A-Rocha-Table

A Gathering at the Table

We’re excited to announce the launch of a new initiative: a community of regular givers who are committed to seeing nature flourish. We’re calling it the ‘A Rocha Table’ and we’d love you to join! Thanks to A Rocha’s fabulous supporters, we have been responding to the global crisis of biodiversity loss for nearly 40 years, and we believe it’s this long-term commitment to people and places that makes the difference. By setting up a regular donation to A Rocha International you can help be a part of this commitment to caring for our most vulnerable habitats, species and communities and help us make longer term plans with confidence. We want to make sure you know how much your giving matters. Every six months, we’ll send you an issue of our ‘Table Talk’ emailing. It will contain highlights from the A Rocha Worldwide Family, invitations to exclusive online events and special discounts on A Rocha books and publications. We hope it will be a way for us to keep in touch with you better and help you feel more connected to A Rocha around the world. We hope to see you at the Table soon!

Sign up to the A Rocha Table

Friends-of

Making Friends in Central America

Around the world, Christians are coming together to care for creation – and A Rocha is lending a hand through the Friends of A Rocha Network. Network members are groups and organizations, led by committed Christians, who are undertaking biodiversity conservation and interested in sharing and learning together with like-minded groups around the world. 

To learn more about the current Friends and to see if your group could apply, see the Friends page. Meanwhile, meet our two most recent members: 

Casa Adobe is an intentional Christian community rooted in Santa Rosa, Heredia Province, Costa Rica. It was born in 2013 when people from different contexts and cultures came together with a common goal: to be good neighbours. Casa Adobe seeks to promote integral human development, facilitate cultural interchange amongst people from different contexts, care for the environment and stimulate its protection. 

Their current environmental activities include a local community composting project and a plan to recover one of Casa Adobe’s most neglected ‘neighbours’, the Virilla River. The Virilla flows down from its source in the cloud forests through densely populated areas where it is impacted by sewage, litter and degraded riverine forest. Casa Adobe is re-engaging the community with the river and liaising with other stakeholders. 

 

Huellas Panamá (meaning ‘Footprints’) was born in 2018 as a project in Kuna Nega, an indigenous settlement heavily impacted by the operation of Cerro Patacón, one of the main landfills in Panama. The original project raised environmental awareness in the community through the community church and setting up a waste collection point. 

Huellas Panamá is now setting up an online Virtual Academy to promote creation care theology and wiser consumption habits; supporting recycling as they can (there is no recycling collection in Panama!) and litter clean-ups; and developing an Eco Tours Programme to create opportunities for friendship, recreation and learning about caring for the earth.  

AR-Australia_planting-trees

Planting trees and restoring ecosystems in Australia

During another wet winter, A Rocha Australia has been getting their hands dirty by planting native plants and nurturing relationships with the communities who care for them.  

Volunteers from A Rocha Australia were invited by Clyde and Rose Rigney – elders from the Raukkan aboriginal community – to help with revegetation events in partnership with Cassina Environmental in South Australia. In June, over 30 people braved challenging weather to plant 1700 seedlings! In August, a smaller group planted 584 seedlings at Mount Sandy and 325 seedlings at Raukkan, this time in lovely sunshine. Alongside tree planting, the Rigneys offered inspiring hospitality, with singing round the fire, hot drinks, delicious food and inspirational storytelling.  

Another planting session was organised by Onkaparinga council staff at Hart Road Wetland, the traditional lands of the Kaurna people. Twenty adults and four children gathered to plant about 380 native plants. Several of these are endemic to South Australia, including Atriplex paludosa, Goodenia amplexans and Thomasia petalocalyx. These plants are not only unique to their particular area, but they are also critical to maintaining biodiversity. 

With their project in Toowoomba escarpment parks, A Rocha Australia goes beyond planting seedlings to protecting mature plants in Queensland. Partnering with Friends of the Escarpment Parks, A Rocha controls invasive weeds at three bushland parks which contain endangered ecosystems. At Redwood Park, A Rocha removes Cat’s claw creeper Dolichandra unguis-cati. This aptly named invasive plant is one of several that smother trees and shrubs, destroying the canopy and harming the ecosystem. Creeper control is slow and labourious work but highly rewarding as mature trees are cut free and seedlings are discovered underneath masses of removed creeper. The vulnerable Black-breasted Button-quail Turnix melanogaster has raised several sets of young under the semi-evergreen vine-thicket (‘dry rainforest’).  

