Found on the country’s highest mountain – Mount Kenya – is Mount Kenya forest. It’s a crucial catchment area, providing water and other essential ecosystem goods and services to adjacent communities and the country. Mount Kenya forest is a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), Important Bird Area (IBA) and World Heritage Site. It is home to many threatened animal species like the Abbott’s Starling, Kenya Jewel damselfly, Mount Kenya Bush Viper, among others.
Unfortunately, the future of the rich biodiversity of Mount Kenya forest is on shaky ground, due to threats like forest fires, land conversion, pollution, tree felling, game hunting, invasive species and climate change. These threats have seen the forest rapidly lose part of its cover and biodiversity.
Fortunately, efforts by 27 Community Forest Associations (CFAs), together with Nature Kenya and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) have resulted in the restoration of more than 500 hectares of degraded forest areas, with over 500,000 indigenous trees planted in the past five years. Based on the progress of the planted trees, community groups in Mount Kenya can attest to the success of the restoration initiative.
For instance, the Chehe CFA, with 768 members, majority women, manages the Chehe forest block on the border between Kirinyaga and Nyeri counties. Community members engaged in planting and maintaining the restored sites have also earned wages that have helped them improve their livelihoods.
“Proceeds from the sale of tree seedlings helped us to expand our tree nursery. We are now propagating bamboo, which we anticipate will earn us more than Ksh. 2 million during the planting season,” says Geoffrey Muriithi Wandeto, Chehe CFA chairman.
Wandeto further says that the restoration of Mount Kenya forest comes at the opportune moment when the Critically Endangered Mountain Bongos are being re-introduced into their natural habitat.
“Restoration efforts supported by Nature Kenya have drawn the interest of a project seeking to conserve Mountain Bongos. This project is now working with the Chehe and Ragati CFAs, bringing in more goodies to us. Two of our members are working with this project to raise Mountain Bongo conservation awareness in schools,” adds Wandeto.
The trees in the restored sites have grown to a height of between 150 – 200 cm. Nickson Macharia Mariga, Chehe Forest station manager, puts the young trees’ survival rate above 75 per cent. Mariga attributes the impressive survival rate to Nature Kenya’s support.
“Nature Kenya has continuously supported the weeding and replacement of dead seedlings. The collaboration between the community and KFS has also been key to ensuring the survival of the saplings,” says Mariga.
Maintaining a high survival rate has not been easy, Wandeto reveals. Low rainfall and prolonged drought have presented many challenges. However, the Chehe CFA chairman is upbeat.
“We, the community of Chehe, will continue forest restoration activities in Mount Kenya. Protecting the biodiversity in this area is our responsibility. We urge more stakeholders to recognize and support our restoration efforts,” says Wandeto.
On Friday, 31 March all roads lead to the Karen Country Club for this year’s ‘Lungs for Kenya’ charity golf tournament. This tournament seeks to raise funds to support the restoration of degraded forests in Mount Kenya and the Aberdares. You can be part of this worthwhile initiative by registering as a player for the tournament, sponsoring the event, donating raffle or auction items or pledging any amount to support restoration. Click here for more details