After this brief return to Nairobi, George, Theo, and I were then sent out to the Samburu Heartland (also in Kenya but located north of Nairobi). This held a special interest for me as I visited this area on a short safari six years ago and fell in love with it. In fact, when I returned to England after that first visit was when I started learning basic Swahili (which turned out to be a fairly good move, all things considered).
Where the Kili Heartland is greener and open, the Samburu Heartland is a lot dustier and is a crazy combination of fences and mountainous hills. It is also home to a wide range of particularly beautiful endemic species, including the Grevy’s zebra and the reticulated giraffe.
As part of this trip we visited the most insanely remote bank (as in a financial institution, not the shoreline of a river) I have ever seen. To get there, we drove for three hours into mountainous hills, past herds of elephant, giraffe, and Maasai-owned cows. The landscape is dotted with huge jutting monoliths that survived whatever geological process molded the landscape. Perched on a hill in the middle of all this, with the windswept savanna rolling endlessly away in all directions, there is this bank. We sat outside and talked about savings accounts and shares. As it turns out, AWF provided support to develop the bank to provide pastoralist communities with financing opportunities that would help them get out of poverty.
As part of this bizarre trip, I also got the chance to quiz the heck out of one of the members of the Program Design team. This team deals with the public donor–funding side of AWF and plays a central role in designing new projects. As such, they are pretty interesting people to talk to as they have to have their fingers on the pulse. For whatever reason, I tend to have a never-ending supply of questions and having the ever-patient Per stuck in the car with me was interesting to say the least.
The aspect I am enjoying the most so far about this program is definitely being given the time from people who normally have very little time. I have had a couple of years of hands-on experience, as well as a thorough educational grounding, in conservation and this combination has raised a lot of questions. To be able to sit down with experts from all areas and ask them whatever I feel like is pretty awesome. I am trying to walk the line between being an irritating little urchin who pesters people with questions and an intelligent, well-informed trainee who they may want to hire at some point in the future. With any luck I’ll know the ins and outs of what’s going on regardless of if I get hired or not.
This blog is from our Conservation Management Trainee series. Our trainees will be providing you with updates as they progress on their journeys with AWF. To follow them on their travels, read their blogs.
Sam came to the AWF Conservation Management Training Program from London. He received a master's degree in conservation science and served as a research and development manager for Frontier —working on wildlife corridors, land-use plans, and large mammals. Sam spent his childhood exploring the woods in England and France, and he continues to pursue any opportunity to have an adventure.
AWF Blogs bring you to the African Heartlands, where conservation benefits both wildlife and people alike. The blogs are written by our staff - men and women who have dedicated their lives to Africa's wildlife, people and wild lands.