Apart from collecting plants and water samples, interviewing people and getting lots of images, our expedition had another major objective: to make the citizens of today and tomorrow aware of the fragility of these amazing cloud forests in the desert.
We started with those of tomorrow: children. Before leaving Marsabit, we participated at the environmental education program of SKM Primary school. We brought activity leaflets and samples of the endangered trees in the forest, and discussed with the students at primary 5 and 6. They were keen to learn how to identify the different trees, and how to preserve the forest. Being able to go to school in northern Kenya is a privilege few children have, and those who have it, know it, and are so keen to learn! It is amazing… this one-day activity, on its own, made our trip worth it!
Then, we moved to the citizens of today. We gave a public talk at the British Institute in East Africa (BIEA) in Nairobi. Like the one we organsied in the National Museum of Kenya or the University of Nairobi, more people than expected came and several asked very interesting questions: ‘Do you think the situation is similar in other montane forests? Is Climate Change such a threat there?’ asked a university student. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. That is why we have been studying these fragile ecosystems so that we have a better understanding of how they work and what can be done to preserve them.
After packing and saying bye to all our colleagues and friends here, and our Kenyan team members of the expedition, it is time to go back to the airport (traffic permitting, less than 15km from the city center but you can take more than 4 hours!). It has been a very intense month…full of challenges, of course, but also full of amazing moments which we will never forget. ‘When will you come back?’ asks the taxi driver, a new friend we made this past few days in Nairobi. ‘Soon, I hope’ answers Aida. I wish she is right.