On March 7, 2002, the USAID-Kenya Mission Director, Mr. Kiertisak Toh, participated in the official opening ceremony of the Koija Starbeds in Kenya's Laikipia District.
Laikipia District is a major part of the AWF-designated Samburu Heartland in Northern Kenya. It is comprised largely of private and communal livestock producing areas. In contrast to the declining national trend throughout Kenya, Laikipia is an area which has recorded increasing or stable wildlife populations over the past two decades. The Samburu Heartland is home to the second largest population of elephants in Kenya (3,000) and hosts the highest populations of endangered species such as rhinos and grevy's zebras.
The Koija Starbeds in Lakipia are sophisticated community-owned treehouses, and a stunning example of AWF'work in establishing constructed community bio-enterprises. The Starbed concept is an innovative addition to the Laikipia tourism scene, and to Kenya in general. These elevated platforms overlooking a game rich section of river frontage are sturdily constructed of thatch, coastal reed matting, timber, and sculpted acacia branches which were collected from elephant damage. A sumptuous bed which rolls out onto the platform to view the stars, hot running water showers, comfortable bathrooms, catered cuisine and adventure activities complement the rich African architecture and design. The Starbeds environmentally friendly and rustic design is complimentary to their location nestled into the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro river under phoenix palms and towering fig trees.
A significant number of the Koija community members were present to welcome USAID's Mission Director and to witness the inauguration. The ceremony was festive and well-attended and featured presentations from Koija's Warrior "Moran's" dance group and a women's singing group.
As one of AWF's flagship conservation business ventures, the inauguration of the Koija Starbeds was a proud occasion for AWF, marking the culmination of a remarkable team effort. The USAID Mission Director and several representatives were able to experience the comfort of the Starbeds by staying for the night at the facility.
AWF's Conservation business ventures (CBV's) are based on a simple premise that enterprise and trade are important tools in the conservation of biodiversity and rural development in Africa. CBV's offer a valuable opportunity to assist communities living with, and tolerating, wildlife to benefit from the management of their wildlife resources. CBV' s are a novel tool which also contribute to improved access for community empowerment and development through the establishment of community-owned and managed biodiversity enterprises. In turn, CBV's provide incentives for wildlife conservation to local communities through revenue, employment and management training. Perhaps most importantly, AWF is strengthening the foundation of conservation in non-protected areas by empowering communities to better manage and benefit from wildlife, and giving wildlife increased chances for survival through local community access to sustainable biodiversity enterprises.
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