In the eucalypt forest of Nielsen Park, A Rocha volunteers remove other choking weeds, allowing indigenous understory species to establish. And there are already positive results: bird surveys have found that several small bird species persist in the now generous cover of shrubs, including the first ever sightings of the ground-feeding Painted Button-quail Turnix varius in the park! 

International Coastal Cleanup Day banner

International Coastal Cleanup and World Cleanup Day – 17 September

Join A Rocha for the annual International Coastal Cleanup and World Cleanup Day this September. Founded by the Ocean Conservancy, International Coastal Cleanup Day inspires over 200,000 people every year to restore beaches and waterways. Plastic pollution is one of many threats to our marine ecosystems, with over 8 million tonnes of plastic waste polluting our oceans, rivers and lakes each year.

Dr Robert Sluka, Lead Scientist of A Rocha’s Marine Conservation Programme explains in the video why Christians should care about plastics:

‘God commanded us to take care of the world he’s made… If we are going to love God and obey him by taking care of what he’s made, we need to do something about the plastic problem. We also need to love our neighbour. In order to love your neighbour better we have to think about how we use plastic, where it’s going and what’s happening to it.’

On 17 September, whether you live by an ocean or not, you can join A Rocha’s Marine Conservation Programme in this cleanup effort to help reduce plastic waste and create waters of hope! All waterways are important, and you can do a cleanup wherever you are – at the ocean, river, lake, park or even your neighbourhood!

Here are three ways you can get involved:

1. Join a local cleanup on 17 September and record the litter you collect using the Clean Swell app. Check with local environmental organizations to find cleanup events in your area.

2. If there isn’t a cleanup event near you, organize your own on 17 September with A Rocha’s litter cleanup guide and record your collection in the Clean Swell app, listing A Rocha as your group.

3. If you can’t get to a cleanup on 17 September, take any day this month and clean up a beach, waterway or neighbourhood near you.

Be sure to share your efforts on social media to inspire others to care for our oceans and waterways by using the hashtags: #ARochaMarine #WatersofHope and #WorldCleanupDay

A Rocha also provides additional resources to engage your church and community around plastic waste reduction. See our Plastics Toolbox for free resources to help you contribute to global efforts to fight plastic pollution. Resources include videos, a cleanup guide, devotionals and Bible studies in multiple languages.

Hermit butterfly fieldwork in action - A Rocha France, Courmettes - 2022 July

The Hermit of Les Courmettes

One night in early June, a group of volunteers kitted out with head lamps were on their knees in a field at Les Courmettes, marvelling at the sight of a particular nocturnal caterpillar – that of a Hermit butterfly Chazara briseis.

In fact, two Hermit caterpillars were seen this season! While that may seem a low number, it is actually excellent news, as sightings are very rare. The Hermit is a species about which very little is known, and which is under threat both regionally and nationally in France. The Courmettes team launched a study protocol focusing on the Hermit species as part of France’s National Action Plan on butterflies.

As adults emerged, from mid-July to mid-August, our attention turned to answering such questions as: how big is the population on site? What is the average lifespan of this butterfly? How far does it travel? How does it use the site? We did this through a technique called mark-recapture. The hope is eventually to compile our data with regional (and potentially interregional) data in a population genetics study, finances permitting.

This year we marked 82 individuals – great news for the Hermit population of Courmettes! The next step is to analyse the data, but here are some first observations:

  • Only males emerged in the first week of study; females emerged from the second week. After that, males and females emerged at the same rate.
  • 41% of the individuals were recaptured at least once; some up to six times! Some individuals stayed in the same spot while others travelled further.
  • Individuals captured at the end of the season travelled further than the early individuals.

We even witnessed individuals mating (bonus film here!) – evidence that the cycle of life continues. We still know very little about the host plants the Hermit prefers – come and join us in the 2023 season in our caterpillar hunt!

Photos: Hermit butterfly fieldwork in action – A Rocha France, Courmettes – 2022 July 

Picnic en el Arroyo

Celebrating God’s Creation at A Rocha Holiday Camps

All around the world, A Rocha’s environmental education programmes ignite a spirit of joy and curiosity towards God’s creation. In the northern hemisphere, we have had a fantastic summer of outings, camps and programmes centred on creation care.

