Taita Research Station History

In early 1980s, a Norwegian missionary Jon Jøssang was looking for a place in the Taita Hills for writing Christian literature and serving the community. Scripture Mission, Jøssang’s host organisation, was given a rocky land area for free by the County Council in the ourskirts of Wundanyi town. Building started in 1983 and Jøssang moved in the premises named as Hebron in1985. The place established itself during the following decades as a forum for active Christians as well as a haven for passers-by, like foreign back-packers and Kenyan traveling salesmen.

In 1993 Jøssang retired and moved back to Norway and ever since the Hebron served as a guest house accommodating also scientists studying the fragile environment of Taita Hills. Its central location next to Wundanyi in the middle of the Taita Hills and its premises serve as an excellent base camp to study the Taita Hills and move around in the hills. In 1989, a research expedition of the University of Helsinki took place in the Taita Hills. The aim of the expedition led by Dr. Sakari Tuhkanen and Dr. Ritva Kivikkokangas-Sandgren was to study the climate change impacts on livelihoods in the Taita Hills and surroundings. The expedition resulted in six MSc thesis and one of those was made by Petri Pellikka on land cover mapping.

In 2009, Scripture Mission offered to sell the premises to the University of Helsinki, which runs the Taita Research Station with its research extension in Kenya (Taita Environmental Research and Resource Arc - TERRA). In 2004, Prof. Petri Pellikka led student exhibition to the Taita Hills using Hebron for first time as a logistical centre and for accommodation. Since then Prof. Pellikka led research groups once or twice a year to Taita Hills using Hebron more and more. In 2009 he invited Prof. Jouko Rikkinen (botany) of the University of Helsinki to the Taita Hills. They were shared with the news that Scripture Mission was selling Hebron.

In January 2011, rector Thomas Wilhelmsson of the University of Helsinki officially opened the Taita Research Station. When looking back to the history since 1989, over 60 MSc thesis and 14 PhD dissertations are done about the Taita Hills and Taita Taveta County at the University of Helsinki only, but great number also within cooperation partners at universities in Kenya and elsewhere.