Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
In January 2012 I set off to Kenya for a semester abroad. Prior to going, I wanted to form a study on methods of conservation. I had hoped that gaining a sense of conservation efforts in Kenya, I would be able to associate them to efforts sought out in the States. Through a fortunate grant by the Warbles, I was able to study the Karura Forest located in Nairobi, Kenya.My attraction to this forest was based on the fact that Wangari Maathai had constructed a significant movement to help protect this resource base from developmental construction. Plans were in place to destroy these trees in order to build houses and stores. In revolt, Wangari gathered support to preserve this depleting forest. Now it stands as an attraction to both outside visitors and locals. Not only is it a magnificent place to reach nature so close to city living, but the historical value is just as relevant. During the Mau Mau revolution, the forest provided hiding for many of the soldiers as the charred ceiling from the soldiers’ fires can still be examined in the caves located within the forest.
The grant allowed me to spend the weekend with the forest managers and learn their methods of management. As I walked around the various trails that were formed for the public, I was able to gain stories of the forest’s history and what has been done so far to conserve it. Also, I was informed about future plans on improving the forest on top of what was currently being done. The success of preserving the forest has been rather large as it provides jobs, acts as a filter for the city’s pollutants, brings revenue from a gate charge, provides habitat for wildlife, and even provides living space for the workers in a village that has been constructed on the boarder of the forest for their convenience.
Even through a simple visit, I was able to gain applicable knowledge on how another country deals with conservation. This gave me great incite on how one can manage nature in the midst of such a developing world in which it is most often seen as an either or situation. Here, I encountered a coexisting situation. The development of the city was still occurring but the preservation of nature was working right alongside it.
The most beneficial aspect of this experience has been the ability to apply what I have learned directly to my major of Environmental Psychology and classes back at St. Lawrence University. It has opened my eyes to various methods that could be reconstructed here in the States. Also, it has given me insight to how other countries feel about protecting their environment. I am extremely grateful for having this opportunity as it has been a wonderful learning experience that may have otherwise not been possible.