It is no secret that there has been major damage to Kenya’s forests, which cover about 7.4 per cent of the total land area against the recommended global minimum of 10 per cent.
The country’s closed canopy forests cover only 2 per cent of the total land area, compared to the African average of 9.3 per cent and a global average of 21.4 per cent. Most of the closed canopy forests in Kenya are montane forests that are also the nation’s water towers.
In recent years, Kenya’s forests have been depleted at an alarming rate of 5,000 hectares per annum, resulting in an estimated annual reduction in water availability of over 62 million cubic meters.
In response, the East African Wild Life Society pioneered the The Forest Challenge – an annual event meant to raise funds for the conservation of forests and raise awareness on their importance.
The Forest Challenge Rehabilitation Program launched in 2015, has so far restored over 8.5 hectares of degraded montane forests in Eburru and Kereita Forests that form part of the larger Mau forest complex and the Aberdare water towers respectively.
This forest rehabilitation program is intended to provide a fillip to efforts to achieve Kenya’s stated objective of increasing the national tree cover to at least 10 per cent of the country’s total landmass by 2022.
Monitoring of the tree seedlings planted under the Forest Challenge Rehabilitation Program is critical in ensuring that the saplings planted take root and thrive. Thus, the Forest Challenge Rehabilitation Program employs an elaborate three-year tree care strategy, and works closely with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Community Forest Associations (CFAs) to implement it.
In this program, CFAs are empowered to work closely with KFS to undertake the aftercare activities for all the newly planted sites for a duration of up to three years. These aftercare activities include watering the trees when there is inadequate rainfall; spot weeding in order to remove competition for moisture and nutrients as well as protecting the trees from destruction by humans, livestock and wildlife. This not only enhances tree growth success rates but also creates ownership among the local communities while empowering them economically.
On 20th March 2020, the East African Wild Life Society’s project team visited the Forest Challenge Rehabilitation site in Eburru Forest to assess the success rate of the 4,500 tree seedlings planted in two phases in May 2019 with proceeds from the 2018 Forest Challenge.
The assessment showed that 85 per cent of the trees planted in the first phase had survived and were thriving – a very exciting development! An assessment of the trees planted in the second phase is scheduled as soon as the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
We want to thank our donors and corporate sponsors of the Forest Challenge for enabling us to plant and grow these trees. We look forward to more tree planting in the years to come!