children have benefitted from nature walks and art classes on a regular basis giving them alternative and new activities on weekends. This has helped raise their awareness of issues related to a healthy, clean environment and to peaceful co-existence with primates and wildlife. It also shows them how they can use art as a tool for communication to raise awareness.
OPP continues support of the women’s tree nursery that they helped establish and the OPP Board have started linking them with KFS and MKT for information on how best to market their seedlings. Over 90% of the community interviewed in the target area in 2021 supported the conservation of the Ontulili river ecosystem, with tree planting being a key element.
We are grateful to the Forum for their support, and appreciate the engagement of our local partners, the Ontulili WRUA, KFS, KWS, and local landowners. It truly does take a village to make important changes in our relations with our environment.