Social Aspects of the Elephants and Bees Project
Report From International Intern, Tosca Tindall
As a prospective social sciences student, when I arrived at the Elephants and Bees Project centre, I was promptly put in charge of the more social aspects of the project; Kileva Eastfields Primary school and the permaculture garden next to it. Having never really gardened before, the prospect of having to manage a garden twice the size of my family’s back home, made me more than a little nervous! Which is why, when I was introduced to Paul, our resident community herbalist and green-fingered creator of the shamba (Swahili for farm), I was hugely relieved to see that I would be guided by someone much more experienced and knowledgeable than myself. Paul, as well as being quite the musician – when we met, he was in the process of making his own guitar – knew both the English and local names for almost every plant we came across. He, with funding from the Kileva Foundation and the Disney Conservation fund, have created an example permaculture garden, which grew everything from lemongrass to watermelons. The goal of the garden is two-part; to provide an example of what alternative crops could be grown in the Tsavo soil and to provide the students of Kileva Primary School with a nutritious lunchtime meal. I hope that, during my two month internship, we have come closer to both those goals; the week that I left to travel home, the sweet peppers and chillies had just begun to ripen so – fingers crossed – by now, they will have provided the pupils with a tasty treat to eat with their lunchtime rice and beans.
Every time Paul and I visited the shamba, the short walk from the centre to the garden would be punctuated by a multitude of little faces, eager to say good morning and see what we were doing. These children really were a joy to be around and were always willing to lend a helping hand; on almost my first day on the project, while I stood in the garden varnishing labels under the hot African sun – which my English skin really wasn’t yet used to – a very merry band of about six small boys turned up and offered their label-painting services. They finished the job in minutes.
On Wednesday afternoons, the Elephants and Bees team teaches a class on conservation and the environment to the oldest class at the primary school, Class 8. Although shy at first the students soon got into the swing of things – especially after our fieldtrip to the local lodge where they followed animal tracks through the bush – and seemed to especially adore David Attenborough documentaries. As of when I flew home, we had taught them about beekeeping, elephant tracking and conservation and adaptations of mammals living in cold climates, among other things.
Although many other aspects of the elephants and bees experience are more hair-raising and demanding – the experience of night-time honey harvesting while surrounded by wrathful bees springs to mind – it was these joyful one-on-one experiences with Paul in the shamba and with each individual child that I will miss the most.