Coastal Kenya holds many secrets. Among them is the rocky outcrop of Cha Simba in Kilifi County, which shelters some of the world’s most iconic and rarest plants.
Hidden below the trees that cling to the rock outcrops is one of Africa’s most famous plants, the African violet, generally known as Saintpaulia. The plants at Cha Simba are now specifically classified as Streptocarpus ionanthus subspecies rupicola. This subspecies is found in the wild only in Kenya, nowhere else in the world.
“African violets are popular house plants. But only three populations of this subspecies are known in the wild, only in Kilifi, and all of them are in danger of extinction,” notes Dr Cornelius Kyalo, a botanist who has studied the genetics and ecology of the African violet at Cha Simba.
Thirty other plant species clinging to Cha Simba rocky outcrop are classified as threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
And now extinction is a real prospect! A mining company, Mashujaa Q&M PLC, is planning to mine the Cha Simba rock outcrop for limestone. The company and its Environmental and Social Impact Assessment submitted to National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) are apparently unaware of the unique natural heritage threatened by their project.
Every extinction is tragic. An African violet and the other Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable plants do not need to be sacrificed for a little cement.
“It is critical that Kenya is seen to meet its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity,” says Paul Matiku, Director of Nature Kenya. “Under this convention, it is Kenya’s obligation to protect all globally threatened species that occur in Kenya. The proposed limestone mining will wipe out this subspecies.”
Nature Kenya is appealing to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, the National Environment Management Authority and the County Government of Kilifi to stop this move to extinction!
Nature Kenya is also urging the government to place Cha Simba rock outcrop under official protection and requesting mining companies to avoid Coastal limestone outcrops with unique plant species.