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Wildlife, water, and the climate: understanding well-being in Kenya

 

Happy New Year! A new year often makes us think about how happy and healthy we are, and we’ve been thinking about that here too. One of our biggest goals here is to improve people’s well-being, because the health of people is intrinsically linked with the health of the forests and wildlife around them – we can’t have one without the other. So, working out how to measure their well-being in the first place is really important. But it’s not easy – nothing worth doing ever is!

Patients waiting to be weighed as part of MEDCAP in Tswaka, Kenya 2012. © Tech. Sgt. Daniel St Pierre, 4th Combat Camera SquadronPatients waiting to be weighed as part of MEDCAP in Tswaka, Kenya 2012. © Tech. Sgt. Daniel St Pierre, 4th Combat Camera Squadron

Why do we need to understand how well people are?

We need to understand how well people are, and how their well-being might be changing, so we can make sure our work is making a real and valuable contribution to improving their lives. We monitor our work in a number of ways, like looking at the income people get from selling honey or improvements in crop yields because of less conflict between human beings and wildlife, but we haven’t cracked measuring people’s broader well-being. It’s a very big task!

You may have read in my earlier blogs that, with support from Size of Wales and the Darwin Initiative, we’re supporting two communities in Boni-Dodori that are near forests to use their natural resources in the most sustainable way. We’re also helping communities to have a voice in the decisions about how their natural resources, like water, are managed. That helps improve their livelihoods and gives them a better understanding of the wildlife and nature around them. All of these things play a part in people’s well-being, so understanding what change there has (or hasn’t) been in well-being can help us make sure that our work is as effective as possible in the future.

10-year-old Kiparus Chepkonga overlooking a dam his village built to water its livestock near Lake Bogoria, Kenya. Lack of access to water can be a big barrier to improving well-being. © Brent Stirton / Getty Images.10-year-old Kiparus Chepkonga overlooking a dam his village built to water its livestock near Lake Bogoria, Kenya. Lack of access to water can be a big barrier to improving well-being. © Brent Stirton / Getty Images.

What is WWF doing in Kenya to understand well-being?

We’ve been working with a social science expert to trial a survey which colleagues in the WWF Network have designed to understand people’s well-being and look at how it improves or declines over time. Using this survey will help us get a better understanding of the communities that we’re working closely with here in Boni-Dodori. As well as telling us about people’s financial situation and their relationship with the natural resources around them like land, water, and plants, it will also tell us about how climate change is impacting on them.

The first step in using this survey was to make it specific it to the communities we work with in Boni-Dodori. People here, for example, don’t have any access to electricity so there wasn’t much point in us asking questions about this. It was also very important to translate the survey into the local language so that the locals could understand it easily. And this week we’ve moved on the next stage in the process – training a team of people to actually carry out the survey on the ground.

We’ve put together a team of twenty staff and local community members, all of whom have an in-depth understanding of the area and the people. Over the last few days they’ve been learning how to use the survey. Having these practice sessions has been very important to the whole project because it’s crucial that they fully understand how the survey works and how important it is to our work. For WWF staff, it’s also a great opportunity to get to know the local community better and deepen our links with them.

Some members of the team practising their delivery of our well-being survey in Kenya. © John BettSome members of the team practising their delivery of our well-being survey in Kenya. © John Bett

What happens next?

We’re all really excited to get out to the villages and start using this survey so that we have some real information about how things like climate change are having an effect on people’s lives. We’ll share the results with you once they’re in, and they are sure to be invaluable in helping us to assess the work we’ve done to date and plan our work more effectively in the future. That way we can be sure that the work we’re doing here is helping people and nature to thrive in harmony.

Watch this space for the results!

WWF’s work in Boni-Dodori is supported by Size of Wales and the UK Government through the Darwin Initiative and the Department for International Development.

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