Promoting beekeeping to catalyse economic growth in the Tana Delta

By Fatuma Hajio 

In the heart of Kenya’s Tana Delta region, The Tana Green Heart project, led by the Tana River County Government in collaboration with Nature Kenya seeks to enhance biodiversity protection, promote conservation-linked enterprises and develop green value chains. Beekeeping is one of the enterprises the project is promoting to boost community livelihoods and sustainably harness the Delta’s natural bounty. Recognising Tana Delta’s beekeeping potential, African Beekeepers Limited (ABL), a Nairobi-based private beekeeping company, is keen on investing in the honey value chain. 

ABL has set sight in Tana Delta. The company, working closely with Nature Kenya, seeks to equip local beekeeping groups with the requisite knowledge and skills to enhance honey production and elevate quality standards. Towards  this end, ABL offered training to 317 individuals, most of them women, at seven locations in Tana Delta in April. Through hands-on training sessions, conducted by ABL staff, participants learned theoretical beekeeping concepts and practical knowledge tailored to their local needs. 

Plans are underway to train 1,200 active beekeepers representing 30 groups in the coming weeks. The ripple effects of this initiative are poised to resonate far beyond the buzzing hives. With the onset of the rains, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. As the landscape rejuvenates and flora blooms, honey production is set to increase, promising a bountiful harvest for the newly trained beekeepers. This natural cycle will further enhance the region’s economic prospects as the honey industry increasingly becomes lucrative. 

 

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.

Growing trees in Cherangani for livelihoods and resilient ecosystem services

By James Mutunga

Growing trees to restore forested landscapes has a positive impact on biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, and local livelihoods. In 2015, Africa set an ambitious goal of restoring 100 million hectares by 2030, with the Kenyan government committing to restoring 5.1 million hectares. To implement this goal, TerraFund for AFR100 was established in 2021. The consortium, consisting of World Resources Institute, One Tree Planted, Realize Impact, and Barka Fund, is determined to provide the necessary financing and support to local communities involved in land restoration.

In 2021, TerraFund provided grants to 100 projects and enterprises from 27 African countries, including 14 from Kenya. Two years later, TerraFund began a new financing phase to restore three important African landscapes: the Lake Kivu and Rusizi River Basin spanning Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the GreatRift Valley of Kenya; and the Ghana Cocoa Belt. This new cohort of 92 beneficiaries, which includes 78 non-profit and 14 for-profit organizations, will receive $17.8 million. The investment is projected to grow 12.7 million trees, restore 47,000 hectares of land, create 52,000 jobs, and benefit 586,000 people by 2030.

In Kenya, 36 organizations, including Nature Kenya, made it to the final selection, including 29 non-profit and 7 for-profit. These Kenyan restoration champions will receive $7.5 million in investment. This investment is projected to grow 4.5 million trees, put 13,000 hectares of land under restoration, create 21,000 jobs, and improve the livelihoods of 245,000 people.

Nature Kenya, with the support of TerraFund, is growing over 400,000 indigenous trees in six state forests in Cherangani Hills. This community-led initiative will employ 4000 local people and restore 320 hectares of forest land, while providing tree nursery skills to 150 volunteers. The project will impact more than 17,000 people directly and indirectly over six years.

Collaboration among indigenous communities, local government agencies, civil society organizations, and private investors is essential to restore the Cherangani Hills Key Biodiversity Area (KBA). This will ensure the continued provision of goods and services by nature. A partnership between the government and the people will help create an enabling environment for the preservation and protection of natural heritage. This will alleviate poverty, mitigate the effects of climate change, and enhance the resilience of natural systems and communities.

Cherangani Hills KBA is a vital area in the Rift Valley region, spanning three counties. It is home to endangered biodiversity and plays a crucial role in supporting food security, flood disaster control, climate change mitigation, water provision and conservation, and other critical services. Threats to the KBA stem from several human-driven pressures as a result of rapid population growth and the increasing incidence of poverty, which has triggered encroachment into the forests for settlements, farming, timber, charcoal, firewood and grazing. Forest management is affected by changing lifestyles among local communities, notably the adoption of crop farming by pastoral communities. Faced with high incidences of livestock loss because of persistent drought and cattle rustling, pastoralists have turned to crop farming including farming in the forests. The ecosystem has similarly suffered from the impacts of the changing climate, which has intensified livestock grazing in the forests due to the loss of pasture because of the increased recurrence of drought.

