Representatives from the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm have just returned from the annual International Association of Butterfly Exhibitors and Suppliers (IABES) conference, which was hosted by the Kipepeo Project in Kenya, a community project that the Stratford Butterfly Farm have been working with for over twenty years.
Richard Lamb, General Manager, and Sarka Bohac, Livestock Manager were able to see first-hand how the source of live African butterfly pupae has changed subsistence farmers into conservationists, thus saving the Arabuko Sokoke Forest and supporting the livelihoods of the people living around it. The Forest covers an area of 41,600 hectares and is the largest single block of protected coastal forest remaining in East Africa. Butterfly farming and ranching have demonstrated that it can provide economic incentives to villagers and has encouraged them to appreciate the forest which provides their livelihood. They no longer see the conserved area as a source of firewood or an area for illicit fly grazing. Before the project one of the villagers told Richard that 'We wanted the area cut down, the elephants ate all of our crops and if we so much as cut a piece of grass we were arrested.' By offering supplemental income in exchange for preserving and enhancing butterfly habitats, most of the children of the many villages now attend school. The plants and animals of the forest are now better protected.
The project packages and exports the pupae to butterfly houses in Europe and the USA and many of the butterflies can be seen flying around at the Stratford Butterfly Farm. To support the project, visitors back in Stratford recently donated money to help the cause. Richard and Sarka were delighted to hand over $400 to project managers Hussein and Mathias. This money will help them continue to promote nature conservation and community living.
Richard Lamb, General Manager at Stratford Butterfly Farm said "Visiting the Kipepeo Project was an absolutely invaluable experience. To see first-hand the progress that has been made in Butterfly breeding and the conservation of the Arabuko Sokoke forest was overwhelming. We were shown how our partnership with the Kipepeo Butterfly Project has vastly improved the living standards in the local villages and that of the villagers and farmers who breed the butterflies. When we were introduced to many of the breeders as 'Stratford Butterfly Farm', there were palpable whoops of delight and sincere thanks for the support that we have given them over the years.''
For more information about this project please visit http://kipepeo.org. To see hundreds of spectacular butterflies, insects, reptiles and spiders visit the Butterfly Farm from 10am to 5pm. Open every day of the week except Christmas Day. For more information including admission prices and group rates, please visit the website at http://www.butterflyfarm.co.uk or telephone on 01789 299288.