Semptember 2006 Newsletter


Present: 7

Mr. Hewson Kabugi, Coordinator for the KWS Forest Conservation Programme, spoke on the urgent topic, “CONSERVATION OF FORESTS IN KENYA UNDER SIEGE: Challenges in conserving our heritage”. Closed forests, that is, forests with over 40% tree cover, cover approximately 1.7% of Kenya’s total land area. These forests are located mainly in the highlands of central and western Kenya. The largest forest blocks are montane forests. The five major “water towers” of Kenya are:

  • Mt. Kenya

  • Aberdare Range

  • Mau Complex

  • Cherangani Hills

  • Mt. Elgon

which cover less than 1.6% of Kenya’s total land area. They are the upper water catchments of all main rivers of Kenya, (with the exception of Tsavo River): Turkwel, Kerio, Ewaso Nyiro, Tana, Nzoia, Sondu, Yala, Nyando, and Athi Rivers. Hydropower generation covers 70% of Kenya’s total electricity output. Irrigation schemes also put pressure on these water towers.

The majority of Kenya’s population lives near the main montane forests. These forests provide environmental services essential to crop production, e.g., continuous river flow, favourable micro-climate conditions, etc., as well as many products, e.g., medicinal plants, firewood, grazing, etc.

HOWEVER, as population grows, the pressure on these forests increases. The main causes of forest cover loss and destruction are:

  1. Conversion of forest land, by;

    • Forest excisions

    • Illegal settlements/ encroachments

    • Failed Nyayo Tea Z

      ones (area targets failed, and very poor tea suitability).

  2. Forest Exploitation;

  • Illegal logging of trees

  • Charcoal production

  • Illegal crop cultivation (bhang)

  • Failed shamba system

  • Livestock incursions/ overgrazing.

Statistically: In 1999 from Mt. Kenya, approx. 9,000 ha were illegally settled, 14,882 trees were illegally logged, 143 fields of bhang were illegally cultivated. In 2002 from Aberdares Forest, 9,425 trees were illegally logged, 14,499 charcoal kilns were operating, 162 fields of bhang were uncovered.

Most alarming is the rate of destruction of the Mau Forest Complex, and its consequent destructive impact on Lake Nakuru and its ecosystem. From 1973-2003 the loss of dense vegetation cover inside forest reserves was 15,820 hectares; outside forest reserves – 20, 960 hectares; total – 36,780 ha. This loss represents 49% of the dense vegetation cover in the catchment of Lake Nakuru. The rate of demand from forest products for industry, poles & posts, fuel, far outstrips the supply from indigenous forests, woodlands & bushlands, farmlands and settlement, and forest plantations combined.

Mr. Kabugi highlights that the scenario is not all gloom and doom. Measures are being taken to reverse negative trends. Satellite images of Mt. Kenya demonstrate that between the years from 1987 to 2002, during which time the management of Mt. Kenya was transferred to KWS, forest cover recovered appreciably. The following table reflects positive trends to recent policy responses:

Threat 1999 2002 Change(%)
Camphor Logging 1,525 trees 55 trees -94
Cedar logging 208 trees 55 trees -73
Other Indiogenous trees 957 trees 76 trees -92
Charcoal kilns 547 205 -62
Marijuana fields 31ha 5.8ha -81

Recent measures to reform the forest sector include:

  • Legal framework

    • Enactment of the Environment Management & Coordination Act (2000)

    • New draft Forest Policy

    • New Forest Act

  • Institutional strengthening

    • Suspension/ interdiction of corrupt forest officers

    • Recruitment of 1,000 forest guards

    • Creation of Forest Reform Committee

  • Management practices

    • Review of the shamba system (non-residential cultivation)

    • Promoting on-farm agroforestry

  • Conservation measures

    • Gazettement-Mt. Kenya forests

    • Fencing-Aberdare, Mt. Kenya, Arabuko, Shimba Hills

    • Revocation of unprocedural forest land allocation

    • Rehabilitation of degraded areas.

Forward KWS forest policy includes:

  • Legal framework

    • Implementation of the new Forest Act – 2005

    • Need for new land use policy based on Njonjo Commission report

    • New energy strategy

  • Institutional strengthening

    • Z

      ero tolerance to corruption (illegal logging = mismanagement of government resources)

    • Capacity building programme

  • Management practices

    • Exploitation of plantations

    • Community empowerment

  • Conservation measures

    • Enforcement of logging ban

    • Rehabilitation/ reafforestation programme

    • New synergies between the Forestry Dept. and KWS

Nairobi National Park is a paradigm of the ongoing KWS Forest Conservation policy. The external environments affecting NNP are: the Ngong Forest, which include the Ngong Road Sanctuary, and the Ngong Forest Reserve; the residential estates of : Karen/Langata, Kibera, Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Wilson/Carnivore, Kitengela/ Ongata Rongai; factories, industries,and roads: Mombasa, Langata, Magadi, Wilson Airport. The Ngong Hills Forest is a water shed of Mbagathi River which flows through NNP. The Mbagathi is a wildlife watering base. River augmentation is dependant of the health of Ngong Hills Forest, and consequently by the lifestyles of the Ngong residents. The riverine tributaries to Mbagathi River (e.g., Rongai, Kandisi) have been cleared due to encroachment. Adjacent communities have been illegally removing forest products. Wildlife corridors are being encroached upon. Pollution is rife. Threats to NNP also include pests and disease, and invasive alien species.

KWS responses include:

  • Collaboration with institutions to restore ecological functions of Ngong Hills, through:

    • An integrated management plan

    • Conservation zones

    • Water resources survey aimed at restoration of recharge of water shed

    • Enriched planting of degraded catchment

    • Reafforestation

  • Eucalyptus trees removed and replaced with species to ensure natural habitat conditions

  • Ongoing management on invasive species

  • Recovery of wildlife corridors

  • Development of rules and regulations critical to conservation areas

  • Acacia Kirkii planted on Park boundary as shelter belt against flying plastics along slum area at East Gate

  • Mixed indigenous trees at East Gate compound

  • Forest rehabilitation in grazing areas

Challenges and recommendations are:

  1. Generate more lead partnerships to increase personnel, advocacy, strategies and funds

  2. Community involvement is sustainable resource management

  3. Sensitize adjacent communities and other stakeholders in Park importance

  4. Conduct capacity building in conservation issues.

Environmental News

The East African, Aug. 28, 2006, reports, Kenya’s Machakos District leads in afforestation and conservation programmes in Africa. Water and plant experts attending the World Water Conference in Stockholm, Sweden, cited the district as the continent’s most successful conservation story, where poor residents have applied basic methods to conserve the environment.

The district receives an annual rainfall of less than 800 mm, but residents have changed the environment by planting indigenous trees and conserving the top soil. The number of indigenous trees has increased tenfold in the past 30 years.


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