KBA in Focus: North Nandi Forest

By Joshua Sese

Nestled within Nandi County’s vast landscape is North Nandi Forest Key Biodiversity Area, an ecological gem consisting of diverse habitats, ranging from montane forests merging to western forests as well as grasslands, supporting characteristic fauna and flora. North Nandi forest is sandwiched between Kakamega and South Nandi forests KBAs to the west and south respectively. Its elevation ranges from 1700 to 2130 meters above sea level, providing a varied terrain, and it is a source of permanent tributaries flowing downstream to form rivers such as the Yala River draining into Lake Victoria. The forest is home to the globally threatened Chapin’s Flycatcher (Fraseria lendu) and supports a rich tapestry of plant life, including rare orchids, towering trees, and colourful flowering plants, creating a haven for countless species of insects, amphibians, and small mammals.

North Nandi KBA faces numerous threats, however. Poverty in surrounding communities, planned deforestation for development needs, and unsustainable activities such as illegal logging, charcoal burning, encroachment, and fragmentation pose significant challenges to the integrity of the ecosystem. Climate change also poses a looming threat to the KBA, altering temperature and precipitation patterns.

A multi-faceted approach combining conservation efforts, community engagement, and sustainable development strategies is needed to address these threats. Collaboration between government agencies, non-profit organizations, local communities, and international partners is essential to safeguarding the area’s ecological integrity. To guide the management of the forest, the North and South Nandi Forests Strategic Ecosystem Management Plan 2015-2040 was launched in 2015.

In efforts to foster community-led conservation efforts, a community-based organization (CBO), Murguiywet CBO launched in 2010 has been at the forefront in spearheading the restoration work. The group is one of Nature Kenya’s Site Support Groups that participates in activities such as beekeeping, tree nursery and tree growing, bird monitoring, conservation of water catchment areas and riverine restoration, community awareness on the importance of conserving North Nandi Forest, world environmental days, environmental education, reporting encroachment cases by the community to local authorities, capacity building, and recruitment of local community scouts to patrol the forest.