THE MARICH PASS FIELD STUDIES CENTRE
Welcome to the Marich Pass Field Studies Centre. The name is derived from the Marich Pass which is a deep, rocky cleft carved where the Moruny river emerges from the Cherangani Hills onto the dry plains of the Lake Turkana Basin. The Marich Pass Centre is in a forest clearing along the river bank two kilometres downstream from the Pass. The Centre is situated on the boundaries of distinctive ecological zones, and a wide variety of physical landscapes, vegetation, wildlife and human lifestyles is within easy reach.
The Centre has been developed in sympathy with the ecotourism ethos. It is built on land leased from the Pokot County Council, using traditional materials. The Centre donates a percentage of its takings to the local development fund.
The compound is 30 acres of virgin forest, of which 10 have been cleared for building the Centre on the Moruny river frontage.
In the remaining 20 acres of the compound are bush trails through virgin forest.
The Centre is owned and managed by African Field Studies Centre Ltd, a private company registered in Kenya. The Centre Director is Paul Roden, whose parents Dr. David Roden and Mrs. Hidat Roden founded the Marich Pass Field Studies Centre. There are 30 full time staff, one-third of whom speak some English. Pokot guides, who speak English, take clients walking in the area. They can explain their traditional agricultural methods and culture, and have a general knowledge of wildlife.
On the compound baboons, vervet monkeys and monitor lizards can be seen daily, with occasional visits by elephant and antelope. Over 100 birds have been identified on site, and almost 400 within a radius of 30 kms.
||The surrounding scenery is superb, and the general area remains one of the least modernised in Kenya. Marich Pass is at an altitude of about 3000 ft and enjoys a mild climate. Annual rainfall is approximately 800 mm, but is very variable in both annual and monthly distribution (see graph below). Generally, December through to March are dry months with cool nights and warm to hot days.
View of Mt Koh from the compound
|The area is
steeped in archaeological history, much of it still undiscovered.
Pokot agriculturalists are situated in the mountains, whilst semi-nomadic
pastoralists are to be seen in the arid plains, giving an insight
into several traditional ways of life. The Pokot wear ornate jewellery
- beadwork and brass, and still pan for gold in the Moruny river.
The Centre can organise gold panning lessons with the Pokot, using
traditional techniques. Lectures on Pokot culture, local agriculture
and archaeology are given by arrangement.
A Pokot grainstore
Although the centre is primarily an educational base, it is now open to tourists and travellers, and can cater for a wide range of clients, from eldely or disabled through to school, college, and university groups. Any special requirements can be provided by arrangement.
THE MARICH PASS CENTRE ECOTOURISM ETHOS
"The Marich Pass Centre is located on a site of natural beauty, in
the midst of the Pokot people who only recently have had any significant contact with a modern economy.
From our inception, we believed in working alongside the local
community and blending with the natural environment. The Centre's development has been sensitively integrated to complement its surroundings, both physical and cultural. In this we are helped by the fact that education, and not profit, has been our prime motivation.
Our workforce is drawn mostly from the neighbouring tribe. Site
clearance and construction has been labour intensive - the wheelbarrow was the highest form of mechanisation we ever used - and much of our construction material was collected from the immediate vicinity, with bricks being made on site.
|We purchase most of our food fresh from local markets and farmers,
while Pokot and Turkana guides accompany all our safaris: for many visitors, the highlight of their stay in Kenya is an afternoon spent in a Pokot homestead.
A Pokot homestead
The management liaises closely with the district chief and
community elders and has, in turn, been accepted by the community, at first with some reservations, but now with enthusiasm. In order to maintain and strengthen this bond we propose to build a small workshop on site, where Pokot craftsmen and women can make and sell handicrafts. We also donate £10 for each participant of our safaris and educational tours to the Marich Development Fund. This is administered jointly with local representatives for the enhancement of the quality of life in the district.
We hope our guests will be guided by this ethos, and that they
will return from their visit to this fascinating corner of Africa, enlightened by their experience, and happy that they too have made a small contribution to a people struggling to improve their lives".