A new lease of life
(This article was originally published in The Horn, spring 2012. Author: Cathy Dean, Director)
The Laikipia Wildlife Forum’s Environmental Education Bus was in a sorry state. During the 6½ years between in January 2004 (its launch) and June 2010, it had travelled 169,000 km on unpaved and extremely rough roads, carrying 640 school groups and 49 community groups, reaching a total of 24,531 people directly, and many more indirectly through open days.
The wear and tear was leading to more and more breakdowns, with 5-7 trips each year cancelled or significantly postponed (6 months or more) due to breakdowns, and 7-10 trips incurring significantly increased journey times (+ 5hrs) and distances, due to diversions to avoid impassable roads as a result of rain. On average, the Bus became completely stuck in mud three times a year, resulting either in children and staff sleeping overnight in the Bus or the Bus being abandoned for the night and children continuing on foot. It was reaching the end of its useful life.
The LWF asked for our help, and thanks to the generosity of our long-time funders, USFWS and Chester Zoo, we were able to come up with the bulk of the funds needed to buy a new vehicle. The LWF team had carried out a thorough assessment of the functional requirements, and had researched the options available: the new Bus would be able to cope with extremely rough roads and muddy conditions, carry its passengers in a quieter dust-and-moisture-free environment, have excellent visibility and be a teaching tool in itself, not just a means of transport.
With input from Chester Zoo, the artwork on the Bus – which had to be neutral in colour to comply with the requirements of conservancies in the Laikipia District – was designed around a new rhino logo to complement the LWF’s existing five symbols. A strapline in Swahili, “Conserve the environment for improved livelihoods” helps brand the Bus as an LWF initiative.
In December 2011, Sammy Njorogo was promoted to Environment and Eco-Literary Programme Manager and Jackson Njaria recruited as EELP Assistant. And in January 2012, the new Bus was launched. It promises to be a full-on year.
Our very grateful thanks to USFWS RTCF, which provided a grant of $34,660 for the new bus, and to Chester Zoo ($2,015 plus support in-kind). SRI gave $2,375 from our own core funds. The LWF and the Royal Netherlandish Embassy also helped cover the costs: a good collaborative effort.