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Small can have an impact

Introducing Small, the latest instalment of A Rocha’s ‘Elements of Hope’ video series. This inspiring short video highlights the power of small endeavours, reminding us that even the smallest actions can make a significant impact.  

From the small beginnings of conserving the threatened Dakatcha woodland in Kenya to reminders of the beauty and creativity in every detail of God’s creation, Small encourages us to have hope and not be discouraged by the smallness of who we are or what we can do.  

Join us in watching Small and let it inspire you to take small but meaningful steps towards caring for creation. Share it with your church, school, Bible study or youth group and see how God uses your small actions for his kingdom. We’ve created this discussion guide which we hope helps you engage the theme of the film together. Download the video from our Vimeo channel here and tell us how you are sharing it with your community!  

Ōi burrow scoping

Ōi Against the Odds

In a rewarding end to 2022, A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand saw 12 Ōi/Grey-Faced Petrel chicks fledge from Karioi! 

Historically, thousands of seabirds would flock to the beaches, coastal forests, and mountaintop of Karioi to raise their chicks, but now only a tiny remnant remains. When A Rocha first joined the community restoration project on the mountain in partnership with the Whāingaroa community, they found only a dozen or so Ōi burrows containing broken eggshells or dead chicks. Each year, adult pairs were returning to Karioi to breed only to find their burrows overtaken by invasive species and competing for habitat. For each breeding pair, a single Ōi egg is laid in winter and incubates for about 55 days before hatching but it’s not till summer before the Ōi chick fledges. This makes the Ōi egg and chick very vulnerable to predators like rats, stoats, ferrets, possums and feral cats.    

To give these birds a breeding chance, A Rocha began a long-term intensive predator control along the Whāingaroa Coast and on Karioi. They also monitor the Ōi burrows during breeding season, when adult pairs return to lay a single egg. Searching for burrows can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, so Miro, the specially trained seabird dog, helps locate new and active burrows. Each week, a dedicated team of ‘burrow buddies’ visit the burrows to assess activity and respond to predator threats. A Rocha also set up 24-hour field cameras near the burrows each year, which give an intimate look at the everyday (and night time) activities of the Ōi.    

For the 2022 breeding season, the Karioi team monitored 63 burrows. Unfortunately, a number of Ōi chicks were lost due to stoat incursions, but the 2022 Ōi season was still the most successful one yet! With 12 chicks fledged around Christmas, the season marked a record since the first seven chicks fledged in 2017. 

Thanks to long-term monitoring and intensive predator control, 47 Ōi chicks have fledged from Karioi in the past six years! This result is a testimony to a community that has come together and made a real difference to a vulnerable bird species and a threatened ecosystem.     

Click here to watch amazing footage from the monitoring cameras showing juvenile Ōi chicks spreading their wings and preparing to launch themselves into life at sea. These birds will return to the same coastline in 5-6 years’ time to raise their own chicks. 

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A truly communal kitchen

Ismael Peña enjoying a traditional Peruvian meal prepared by local women at Micaela Bastidas de San Demetrio community kitchen in Pacasmayo, northern Peru.

At the end of 2021, A Rocha Peru began a partnership with Pastor José Guzmán from Iglesia Casa de Oración in Pacasmayo, northern Peru, to develop a community kitchen that the church had initiated. Located in a remote, desert shanty town, Micaela Bastidas de San Demetrio community kitchen was facing the challenge of improving its modest premises. In response, A Rocha Peru installed an ecological cookstove for more self-sufficiency, set up an organic garden and a space for rearing small animals, and introduced environmental education activities.  

The collaboration proved a significant catalyst which inspired local government and companies to get involved and complement this work by developing the building structure, improving the kitchen and providing a water cistern. Through these combined efforts, Micaela Bastidas de San Demetrio community kitchen has been transformed into a communal hub run by local women committed to preparing and serving daily nutritious meals to 28 families, a total of 120 adults and children. 

In October 2022, A Rocha International’s Director of International Operations, Sarah French, and A Rocha Peru’s Executive Director, Ramón Casana, had the pleasure of being shown around the centre. The local women served them a delicious meal as an example of their work and a token of their appreciation to A Rocha. This inspiring example of community work shows the multiplying impact that A Rocha Peru is having in the communities it serves.  

