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Conservation Sketching - Tanzania 2011/12


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#1 Nicholls Wildlife Art

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 03:52 PM

Drawing Upon Community - an Artist's Sketching Expedition to the African People & Wildlife Fund, Tanzania.
This report covers my conservation sketching expedition, titled “Drawing Upon Community”, in which I visited the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) in Tanzania in July 2011 and then again in Feb/Mar 2012. My aim was to sketch in the field & see all aspects of the project in action. I’m going to write 3 or 4 sections focusing on aspects of my visits, rather than a daily report of my activities. This section is about APW’s environmental education for children, but in later sections I will talk about rangeland management, their work to reduce human-wildlife conflict, and general information about the project and the local Maasai community. And as I’m a professional artist, I’m illustrating the report with some of my field sketches. I hope you enjoy it!

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Noloholo Environmental Center, APW's headquarters. Field sketch by A Nicholls.

APW is located next to the eastern boundary of Tarangire National Park and the Noloholo Environmental Center is their headquarters – a great facility built on land donated to the project by the Maasai community of Loibor Siret. During the dry season it is a 4 hour drive from Arusha, during a good wet season it can apparently take up to 11 hours! It was July 2011 (dry season) when I first visited APW and the land looked parched as we bounced past the occasional stately baobab and plentiful herds of cattle, often tended by young boys. Unfortunately, on my return in late February 2012 (wet season) the land looked much the same. The rains had not been kind and although many of the trees were green with new leaves, many areas still looked dry and brown. It was not the contrast between seasons that I had hoped to see and sketch, but I had 2 weeks and knew that the landscape could green up in no time at all if the rains came.

Dr Laly Lichtenfeld is the Executive Director of APW (she founded the project after conducting her PhD research in the area, focusing on human-lion relationships) and her husband Charles Trout is the Director of Programs. In addition, APW employs 12 permanent and 8 temporary Tanzanian staff. The project’s aim is to help rural communities manage natural resources for the mutual benefit of people & wildlife.

On my first visit, I arrived as the sun set, with just enough time to get my bearings, find my tent and the bathroom. With those important missions accomplished it was time to dig out my flashlight and head for the kitchen, where we would plan my schedule over dinner. I was extremely fortunate that APW’s solar panel system, donated by the Wildlife Conservation Network, was installed just prior to my arrival and as a result they now have the luxury of 24 hour power!

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Children at APW Summercamp. Field sketch by A Nicholls.

I knew that the first week of my visit would be hectic because it was scheduled to coincide with one of APW’s Children’s Summercamps. A couple of years previously I spent 6 weeks at the Painted Dog Conservation project in Zimbabwe on an Artists For Conservation Flag Expedition, tracking and sketching African Wild Dogs. PDC also runs a very successful Children’s Bushcamp program so I was keen to see similarities and differences between the 2 programs operating in very different environments. Pretty soon I saw the first similarities – the infectious exuberance of children and staff, and the serious environmental lessons being learned through a variety of fun activities.

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Children at APW Summercamp. Field sketch by A Nicholls.

During the APW Summercamp, 24 children from the 2 local primary schools of Loibor Siret and Kangala are hosted at Noloholo for a week to learn about a wide range of topics associated with the conservation of their local environment. In order to be invited, a child must have good school grades and be a regular attendee of their school's Wildlife Club. The Wildlife Clubs were set up in response to local community interest, and members take part in extracurricular activities such as bird walks, village clean-ups and the setting up of village vegetable gardens. APW's Conservation Education Officer, Neovitus Sianga, with whom I worked closely during my time at Noloholo, runs the Wildlife Clubs and the Summercamp activities, including classroom sessions, field trips, team-building exercises and educational games. Organizing the activities and keeping the children fully occupied is no mean feat because they have boundless energy! But Neo is equal to the task and loves working with the children so the camp atmosphere is always positive and inspiring.

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Meeting of the Loibor Siret Wildlife Club. Field sketch by A Nicholls.

Here’s a sketch I created while Neo held a meeting of the Loibor Siret Wildlife Club. Some of the children were shy but others were busy looking over my shoulder so I decided to add watercolor to the sketch so that they could see it completely finished. If, as an artist, you ever have any qualms about sketching with an audience, then I don't suggest a visit to rural Africa. Often I'd find that the people I was sketching were so interested that they'd come over and end up standing behind me!

