Restoring Indigenous Forest on Mount Kenya’s slopes

Mount Kenya Trust (MKT) works to protect and conserve the forest, water and wildlife around Africa’s second highest mountain – Mount Kenya.  It strives to drive collaborative action for the sustainable management of Mt Kenya’s biodiversity and natural resources through partnership with government, communities and civil society.

The Mount Kenya area is popular with mountaineers, climbers, cavers, kayakers and bikers and a vitally important water source for wildlife and inhabitants alike. However it is threatened around its 450km boundary by issues such as illegal logging, livestock grazing, charcoal production, poaching, honey harvesting, marijuana farming and fires. The area proposed for restoration is Karuri, 3,000 hectares that was illegally cultivated and settled on for many years and is now a bare open grassland area within the National Forest, representing a severe fire hazard. Over the 2 years of the project, 120 hectares of this area will be planted with 120,000 trees. This area will be enclosed within the Mount Kenya Rhino Ark perimeter fence in the next few years ensuring long-term and permanent protection of the restored forest.  The forest will bring welfare benefit giving landless farmers in the forest-adjacent communities the right to cultivate agricultural crops amongst the trees during early stages of forest plantation establishment, in return for them protecting the trees during their early establishment from grazing and elephants.   The project will:
– restore 120 hectares of indigenous forest for people and wildlife by planting 120,000 trees
– provide employment for up to 600 people for 5 years for forest-adjacent communities
– employ women in tree seedling nurseries for 2 years to grow the seedlings for replanting.

The Update

Update December 2017:
The project is progressing well towards the target of planting 120,000 trees over 120 hectares: 90,000 indigenous trees have been planted so far, despite the challenges of drought in early 2017. 12 seedling nurseries run by women were used to provide seedlings for the tree planting.

So far, 200 farmers are involved in cultivating and caring for the seedlings whilst also cultivating crops for their consumption and revenue. The farmers are being managed by the Community Forest Association, Kenya Forest Service and Mount Kenya Trust, and the collaboration is proving very successful.

Final update:
Over the course of this two-year project, 120,000 trees were successfully planted in Karuri, covering approximately 120ha, with a survival rate of almost 92%.

A total of 604 community members were allocated plots to look after, with cultivation being allowed between tree spacings (mostly potatoes or peas are grown). Some families rely fully on these plots, but many have other income generating activities. Five tree nurseries have been set up with further income being earned from the sale of the saplings.

The project has received positive feedback from the communities involved, not only do they appreciate the economic benefits, but they are also seeing the importance and impact of the rehabilitation efforts: the increase in the amount of water flowing through the rivers, the major growth of the trees that were first planted in 2012 – which are now more than 8ft high, and the increase in birds and other wildlife.

There is still a big area that needs rehabilitating in the Karuri area and MKT will strive to continue enrichment planting followed by continuous monitoring and patrols to ensure trees are not logged.

Image: Mount Kenya