Collaboration for Mount Kenya forest restoration

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 

KBA in Focus: Mukurwe-ini Valleys

Extending to the lower southeast slopes of the Aberdare Mountains and the far southwest of Mount Kenya forest in Nyeri, is the Mukurwe-ini valleys Important Bird Area (IBA) and Key Biodiversity Area (KBA). Mukurwe-ini valleys are home to the Hinde’s Babbler (Turdoides hindei), a globally threatened and range-restricted bird species found only in Kenya. 


Covering an estimated area of 110,000 Ha, the valleys predominantly occur in privately owned lands, mainly comprising small-scale coffee and subsistence crop farms. Apart from the Hinde’s Babbler, Mukurwe-ini valleys also host more than 315 plant and 265 bird species, among other taxonomic groups. The valleys comprise vegetated stream and river courses and dense thickets dominated by the invasive Lantana camara plant. The thickets provide a suitable habitat for the Hinde’s Babbler. 


Owing to the unprotected status of the Mukurwe-ini valleys KBA, the Hinde’s Babbler population there is severely fragmented and continuously declining due to changes in land uses.


Threats facing the KBA and its biodiversity include habitat loss, human disturbance, agrochemical pollution, lack of awareness among community members, poverty leading to pressure on existing resources and climate change. Human population increase in the area has augmented land use, resulting in the clearing of the Hinde’s Babbler’s habitats for agriculture. Currently, there is no government strategy in place to enhance the conservation of this ecologically valuable KBA.   


The Mukurwe-ini valleys are of great aesthetic, cultural and religious importance to the local communities. These valleys host famous Mau Mau caves, beautiful waterfalls, traditional Kikuyu homesteads and indigenous bushes treasured for their herbal medicines. The valleys’ ecotourism potential is immeasurable. Their scientific value is equally great, affirming the need to protect and cherish the KBA. Wajee Nature Park is currently the only protected site, and Hinde’s Babbler is the star attraction.


Mukurwe-ini Environment Volunteers (MEVO) is the KBA’s site support group (SSG). MEVO has been engaged in conservation activities at the KBA since its inception in 2004. The activities include site monitoring, advocacy and awareness creation. The SSG, with assistance from Nature Kenya and National Museums of Kenya (NMK), has been conducting a bi-annual survey of the Hinde’s Babbler since 2004. MEVO also organizes volleyball tournaments during the annual environmental days to raise awareness for the conservation of Hinde’s Babbler. These tournaments draw teams from local schools, colleges and local communities. 

World Wetlands Day 2023

World Wetlands Day was marked on 2 February at various sites across Kenya. The national celebrations took place at the Enkongu Enkare in Narok County. Thirteen community groups affiliated to Nature Kenya held activities to comemorate the day. These were: Tana Delta Conservation Network (Tana River Delta), Dakatcha Woodland Conservation Group (Dakatcha Woodland), Yala Ecosystem Site Support Group (Yala Swamp), Lake Naivasha Biodiversity Conservation Group (Lake Naivasha), Lake Elmenteita Community-based Organization (Lake Elmenteita), Busia Environmental Conservation Education Program (Busia grasslands), Nyahururu Bird Club (Lake Ol’ Bolossat), Ithugu Self-Help Group (Mt. Kenya forest),  Kijabe Environment Volunteers Organization (Kereita Forest), Sabaki River Conservation and Development Organization (Sabaki River Mouth), Friends of Nature Bogoria (Lake Bogoria), Friends of Dunga Swamp and Lake Kenyatta Water Users Association (Lamu County). Over 3,300 people, including school children, participated in the events.

The wetlands of Kenya

The early morning’s sun rays gleam against the shiny mangrove leaves along the shores of Sabaki River Mouth, where the Athi-Galana- Sabaki River pours into the Indian Ocean. For nature lovers, Sabaki River Mouth is a haven of biodiversity. But for private developers who have lately been eyeing this ecologically sensitive area, it is a vast wasteland. 

On February 2, we mark World Wetlands Day, a day to appreciate the importance of wetlands and advocate for their conservation. Many wetlands in Kenya, including the Sabaki River Mouth, face increasing pressure from human activity. The majority of wetlands lack formal protection, except for the few that fall in protected areas. With the current lack of institutional management and formal protection, these wetlands are at the mercy of developers and potential loss of these delicate ecosystems and the invaluable ecological services they provide. 

Wetlands are amongst the most productive ecosystems on earth. They filter water, store carbon, regulate floods and control soil erosion. They provide water, food, pasture and raw materials for people and their livestock. From the Yala Swamp in western Kenya to Lake Ol’ Bolossat in Central Kenya and the seasonal wetlands of Dakatcha Woodlands in Kilifi, these habitats host many bird, fish, mammal, plant, reptile, amphibian, crustacean and insect species – some of them found nowhere else. 