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Oloisuki Tree. Field sketch by A Nicholls

One of the activities at the Summercamp was a Medicinal Tree Walk, conducted by elders from the local Maasai community, who showed the children how particular trees are used for medicinal purposes. One of the most useful trees is the Oloisuki (in KiMaasai) or Zanthoxylum chalybeum, a type of knobthorn. It has incredibly sharp thorns on its leaves and smaller branches, but if you can get past those, its seed pods, flowers and seeds can be used to treat fever, while the roots can be used to treat stomach-ache. The sketch below shows an APW staff member, Lengurwa, cutting Oloisuki tree roots to treat a friend's stomach-ache.

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Lengurwa preparing Oloisuki. Field sketch by A Nicholls

During both visits, I spent time at the local schools, teaching drawing. The schools are like many I have seen in various African countries – a few rectangular buildings sitting in dusty but well-swept yards, punctuated by a few shade trees. Inside, on crumbling floors, sit a few thoroughly-used desks consisting of seat and writing shelf all in 1 piece, each seating 3, 4 or sometimes 5 children. The walls are completely bare, although also pockmarked with holes, and the windows have shutters but contain no glass. There are no lights and there is no heating. Each room has a large blackboard, but books, pencils & chalk are moved, along with extra desks, from room to room to wherever they are needed. The children wear navy blue uniforms, although most have seen far better days. This is school, but it is not a classroom many western children would recognize. And yet, as in much of Africa, education is highly valued as a passport to a better life.

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Wildlife Drawing Card.

A few years ago I created a set of Wildlife Drawing cards to teach children (and any interested adults) how to draw animals using simple shapes. The laminated cards show a photograph of an African animal, a simple drawing of the animal using circles and other shapes, then a more detailed drawing showing how the shapes are connected to create the animal's outline. The name of the animal is shown in English and in the local language. I have donated sets to several African conservation projects in different countries and brought 3 sets with me on this trip - 1 for APW and 1 for each of the local primary schools. Recently I started adding livestock to the cards because it is livestock, rather than wildlife, that the children see on a daily basis.

Wherever I’ve used these cards I’ve found there are children with a natural ability to draw even though they may have had absolutely no tuition. I used the cards during the Summercamp and in both the primary schools. Here are some of the children’s drawings - I'm sure you'll agree that they are quite accomplished.

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Children's Drawings using Wildlife Art Cards

Another aspect of APW’s environmental educational initiative is their Environmental Scholarship Fund in which select students are offered scholarships to private schools in Arusha for the full 6 years of their secondary education (high school). Currently there are 12 scholars in the program, chosen by means of a thorough evaluation, and they act as mentors to the younger children each year at Summercamp. I interviewed 4 of the scholars and each of them was very proud of their scholarship. Most come from extremely poor families and are very aware that without the scholarship they would no longer be able to continue their education. Every year APW adds more scholars to the program, giving real opportunity to local children and gaining the support of the entire community. As I write this, all 12 scholars are at Noloholo taking part in the 1st Scholars Retreat which emphasizes educational excellence, environmental leadership and no doubt plenty of fun!

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Maasai Woman. Field sketch by A Nicholls.


I'm still working on the next section of my report, but it will include sketches of the Maasai, their livestock and APW's Living Wall bomas which are helping to reduce human-wildlife conflict in the area.

#2 JohnR

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 04:57 PM

A fascinating program and report. I look forward to reading more.

Poverty is not correlated with intelligence and desire for an education. The study I am involved with in Namibia has contact with a special school in a nearby township which looks after children who have dropped out of the state school system for various reasons. We have a session at the end of a day spent showing them wildlife on a game farm where they discuss their aspirations and without exception they involve studying for a career, be it teacher, doctor or whatever. And the children are very intelligent so their reason for being outside the regular system is invariably due to family problems, often AIDS related. African schools are full of children with great potential which in many cases will not be realised.
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#3 Safaridude

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 11:58 AM

Very groovy sketches Alison. The ones by the children are fantastic too.

I have been lucky enough to visit APW as well. I really like their "organic" approach with the community there.

#4 Nicholls Wildlife Art

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 01:36 PM

A fascinating program and report. I look forward to reading more.

Poverty is not correlated with intelligence and desire for an education. The study I am involved with in Namibia has contact with a special school in a nearby township which looks after children who have dropped out of the state school system for various reasons. We have a session at the end of a day spent showing them wildlife on a game farm where they discuss their aspirations and without exception they involve studying for a career, be it teacher, doctor or whatever. And the children are very intelligent so their reason for being outside the regular system is invariably due to family problems, often AIDS related. African schools are full of children with great potential which in many cases will not be realised.


