This is a story I’ve recently started working on.
I initially spent a few days following this highly trained, reactionary mobile anti-poaching unit, who are based in northern Kenya. Their work is to patrol conservancies up in the north and respond to any poaching going on. The unit consists of 12 men – carefully selected and trained in warfare and tracking.
For years inter-tribal fighting has been prevalent in the north, therefore it was decided that the 9-1 team needed to be a multi-ethnic unit in order to access a larger area. This has been a huge advantage to the teams success. Communities in the northern conservancies have a lot of trust and respect for the team and therefore are willing to name and shame poachers who are living/working within these areas.
To be chosen to be part of the team is without a doubt a considerable honor, however it does come at a major cost – members of the team give up their families, often not returning home for months. The team live out of their 4×4 vehicle returning to base camp only to restock their supplies.
When I started this story I was pretty unsure how it would work out. Being a women in Kenya can have its disadvantages particularly when dealing with men from the rural north – they tend to prefer male company and mostly women are not treated as equals. However, contrary to what I expected, these men were incredibly welcoming and willing to share their stories, their background, what they enjoyed about their job and the struggles they’ve endured – only a few months ago a couple of their team were killed in an ambush. However, it must be said that the team is immensely proud of what they do and their hope is that their presence in the north will reduce the amount of poaching and therefore conserve the wildlife living there.
I plan to return to northern Kenya next month to continue my story. Please get in touch if you have a particular interest in this story.
On patrol in Sera conservancy
The two muslim members of the team take a moment to pray
Setting up camp for the night. It is a requirement that each member of the team must have their gun nearby at all times
In December the Guardian asked me to produce a video for their latest FGM campaign in Kenya. The story was following a young Kenyan lady Domtila Chesang on her pursuit to stop FGM. She devised, along with the support of the Guardian, a poster competition in which over 300 girls (at the cutting age) participated. The poster that won then became a billboard and was displayed in 7 towns near Makutano in Western Kenya, where FGM is still rife.
This was an amazing project to be part of and I was lucky enough to meet some incredible Kenyans who are working tirelessly, with no personal gain, to stop FGM. These areas that are still practicing FGM are way out in the sticks and the people there are generally illiterate and have no one to advise them otherwise. From this campaign, both women and men in these areas were eager to learn more about the dangers of FGM and why it should stop.
Last year I filmed/directed and produced 4 promotional videos for The Safari Collection. Here is one of them – the others can be found on my vimeo page which can be accessed via my website http://www.aliceoldenburg.com