In the past ten years, forest degradation has resulted in adverse effects on the goods and services people get from the forest. Water quantity and quality have been deteriorating. Capacity for flood regulation within the landscape has declined, associated with incidences of soil erosion and deadly landslides. A degraded forest ecosystem affects human health, which is dependent on good air quality, climate regulation, water storage and availability, fertile soils, and diverse wildlife. Degradation continues to decimate the resiliency and ability of the Cherangani ecosystem to provide the natural services that provide the ambience needed by humans.

Boardwalk, bird hide and picnic banda a boost for Sabaki River Estuary

By Francis Kagema

Sabaki River Estuary is where the Athi-Galana-Sabaki River flows into the Indian Ocean, just north of Malindi in Kilifi County, along Kenya’s picturesque northern coastline. This diverse estuarine ecosystem comprises sediments, silt and sand deposited over the years, forming a mosaic of landscapes.

Every year, hundreds of tourists and thousands of students visit this site for recreational and educational purposes.

As the salty waters of the Indian Ocean mingle with the fresh water of the Sabaki River, they give rise to unique habitats that teem with crocodiles, hippos, reptiles, crustaceans and birds. The sandy shores flanking both sides of the estuary extend into Malindi Bay and are critical turtle breeding grounds. Mangroves, with their tangled roots and bright green canopies, stand as sentinels against the ebb and flow of the tides and the fury of storms. Beyond the mangroves are mudflats that attract flocks of thousands of Palearctic migrant birds, feeding on invertebrates in the mud to power their long-distance flights. Many local bird species, including some Lesser Flamingoes, have made this estuary their permanent residence.

Now, as you venture into the Sabaki River Estuary, a new imposing 450m boardwalk greets you. This new structure, along with a bird photography hide and a picnic banda, will offer tourists an unforgettable tour of the estuary once it is operational. Nature Kenya implemented the construction of the new facilities with funding from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) through its Western Indian Ocean Strategic Action Programme (WIOSAP). Local communities, including members of the Sabaki River Development and Conservation Organization (SARICODO), are expected to benefit from the facilities through ecotourism by offering tour guiding and related services. Part of the revenue collected from the facilities will also go to the communities.

The estuary is one of Kenya’s 68 Key Biodiversity Areas, with over 240 bird species recorded, including 91 species of water birds. It is an important resting, roosting and feeding ground for gulls and terns. The estuary and the nearby turbid coastal waters are also an important nursery ground for prawns and numerous species of fish and crustaceans, which are of commercial importance.

Although the estuary is a haven of natural beauty and biodiversity, it faces numerous threats. Illegal logging of mangroves is a critical issue that jeopardises the balance of the estuarine environment and destroys essential habitats for various species. Overfishing and harmful fishing techniques endanger the ecological balance of the estuary and the future of artisanal fisheries. Unregulated tourist activities also pose a threat to the site.

To conserve the estuarine ecosystem in perpetuity, WIOSAP also funded a project to develop a site management plan for the estuary. This management plan is expected to guide the estuary’s sustainable development and management through a collaborative approach, creating a sustainable future for the estuary and the adjacent community. The Kilifi County government has committed to supporting the implementation of the management plan to ensure that its good objectives are realizedwithin the ten-year implementation period.

“At the end of the management plan’s implementation period, we hope to have a conserved estuary, increased biodiversity and enhanced livelihoods for local communities,” says Omar Said Omar, the County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Water, Environment, Forestry, Climate Change, Natural Resources and Solid Waste Management, County Government of Kilifi.

The project has also empowered SARICODO to conduct conservation activities such as site monitoring and patrol, mangrove restoration, and awareness creation.

Golfing to restore degraded forests

By Richard Kipngeno

The 14th Nature Kenya charity golf tournament was held on Friday, March 15th at the Karen Country Club. The charity event raised Ksh 1 million for Mt. Kenya Forest restoration. A total of 93 golfers participated in this fundraiser. The event was sponsored by 17 corporates. Kenya Breweries Limited was the main sponsor. Platcorp Foundation, Knight Frank, Williamson Tea and Privatization Authority were hole sponsors.

Others who supported the event with auction and raffles items included Young Muslim Association, Serena Hotels, Karen Country Club, Cormorant Tours, Davis & Shirtliff, Safarilink, Air Kenya, The Safari Collection, Emrok Tea, Cookswell Jikos, Matbronze, Woburn Residences – Salma and Andy Watt, Alex Duncanson, Patricia Odima, Karen Lawrence and Andrew Kamiti.