I couldn't agree more!

#5 Rainbirder

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 01:50 PM

A truly uplifting and fascinating report of this superb project!!!

I could't agree with both you and JohnR more regarding these kids. Many have great potential but they are robbed of opportunity by the loss of parents to HIV and by grinding poverty which even limits their access to free schooling ( lack of funds to buy books, pens, paper, school uniforms, school desk, etc prevents many of these kids from attending free school; whilst some have to tend family vegetable plots or livestock).

#6 Shreyas

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 04:17 PM

Great project and lovely sketchs!
Hope to see more if we have a ST get-together in NY!

#7 Sangeeta

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 06:32 PM

Really enjoyed reading this first installment. Your art brings the children to life. And their sketches were definitely very promising. Looking forward to more. Thank you for bringing attention to a very worthy initiative.

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#8 Nicholls Wildlife Art

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 07:46 PM

Great project and lovely sketchs!
Hope to see more if we have a ST get-together in NY!


Absolutely!

#9 twaffle

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 11:34 PM

I think the sketches show so much of the beauty we often miss as we rush past on our way to the next camp. I love the children's drawings which have lots of promise and couldn't agree more with the sentiments that education (good and inquiring education, not dogma) are the key to the future of all our societies not just the poor and impoverished ones.

Look forward to seeing more and to reading more about the project, fascinating stuff.

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#10 Kavey

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 02:43 PM

Oh, what an enjoyable read, thank you!
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#11 Nicholls Wildlife Art

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 06:44 PM

I think the sketches show so much of the beauty we often miss as we rush past on our way to the next camp.


Thank you to all for your comments.
Sketching does make you slow down, thats for sure! Its all about taking the time to 'see' properly, and then get it down on paper. Many people comment on how relaxing it must be to sketch in the bush. I have to disagree and they are often surprised. As with any other skill, if you take it seriously, you want to get it right. So it can be frustrating when sketching doesn't go as planned. Having said that, I find sketching in the bush immensely rewarding, absolutely vital to my studio painting and my favorite way to spend the day. But not relaxing (just ask my long-suffering husband!).

#12 Game Warden

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 07:13 PM

Less sketching, more writing - where's part II ;)

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#13 Nicholls Wildlife Art

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 10:52 AM

Less sketching, more writing - where's part II ;)


Tomorrow - promise!

#14 twaffle

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 12:17 PM

I agree totally about the 'not relaxing' part. When I come home from a photo gathering trip I am exhausted, and friends say that I must have had a relaxing time. Not at all, the photos are to me, much like the sketches are to you, and I have to be quite careful about what I capture. When I am home in my studio, I can spend hours and hours turning a single image into the picture I have in my mind. I am up to about 20 hours with a large pano at present and it still isn't quite right.

Still, I wouldn't have it any other way and I'm sure you wouldn't either.

So I am looking forward very much to the next installment. I would have loved to be able to paint. Very envious. :)

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#15 Nicholls Wildlife Art

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 09:13 PM

Conservation Sketching - Tanzania 2011/12 Part II

Here’s Part II of my trip report (find Part I here: Conservation Sketching - Tanzania 2011/12 ).

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Maasai and their Cattle. Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls.

A major focus of my visits to the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) project in Tanzania, was to learn about their work preventing human-wildlife conflict. In this predominantly Maasai area, human-wildlife conflict is often a result of predators killing livestock, followed by retaliatory killing of predators by people.

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Cattle heading out to pasture.

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Alison sketching shoats (sheep & goats) at a Maasai homestead or engang.

Having collected data in the area for a number of years, APW found that the largest losses were occurring at night, when livestock were held in bomas at the homestead. So, in conjunction with the local community, they came up with the idea of “Living Walls”, bomas built from living Commiphora tree species combined with wire chain link fencing.

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Living Wall, newly installed, July 2011. Field sketch by Alison Nicholls

I sat and sketched my first Living Wall in July 2011. It had just been installed and, to be brutally honest, wasn't that impressive. It looked dead, dry and brown. It was also fairly difficult to sketch. I eventually decided that the best way to paint the wire was not to paint it at all, but to paint the negative spaces around and between the wire instead.

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The same Living Wall (on right), 8 months after installation. Field sketch by Alison Nicholls.

Imagine my surprise when I see the same Living Wall 8 months later (March 2012), resplendent in bright green and with the wire barely visible! A host of other plants have grown up around the structure and the Commiphora rises high above the wire, making a truly impressive "Living Wall".