Amid an immense drought in Southern California, A Rocha USA’s summer programme was all about water: where we get it, when it is safe to drink and how we can conserve it. With a variety of fun activities, children and their families learned how to be good stewards of this increasingly precious resource. In Texas, we host ‘Picnics en el Arroyo’ gatherings throughout the year in Spanish, which are engaging for whole families: children discover interesting critters during ‘BINGO de la Laguna’; teenagers compete to win the hiking scavenger hunt; and parents learn about birding.

Kara LeBlanc – an environmental educator at A Rocha Manitoba, Canada – explains how their summer programmes help kids who struggle to find beauty in their urban environment: ‘There is a lot of beauty! You actually have to look – there is a lot to see where you live. So, when we’re planning stuff I think, how can I help kids look?’ Sure enough, one camp leader, Emma Siemens, experienced a perfect example of this during a ‘photo scavenger hunt’ where kids practice observing nature:

One day as we were walking to a nearby park, looking for a ‘unique tree’ to take a photo of, Lucy, age 10, said, ‘I think we could really take a photo of any tree, because every tree is unique. No two trees are exactly the same!’ In this moment Lucy was learning how to notice and appreciate nature in all its intricacies.

In all our education programmes, we connect people and nature to inspire action for a sustainable world. Here are more highlights from the A Rocha worldwide family this year:

At the beginning of the year, A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand local group member from Christchurch, Steven Muir, hosted the Aranui Bike Fixup School Holiday Programme. Over five days, kids developed their love for biking and their skills in bike maintenance.

A Rocha USA’s Wild Wonder curriculum is used by churches, camps and other groups to help children learn about the wildly wonderful world God has made.

A Rocha France offers residential weeks at the Courmettes centre, with an eco-adventure camp for children and a variety of adult seminars.

In May, A Rocha India opened a new Rural Digital Literacy Learning Lab at their field study centre to provide students and villagers in the Bannerghatta Landscape with digital growth opportunities.

A Rocha Kenya teaches young people about biodiversity conservation in the Malindi-Watamu area.

A Rocha Peru conducts eco-club workshops at churches, organizations and schools. Children plant and harvest vegetables in the garden and learn about medicinal plants, composting, restoring dry forests and more.

A Rocha Portugal is celebrating 30 years of environmental education! They offer programmes on (1) birds and habitats of Ria de Alvor, (2) discovering pollinators and (3) microplastics and sea rubbish.

A Rocha Switzerland is offering nature workshops to support biodiversity conservation this September.

A Rocha UK has been hosting ‘Act for Nature’ days to teach about creation care and demonstrate conservation activities.

Alongside their schools conservation environmental education programme, A Rocha Ghana recently co-hosted a nationwide essay writing competition. Children ages 6-16 thoughtfully described how they would take care of our ‘One Earth’.

Bio-sand water filter - cross-section

100,000 litres of clean drinking water

Over the last 14 years, A Rocha Uganda has constructed over 2,700 bio-sand water filters and Pastor Freddie Musisi received one of the very first! Since 2008, it has filtered over 100,000 litres of clean drinking water for his family, neighbours and church members. ‘We never get diarrhoea or any other related sickness because we drink and use clean filtered water from our bio-sand filter,’ says Freddie. ‘We no longer need to buy bottled water again because even when travelling we pack our own water in our reusable bottles.’

Freddie and his wife, Annet live in Namungoona, a slum in Kampala City, with their four children and grandchild. By drinking clean, filtered water, the children’s education has improved. As their water no longer needs to be boiled, their filter saves trees from being cut down to produce charcoal and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by almost one ton per year! The family also has an extra £50 per year to spend on food, which they would otherwise need to buy charcoal.

In 2016, A Rocha Uganda replaced the sand in Freddie’s filter so that it will continue to provide clean drinking water for his family and church for another eight years.

Through Gifts with a Difference you can purchase a bio-sand filter so that others like Freddie and Annet can have better health, improved access to education, more money to spend on food and a healthier environment too!

Bluespotted Ribbontail Ray

Rays at risk

Rays are a group of fish whose bodies are flattened and have a skeleton made of cartilage – the same material that forms much of human ears and noses. They occur throughout the world except at the poles. Similar to sharks, rays are targeted by fishers and overfishing is causing a global decline in abundance. A recent study found that rays are even more threatened than shark species: using IUCN criterion, 36% of rays are considered threatened compared to 31% for sharks[1]. These beautiful creatures are particularly threatened in the tropics and subtropics, and several find their home in Watamu Marine National Park (WMNP) where A Rocha Kenya assists local managers in protecting threatened ray species.