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I am a conservationist

As part of A Rocha’s 40th Anniversary, we’re excited to introduce the new five-part video series, ‘Elements of hope’. From discovering the beauty in the small things, to understanding the importance of planting roots long-term, to exploring the connection between nature and mental health, the series offers a powerful message of hope in the face of today’s conservation challenges. Stay tuned for all five videos premiering throughout the year – starting with the first video, ‘I am a conservationist’. 

We all have a role to play in protecting and preserving our planet. Being a conservationist doesn’t mean you have to be a scientist or work for a non-profit. It’s about making small changes in our daily lives and using our unique talents and skills to make a difference. Conservation needs everyone.   

Join the movement and show the world that conservation is not just for scientists or activists, it’s for all of us. Show us what you’re doing for nature by sharing your stories, photos, and videos on social media with the hashtag #iamaconservationist. Together, we can create a more sustainable and resilient future for all creation.

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40 for the future campaign

Over forty years, A Rocha has been peacekeepers in elephant/human conflict in India, planted indigenous trees from Nigeria to Peru, fed undernourished children with the produce of our sustainable agriculture programme in Canada and become a credible voice of hope in the increasingly fraught environmental conversation.  

As we reach this significant milestone, you are invited to become part of the story of God’s work through us in this world. We are looking for 40 gifts of $40,000 for 40 A Rocha locations. Whether you are an individual, a church, a family or a group of friends, our hope is that investing in A Rocha’s next forty years will bring you into deeper relationship with this beautiful world and the one who created it.  

If you would like to find out more, please email Avery Robson, Director of Development at [email protected].  

We realize for many a smaller gift will be more manageable – we are grateful for any gift, large or small. Regular gifts are particularly appreciated, as they help us make longer term plans with confidence. Check out the A Rocha Table, our community of regular givers. We’d love to have some new sign ups this year – perhaps 40 of you! 

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A Rocha turns 40! What to look forward to this year:

In 1983, the migration of the ARPANET to TCP/IP was officially completed and the internet came into being. A man named Chuck Hull invented the 3D printer. Saint Kitts and Nevis became an independent state and brand new country. And a tiny organization was formed to care for creation in God’s name, beginning with a wetland in southern Portugal. The internet has come a long way in 40 years, and so has A Rocha!

This year, look out for:

  • A special edition of the Field Notes newsletter
  • A virtual birthday party in September
  • A creation aware meal resource including a liturgy and menu suggestions
  • Highlights from the archive

If you are new to the A Rocha family and would like to know more of our story, we recommend you read Under the Bright Wings and Kingfisher’s Fire by Peter Harris, or explore this page on our website.

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Have a Christmas with a difference

If you’re stuck for present ideas for your loved ones this Christmas, why not peruse the A Rocha gift catalogue and make it a Christmas with a difference? We have new products for 2022, plus a range of other Gifts with a Difference that will bring lasting benefits to nature and community members across Africa, Asia and South America. 

You can give a wormery to improve the hygiene of families in India as well as the health of the soil, or an elephant crossing to ensure the safety of elephants and people living around Bannerghatta National Park. A clean cookstove for a family in Peru will help save the threatened dry forest landscapes and improve the health of local communities, or you can help train young people to create an organic garden, improving their diet and bringing them closer to nature. 

Each order comes with a free gift card to remind your loved one of the difference made in their name. Or, if you are feeling particularly virtuous, you can go paperless and opt for an ecard. (Hint: they are also great if you run out of time!)  

Shop now at shop.arocha.org 

Semiahmoo Bay looking south towards Drayton Harbor in the US, where shellfish harvest is permitted (by Hannah Mae)

Towards bountiful life in Boundary Bay

Meandering through A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale Environmental Center is the Little Campbell River / Tatalu. Walking around the watershed, you might spot a flowering Vancouver Island Beggarticks, a nesting Barn Swallow or even an elusive Salish Sucker, thought for a time to be locally extinct. This little river, once a place of bounty, is now the greatest source of faecal contamination into Boundary Bay (Pacific Ocean). Harvesting shellfish in the Bay was an integral part of Semiahmoo First Nation nutrition and culture, but due to contamination, the Bay has been closed to harvest since the 1970s.  

To address this issue, A Rocha Canada works in partnership with the Semiahmoo First Nation and other members of the Shared Waters Alliance to monitor water quality in 19 locations: 17 freshwater sites along the Tatalu and its tributaries and two marine sites in Semiahmoo Bay. Water quality is an excellent indicator of overall watershed health, and this data addresses a knowledge gap about the current state of faecal contamination and how and where conditions have changed since the 1970s.  