Encroachment, land use change, pollution and habitat destruction top the list of threats wetlands in Kenya face. The fact that many of these wetlands lie on private land further complicates their conservation. A lack of awareness of their importance has seen the conversion of wetlands on private land to farmlands and real estate developments. Those on community land have not been spared from destruction. Wetlands, especially seasonal wetlands, are not usually recognized in land allocation, and are not set aside for community use or conservation. 

Yala Swamp is Kenya’s largest freshwater wetland. The swamp directly supports many communities with water, fish, firewood and raw materials. Yala Swamp also plays a critical ecological role in filtering water flowing into Lake Victoria. Currently, Yala Swamp is facing imminent destruction following a decision by the National Land Commission (NLC) to allocate 6,763.74 ha of the wetland to Lake Agro Kenya Limited for commercial farming. Local communities and conservation stakeholders have voiced outrage over the controversial allocation by NLC. 

The recently documented fish deaths in Lake Victoria were attributed to pollution. Communities around the lake depend on fishing for livelihoods. Chemical and fertilizer load from farmlands and reduced acreage of papyrus to filters these chemicals, has enhanced the spread of the invasive water hyacinth, negatively impacting fishing. 

In Lake Nakuru, unsustainable agricultural practices, deforestation and uncontrolled abstraction of water in the catchment, and pollution and encroachment by human settlements from the city, threaten the wetland’s fragile ecosystem – once known as the greatest ornithological spectacle on Earth. 

All is not gloom, though. Nature Kenya is working with local communities, county governments and other stakeholders to conserve wetlands in the country. At the Tana River Delta, a land use plan was collaboratively developed to guide the management of land and natural resources for

various uses, including conservation. Nature Kenya is promoting the Indigenous and Community Conservation Areas (ICCAs) approach at the Delta. The ICCAs are biodiversity-rich conservancies based on traditional, cultural, and multiple land use under the management of local communities. 

A land use plan for Yala Delta (which includes the Swamp) has also been developed. The land use plan seeks to put the use, development, management and conservation of Yala Swamp on a sustainable footing.

Nature Kenya works with local conservation groups that serve as Site Support Groups (SSGs) for Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), which include wetlands. The community groups are engaged in site restoration, monitoring, advocacy, environmental education and awareness creation, and promotion of sustainable livelihood activities. The SSGs are active in Yala Swamp, Tana River Delta, Lake Bogoria, Lake Naivasha, Lake Ol’ Bolossat, Mida Creek, Lake Elmenteita, Sabaki River Mouth and Dunga Swamp.

Government recognition of water, biodiversity and tourism as valid land uses would go a long way in saving these critical resources.


Key Biodiversity Area in Focus: Sabaki River Mouth

The Athi-Galana-Sabaki River is the second longest and one of the two perennial rivers draining into the Indian Ocean in Kenya. The Sabaki River Mouth (SRM) – where the Athi-Galana-Sabaki River pours into the Indian Ocean north of Malindi town in Kilifi County – is an estuary with sandbanks, mudflats, dunes, freshwater pools, marshes and mangroves, presenting a unique ecosystem and habitat for diverse flora and fauna. 

Sabaki River Mouth is among the 67 designated Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in Kenya. An important habitat for resident and migratory shorebirds, the estuary is home to over 240 bird species. The estuary’s turbid coastal waters are an important nursery ground for crustaceans and fish, while its sandy shores on both sides are breeding grounds for turtles. Different species of mangroves dominate its peripheral mudflats. Crocodiles, hippos and antelopes also live in the area. 

The estuary provides vital ecosystem services beneficial to people, like filtering pollutants and acting as a storm buffer. It is a source of livelihood for the local communities. Fishing and ecotourism are among the livelihood activities the communities are engaged in. 

Despite its invaluable ecological and economic importance, Sabaki River Mouth faces many hazards, including sand harvesting, fishing with illegal gear, illegal mangrove pole harvesting, discharge of solid waste and effluent, encroachment and land grabbing. These threats impact water quality, biodiversity and vegetation, disrupting the estuary’s ecosystem. 

A number of conservation actions are underway to safeguard the Sabaki River Mouth. They include the devopment of the River Sabaki Estuary Management Plan 2022-2032 led by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) in collaboration the Kilifi County Government, Nature Kenya, and other stakeholders. The Sabaki River Conservation and Development Organization (SARICODO) – site support group (SSG) for Sabaki River Mouth – conducts annual waterbird counts in partnership with A Rocha Kenya and the National Museums of Kenya. SARICODO is also engaged in mangrove restoration and environmental awareness creation. Volunteers from the group regularly patrol the estuary for illegal activities.