Raymond Glover’s Diary
Tidal Forests of Kenya

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July 27, 2009: First day in the field

Madafu break Today was our first day working in the field. We went to the plots in the Kinondo area, a few kilometers from Gazi. We were divided into two teams: one to measure plant biomass and the other (including me) to study the fauna. We had to wait for the tide to recede before we could get access to the plots, so we spent the time being instructed on our tasks for the day. Firstly we had to count the quantities of two species of crabs (Uca and Sesarmid), by first identifying their different burrow types and then by logging the size of burrow. Secondly we had to quantify two types of snails (Cerithidea and Littorea). The weather was very wet, although still warm (for me at least) and with the tide having just retreated, the site was extremely difficult to navigate, and the identification of the burrow types was made more difficult than usual as the burrows were still largely under water. Halfway through we stopped for a madafu break (an unripe coconut with a lot of milk). This was the first time I had tried one, but we were all so wet that a good cup of Kenyan coffee would have been better. After our work was through we headed back to the village for a late lunch, and on the way back saw a troop of baboons. They often use the mangroves for cover as they head towards raiding the mango and coconut plantations. Presentation at school After lunch we had our first official function of the trip as guests of honour at Gazi Primary school. We were introduced to the headmaster and staff, and then introduced ourselves to the assembled children telling them a little about whom we were, where we were from and about the work we were doing. The children then sang us a couple of songs in Kiswahili and in English. We then presented the school with some gifts we had brought along, basics like pens and pencils which are always appreciated. I had also taken along a football and pump, which I presented to captain of the school team and the head girl. Robert (an ex pupil of Gazi Primary) then gave an inspirational talk to the children about how important their education is and how he was motivated to study hard and how he is now in his first year at Egerton University studying applied aquatic science. Michael, Tima and Zulekha also gave speeches to the children on their studies and the importance of education. Speaking with the headmaster afterwards he showed me some paintings the school children were working on about the environment, the best of which is to be used as the cover of a calendar produced by a university in Belgium who have links with the school. He also spoke about how important it is for the children to meet visitors from outside Kenya so they can learn about different cultures and also hopefully inspire them to study towards careers in science, engineering etc. Afterwards we handed out some sweets to the smaller children and had fun watching them play with some balloons we had blown up for them. It was a very humbling experience to see what our visit meant to the staff and pupils and something I will not forget. Before dinner we were given a talk by Mama Nico's husband, Albert, who is a physiotherapist in Msambweni Hospital, about the Healthcare system in Kenya and spoke at length about the two major health issues in Kenya, malaria and HIV. After dinner we were given a talk by Caroline Kairo about her studies for an MSc in Aquaculture. She is trying to set up a project to encourage a small scale fish farming project in Gazi to help the community but to try and avoid large scale farming which could have a detrimental impact on the local ecosystem. Despite the seas and good fishing off east coast of Kenya, there is no real fishing industry and the waters are used by other countries. 90% of the fish consumed in Kenya is farmed in Lake Victoria.

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