- Arocha Kenya director Collin Jackson said the idea of the MTB Racing was to raise funds to educate poor children living adjacent to the Arabuko Sokoke forest.
- He said the move will help the children access education and prevent the families living adjacent to the Arabuko Sokke forest from destroying the forest.
Conservationists in Watamu have organised a mountain bike racing competition to raise funds for the conservation of Arabuko Sokoke, East Africa’s largest Coastal Forest.
Arocha Kenya, a christian conservation organisation, in partnership with Turtle Bay Resort together with different sponsors, hosted over 74 bikers from all over the country and even foreigners in the 72-kilometre race dubbed Arabuko Sokoke MTB Challenge.
The race begun at Turtle Bay Watamu at 7am to Gede, Kakuyuni, Mongotini then inside the Arabuko Sokoke forest.
Riders experienced tough and competitive terrains within the valley at Mongotini area, rough roads, sandy roads within the Arabuko Sokoke forest and muddy sections as it had rained.
The MTB Challenge route was designed in such a way that riders would not ride on the tarmac and would either cross it or ride on the side.
This year the event got sponsorship from Lordship Africa, Ocean Sports, Creature Gold, tropical Hits, Coca-Cola, and individuals who made the event a success.
Arocha Kenya director Collin Jackson said the idea of the MTB Racing was to raise funds to educate poor children living adjacent to the Arabuko Sokoke forest.
He said the move will help the children access education and prevent the families living adjacent to the Arabuko Sokke forest from destroying the forest.
“The reason we are running this race is to try and raise funds for the conservation of Arabuko Sokoke Forest and particularly helping children living around the forest who can’t get access to secondary school fees easily,” he said.
Addressing journalists at the end of the race he said they link the bursaries with conservation action in the forest.
He said this year, they had 74 starters in the race and it brought a lot of excitement with the spring finish at the end, adding that he was grateful for the riders who made the event great.
Jackson said Kenya Forest Services supported them in the event by giving them free access to the forest.
“So we are looking to conserve Arabuko Sokoke forest which is world known for a lot of very rare and endangered wildlife,” he said.
The director said among the unique species found in Arabuko is the Golden Rumped Sengi or Elephant shrew which is locally known as Fugu and is only found in Kilifi county in the whole world.
He said through the race, they are aiming to get millions of shillings to pay for bursaries for children and connect the bursaries with conservation action to their families so as to support and appreciate conservation of the forest.
Jackson said the scheme they are raising funds for is called Arabuko Sokoke Schools and Eco-Tourism Scheme which has been running for over 20 years.
He said they have managed to sponsor over 700 children through secondary school, adding that they normally commit to sponsor children for four years majority of whom cannot afford the secondary education.
“When we started the scheme, only eight per cent of the children were attending secondary school. Some 92 per cent of the children were not going to school because they couldn’t afford, so we’ve been grateful to have a positive impact on the communities around, of the families who have received that sponsorship,” he said.
He said conservation and protection have improved through their efforts as the locals are embracing it.
He said their major challenge has been getting funding to sponsor more children that’s why they organised the Sokoke MTB challenge and called on anyone or any organisation to support them to conserve the environment.
Lenox Kirao a resident of the Arabuko Sokoke Forest area is among the beneficiaries of the bursary scheme and now has become a scientist courtesy of Arocha Kenya.
After his primary education, Kirao stayed home for a whole year because of financial problems. After applying for the sponsorship, he managed to get help that enabled him to go through high school.
“I finished high school around 2008, back then, we were not only being given bursaries but were also attending some classes on conserving the environment,” he said.
Kirao chose an environmental course after high school as he felt it would be easier for him to pass messages of conservation in the communities which are now bearing fruits.
So far he said, since he began work as a scientist in Arocha Kenya, four ecotourism projects have been launched in which he was involved directly and many others that were done by individuals.
“So I have walked with people I have taught them how to identify birds and plants and I have seen people coming to us when we do some ringing around the community buffer areas and the forest they see birds and report whenever they see a dead bird,” he said.
Recently, he said the locals found a dead bird with a ring and called him to pick it up for research.
Turtle Bay Resort director Shafiq Bramji said they have been involved in organising the MTB challenge for the last five years to promote lifestyle and goodwill.
He said the route this year was challenging due to the rains and were forced to shorten it.
“It's great to see the race grow to large promotions seeing the big names coming to Watamu for the race,” he said.
He said they intend to organise other events such as camel racing in Watamu.
Jenifer Kanini one of the participants who won in the women's challenge said the race was easy despite the challenges, adding that it took two years for her to win.
Safari Simbaz project director David Kinja who is one of the big names in MTB racing, brought his team of four which won.