Six ray species and one guitarfish, which are technically rays, inhabit WMNP based on A Rocha’s research over the past 10 years[2]. The Shark Conservation Fund provided resources to study these species in more detail this past year, including education and livelihoods work among local fishers outside of WMNP.

Four methods were used to study these species: baited remote underwater video, timed swims, beach walks, and SCUBA surveys. Three of the rays were either Endangered or Critically Endangered and one species is considered Data Deficient with this study helping to better understand its threatened status. Rays were most often found in sandy and seagrass habitats, indicating the importance of these often-overlooked areas in WMNP where the focus has frequently been on coral reefs. Education events in eight local schools and among ten community groups helped children and adults better understand the beauty and value of these amazing species.

Cruzinha

Water woes

Tourist brochures of the Algarve in Portugal are full of the dazzling blue of the sea and multitudes of swimming pools for those who prefer to stay free of sand and salt. But any impression of abundant water is false. Water is an acute issue here and the impacts are starkly apparent at Cruzinha, A Rocha Portugal’s field study centre on the Alvor Estuary.

The ponds and reed bed are dry, the citrus orchard planted decades ago may not survive the summer, and there is barely any rainwater in the cistern. Humans at Cruzinha may not miss the usually abundant mosquitoes, but the creatures that depend on mosquitoes for food suffer from the scarcity. Tinder-dry, the risk of wildfires is ever present.

A Rocha has been in this little corner of southwest Portugal since 1983. Our long-term presence means changes to climate, biodiversity, air, soil and water have been carefully observed and deeply felt. For the team at Cruzinha, the situation can be hard to bear, particularly as it continues to be exacerbated by seemingly mindless agricultural policies – for example, approval of a rash of new avocado plantations which will drain the already dangerously low water table.

However, the atmosphere around Cruzinha’s big old oak table at mealtimes is cheerful as people share stories of their doings: the Waxbill team are excited to report catching an impressive 15 the previous night, there were otter tracks in the transect surveyed that morning and many beautiful moths in the trap below the house. Volunteers tackled invasive species in the garden and a board game is planned for after dinner.

There is no doubt the water situation is dire, but A Rocha has always chosen to live hopefully, in worship and obedience to God, creator of all. In a parched and dusty landscape, roots must go deep. Have no doubt, the A Rocha Portugal team have deep roots of faith. When the rain finally comes, they will still be holding on.

France forum 22_whole family

A family Forum in France

For the first time in four years, the A Rocha family gathered for the 2022 Global Leader’s Forum. The Forum is a chance for A Rocha leaders to come together in community for fellowship, prayer, and advancing the mission of the A Rocha worldwide family. Over 80 delegates convened in the French hills above the Côte d’Azur at Les Courmettes, with over 20 countries represented.

It was inspiring to reunite around our common vision and faith, across diverse cultures, and languages. We are grateful for the hospitality of the A Rocha France team who shared their beautiful centre at Les Courmettes. Special thank you to Canadian cook and farmer, Shelley Spruit, who made sure our bellies and souls were abundantly nourished with daily ground grain, freshly baked bread and other delights.

It was a time of celebration with answered prayers and good news, including updates that the Atewa forest in Ghana remains protected and undeveloped, growth of the African Forest Programme and the new Friends of A Rocha Network. It was a privilege to witness the A Rocha Worldwide Covenant being acted out over the week as thoughtful and prayerful work was done to review and update A Rocha’s mission and vision statements and A Rocha’s commitments, all of which were approved at the first ever Decision-making Meeting held on the last day of the Forum. God’s grace was tangible as the gathered leaders worked together on articulating our Christian commitment to conservation.

It was also a time for reflection and remembrance amidst the grief of losing our dear colleagues, Miranda Harris, Chris Naylor, and Susanna Naylor, at the end of 2019. We thank God for this time to mourn together, and the strength brought through community and fellowship in Christ. Thank you for your continued prayers for the A Rocha worldwide family as we surrender and partner with God through this season of renewal, like new wine in new wine skins (Mark 2:22).