Avian Biodiversity Project
The Avian Biodiversity Project, forms part of Sazani’s ongoing work in schools in Zanzibar and aims to introduce issues connected with biodiversity, habitat and climate change into the school curriculum. Following a pilot phase with 3 schools, in 2013 the project has been expanded across Unguja and Pemba.
Birds are a good bio-diversity marker as changes in overall population and individual species numbers reflect availability of food which in turn is affected by changes in habitat and climate. Variations in bird populations can be used to tell us about wider changes in the environment.
The approach used in the project was based on an established form of citizen science requiring identifying and counting birds in school grounds over a defined period of time.
There are no easily available bird identification resources for Zanzibar so the project developed Avian biodiversity packs for schools which, apart from introducing ideas on climate and environment change, contained basic information on taxonomy, field observation and recording techniques. Supporting this was a bird reference sheet containing images of the most common birds likely to be encountered and recording sheets.
The Sazani team introduced the project to participating schools, as part of the Healthy and Sustainable Schools Programme. Monthly bird counts were carried out, by participating students, with histograms and reports produced supporting numeracy and literacy. Students and teachers learned about scientific research methods such as observation, recording and analysing data as well as learning about bio-diversity issues through practical involvement. At a wider level community awareness about habitat loss and climate change was increased.
Evaluation indicated that many children were enthusiastic about their involvement and developed observation and identification skills quite rapidly as well as showing an understanding of the relationship between bird populations and habitat change. Immediate challenges included the need to create an agreed nomenclature for bird species using Kiswahili and/or local dialect names rather than English or scientific names. After the pilot phase a number of changes both to names and the list of most commonly observed birds was made in the material available to schools.
Overall this project provided a model that could easily be replicated elsewhere, supporting the concept and practice of participatory citizen science in the wider society.