A Rocha Canada is also undertaking microbial source-tracking to determine the causes of this contamination. These can include septic system discharges, runoff from agricultural land containing livestock waste, pet waste and cross-connections between storm and sewage pipes. A Rocha also partners with landowners and local municipalities to discuss the extent of the issue and how to combat it. One solution is to restore habitat along the river – putting up fences to keep out cattle and horses, replacing invasive plants with native species, for example – to increase the forest buffer, which helps filter contaminants and supports biodiversity.  

Ultimately, improving the ecological health of the water is important for everyone: from plants, to fish, from birds to people. A Rocha hopes that together, our efforts will enable everyone to enjoy the bounty and biodiversity that this watershed has to offer.  

You can hear more from A Rocha Canada and Semiahmoo Chief Harley Chappell in this video.   

Sunkpa Shea Women in Ghana

Sunkpa Shea Women: from rural Ghana to New York

The Sunkpa Shea Women’s Cooperative (northern Ghana) uses shea nut butter production as a way to care for the beautiful and biodiverse Mole Ecological Landscape. Through shea nut collection and shea butter processing, the collective of around 1,000 women encourages landscape restoration and builds a green value chain in the shea butter industry.  

The Sunkpa Shea Women’s journey started in 2013, when their daily task was to walk several miles to collect shea nuts and either sell or process them into butter to sell at the local market. Collecting shea from the wild is a time-consuming effort; making hand-made shea butter is a tedious process. The women faced additional challenges: a lack of transport to bring the nuts to a processing centre, inconsistent local or export markets, the felling of shea trees by charcoal producers – and less than premium prices for their shea butter.  

Through the Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) and support from A Rocha Ghana and the Savannah Fruits Company, the women organized themselves into a cooperative to address their challenges. Collaboration allowed them to establish a green value chain for quality hand-made shea butter and to address challenges across the chain. For example, the women established – and now manage – a nursery where they grow shea and other indigenous seedlings to use for landscape restoration to ensure a consistent supply of shea nuts.  

They also now have an ultra-modern shea butter processing facility, tricycles to ease transportation challenges and a link with a cosmetic company, Evolution of Smooth, headquartered in New York – the first organic shea butter from the Mole Landscape went to New York for sale in June 2021! For nine years, the Sunkpa Shea Women have been steadfast in their efforts to have their everyday rural livelihood bring sustainability both to their landscape and their business.  

The contribution of these women was recognised nationally and internationally in July this year with the awarding of the prestigious Equator Prize, a biennial recognition of outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. This achievement highlights the importance of indigenous people as defenders of a country’s natural resources and the crucial role they play in conserving the environment. 

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To the rescue of the Mangrove Horseshoe Crab

On 17 September, Friends of A Rocha in Singapore joined in with the A Rocha family for International Coastal Cleanup Day and World Cleanup Day! 16 volunteers gathered at the beach of Sembawang Park – one of the few natural beaches remaining on the island – located in the north of Singapore, facing the Straits of Johor and overlooking Malaysia. The A Rocha team was encouraged to see several other groups already cleaning the beach, so they walked to a more secluded part of the beach at Eagles Point and piqued the interest of Long-tailed Macaques Macaca fascicularis! The team stood on the sandflats covered with sand balls of Sand Bubbler Crabs Dotillidae and began the day with the 2022 Season of Creation Prayer, adapted to include ocean ecology. 

As they started cleaning up, they found food wrappers, single-use food containers, plastic bags and films, clothes, glass, polystyrene, a fluorescent tube and diapers still intact – in less than an hour, the team collected 29 kg / 64 lbs of rubbish. But the highlight of the day was freeing a foot-long Mangrove Horseshoe Crab Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda caught in a giant knot of fishing nets! Alongside a second individual that was already dead, the crab was covered in barnacles and was probably stuck for a long time. Using scissors, the team worked on disentangling the trapped crab and finally, it was free! They released it back into the sea with a great sense of relief and joy. Even though beach cleanups do not solve the systemic issue of plastic pollution, they can save lives! What an encouragement to continue working in faithful hope that creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21). 

You can see a video of the Mangrove Horseshoe Crab rescue on Instagram here