Globally, in the last four decades, the environment has witnessed massive environmental degradation with forest destruction been top on the list. Kenya is one such country that has seen a number of environmental threats that is drawn to forest degradation. The Mau Forest, in Kenya, is one forest that has been affected having undergone major transformations over the years as a result of deforestation and illegal human activities happening in the forest.
Forests hold over a half of the world’s animals and over 70% of the world’s plants. These forests sustain ecological processes that are vital for the sustenance of life. Forests are also home to several indigenous groups providing a wide range of goods and services that are the lifeline of countless indigenous and forest dependent communities. Deforestation is a major threat to biodiversity conservation, maintenance of vital ecological processes and survival of indigenous communities.
One of the major role of forests is as sources and sinks for carbon. Continuous deforestation and degradation of forests, in sizes equivalent to football fields, results in an estimated 20% of the total anthropogenic green-house gas emissions leading to a rise in global warming. The need to protect forests is therefore an urgent matter were deforestation and degradation needs to be addressed.
Fortunately, a wave for environmental conservation among concerned parties have been involved in reforestation and conservation of forests. This is definitely a good sign which shows governments and corporates, among many other organization, have become aware of environmental destructions and are making it a point to protect it. This has resulted to such concerned parties aiming to support the rehabilitation of vulnerable ecosystem and to create a sustainable basis for long-term conservation and management.
The Mau forest is one of few remaining indigenous forests in Kenya. The forest supports the livelihood of the indigenous and surrounding communities and is a major water catchment source for the region. Impacts of its degradation on the indigenous, national and regional communities include; national drought, which recently affected the country, and conflicts between the indigenous people around and within the forest due to limited access to available resources among many other effects.
Involving the indigenous community in forest management, population control and the implementation of far reaching reforms in the forest and land sectors goes a long way in protecting the forest.
In line with this, the local community, several private companies, public sector players and NGOs came together to plant thousands of tree seedlings on degraded land along the North-Eastern Boundary of the South West Mau Forest Complex as part of a forest protection and livelihoods improvement programme.
This joint programme aims to protect and conserve 60,000 hectares of South West Mau Forest by 2030 through innovative and sustainable solutions to deforestation.
The programme, under the Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes Kenya (ISLA Kenya), was able to bring together the public and private sector partners which included; Safaricom Foundation, Unilever, Finlays, KTDA, KENGEN, the Timber Manufacturer’s association as well as the local community and the Kenya Forest Service (KFC) taking part in the tree planting exercise held on April 7th, 2017.
In a statement by Winnie Mwaniki, Senior Program Manager at ISLA Kenya, she said, “We have identified livestock over-grazing, illegal logging, charcoal burning and other such activities as some of the main factors that have led to forest degradation. The local community needs to benefit from safeguarding the forest. They are pivotal in identifying and implementing lasting solutions. This includes livelihoods and training programs.”
Henry Kilonzo Senior Manager- Programs, Safaricom Foundation commented on the collaboration saying, “Our partnership with ISLA is part of our commitment to promote the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The conservation of this forest will be a step forward towards combating the impact of climate change.”
This programme seeks to restore the South West Mau Forest which is the largest of the 22 blocks of the Mau Forest Complex and a habitat to the critically endangered Mountain Bongo, elephants and other wildlife. It also ensures alternative livelihoods options for those living around and depending on the forest.