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August 8, 2022
Conservation Forest cover Rehabilitation project

How forest challenge helps conserve Aberdare ecosystem

A forest challenge launched by East African Wild Life Society has led to planting of 5,000 indigenous trees in Kinale.

The event was launched in 2014 in partnership with the society, Kijabe Environment Volunteers and Kenya Forest Service.

It allows participants to interact with nature by taking part in competitive yet fun activities in Kereita Forest, which forms part of the larger Aberdare Forest.

The vision of the challenge is to restore key water catchments areas in Kenya that are essential to support livelihoods and the survival of wildlife ecosystems.

On May 29, a batch of 10,000 indigenous trees were planted in Kinale Forest in Old Kijabe town with the support of corporate organisations and the local Community Forest Association.

Corporate organisations that took part in the tree-planting drive included Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, Kenya Utalii College, Kenya Re, Trans Ad, CIC group and East Africa Safari Rallies.

Others included Let’s Go Travel, Eden Tea, Carbacid, Thika Water, Tea Board of Kenya, Sun World Safaris, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kevian and Kinale Community Forest Association.

The Star has supported the initiative over the years.

Kiambu Natural Resources executive David Kuria, East Africa Wildlife Society executive director Nancy Ogonje, Kiambu Ecosystem conservator Thomas Kiptoo and Kinale Forest station manager Simon Muema attended the event.

Kiptoo said the forest cover for the county stood at 16.7 per cent and such efforts will help enhance it.

“We have put in place several strategies such as partnering with stakeholders and we also encourage trees to be grown in farmlands as well as institutions such as schools,” he said.

The conservator said they have invested a lot to ensure that tree seedlings are available, both in private and nurseries belonging to KFS.

Some of the CFAs within Kiambu that have contributed to forest protection and rehabilitation include Thogotho, Kinale, Kamae, Kieni, Kereita, Ragia and Uplands.

Kiptoo said the CFAs protect forest resources by providing community scouts to complement the work being done by KFS rangers.

He further said the partnership with associations has paid off as they also provide intelligence to the service.

Muema said the red cedar planted will do well in rehabilitating the area. “KFS does not work alone, we work in conjunction with the adjacent community.”

EAWLS is a conservation organisation that prides itself as the voice of conservation in the East African region. It works through evidence-based advocacy and engages different key stakeholders to influence change.

Kuria, on his part, said the rehabilitation has been successful as a result of the commitment of all the partners.

The executive, who has been actively involved in the challenge, said the exercise has bolstered the government’s efforts to plant 42 million seedlings to boost its tree cover.

The Forest Challenge 2017, 2018, and 2019 have so far contributed to 20,000 trees through which 25 acres of degraded forest in the Aberdare and Mau have been rehabilitated.

The challenge aims to raise funds to continue the restoration of key water towers by rehabilitating at least 600 hectares — equivalent to planting at least 600,000 indigenous tree seedlings — over a period of 10 years.

This programme also aims to empower local communities by buying seedlings from them and creating employment for members of communities that live adjacent to woodlands under restoration.

Aberdare Forest Reserve, which is part of the Aberdare ecosystem, plays a critical role in water catchment functions for the country and is one of the five main water towers in Kenya.

Eastern of the mountain is the catchment for Tana and Athi rivers and the northeastern slopes form the catchment area for the Ewaso Nyiro River, which transverses through the dry areas of Laikipia and Isiolo and drains into the Lorian Swamp.

Malewa River, on the western side of the mountain range, drains into Lake Naivasha, while Aberdare range supplies all the water to Nairobi through Sasumua and Ndakaini dams.

Together with Mt Kenya, the bulk of the country’s hydroelectric schemes along the Tana River relies on water from these catchments.

Many small weirs have been installed in the forest to supply water to adjacent communities.

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