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Living Wall, newly installed, July 2011.

APW contracts with individual families to install a Living Wall in their homestead, focusing first on homesteads where levels of livestock depredation have been high in the past. The family pay 25% of the cost of the wire, and collect the Commiphora posts (cutting the boughs doesn't kill the main tree). APW provides instruction on the installation but the family provides the labor.

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The same Living Wall (on right), 8 months after installation.

Due to their longevity and the reduced need for women to cut acacia to reinforce the boma, Living Walls are environmentally friendly but APW also found unexpected benefits - people sleeping better at night knowing that their livestock is safe, there is a reduced workload for women who don’t need to constantly repair boma walls, and there are even reports of reduced spousal abuse because women were often beaten by their husbands for failing to adequately reinforce the boma if livestock within it were attacked or killed.

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Sheep. Field sketch by Alison Nicholls.

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Cow. Field sketch by Alison Nicholls.

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As with my other sketches, I'll be sending laminated copies of these to the Maasai families whose livestock I sketched.

But it’s the statistics regarding depredation events since the introduction of Living Walls in and around Loibor Siret that are really impressive. Depredation events were reduced by 60% when only 30% of bomas in Loibor Siret were Living Walls, but new installations mean that there are now over 100 Living Walls in place, protecting 25 000 head of livestock on a nightly basis. Living Walls have been 100% effective in keeping livestock safe from predators and as a result there have been no retaliatory killings of predators by families who have Living Wall bomas and fewer predator killings overall in the area as a whole. The data these impressive results are based on, is collected by Elvis Kisimir, APW's Human Wildlife Conflict Coordinator, who documents all attempted and successful depredation events.

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Elvis Kisimir, APW's Human Wildlife Conflict Coordinator, shows me a Living Wall.

Elvis is Maasai himself, with family in the area and he visits the scene of every incident, interviews those involved, and records the details and GPS points in a database. During my February/March visit to APW, Elvis and other APW staff attended several incidents including lions killing a cow at pasture, wild dogs attacking a calf at pasture, and a zebra which was shot and killed with poisoned arrows for raiding crops on a farm. These incidents can occur at any time of the day or night and often Elvis is informed of them by calls or texts from his large network of friends and informants. The fact that so many people in the community call APW to inform them of these incidents testifies to the respect that the community has for the project and their ability to help the community prevent livestock losses. There were no retaliatory killings of predators as a result of the lion or wild dog incidents.

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Maasai and their Cattle at the Village Waterpump. Field sketch by Alison Nicholls.


APW has now begun to expand their Living Wall program into the surrounding communities, where people have heard just how successful they are and want to be part of the program. They have made a real difference in the protection of livestock, predators and habitat. Definitely a win-win-win!

In Part III of my trip report I'll talk about the Rangeland & Water Management seminars that were taking place at APW, and I'll show you some of the sketches I did around the area and during the seminars.

#16 Game Warden

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 09:53 PM

I merged part I and II so as to keep them together: makes better reading :)

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#17 Nicholls Wildlife Art

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 02:53 PM

I merged part I and II so as to keep them together: makes better reading :)


Good idea - thanks!

#18 Game Warden

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 12:02 PM

Do you think APW's work will be adopted further afield in order to help prevent the predator vs human conflict, and was there any talk about the Maasia tradition that still continues in some communities of killing a lion when entering manhood?

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#19 Nicholls Wildlife Art

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 01:26 PM

I passed your questions on to Dr Laly Lichtenfeld (Founder & Exec Director of APW) as I thought you'd like her input. Here are her responses:

Do you think APW's work will be adopted further afield in order to help prevent the predator vs human conflict

LL: Yes, definitely! We are working hard to share our model of Living Walls and have had numerous conservation organizations visit us in the Maasai Steppe to see the program in action

was there any talk about the Maasai tradition that still continues in some communities of killing a lion when entering manhood?

LL: In terms of the tradition of lion killing, where we are in the Maasai Steppe this activity does not occur as frequently as it used to or in comparison to other areas of Maasailand. But, there are still occasional celebrations and usually the lion pursued is one that has recently killed livestock.

#20 Atravelynn

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 03:30 AM

What a unique approach. Your artistic talents were employed well. Did you take paints with you into the field or just the drawing tools? When you look back at your sketches, I'm sure you can remember clearly what you were drawing, the sounds, sights, etc. Creating seems to link strongly to memory.
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