In efforts to increase Kenya’s forest cover to the required standard of 10% forest cover from the current 2% as stipulated in Vision 2030, Kenya Forest Service has been able to provide employment to more than 20,000 youths countrywide through the KKV programme. Youths have been engaged in manual based employment in order to fight poverty and unemployment. Youths have been involved in tree planting in various regions, pruning of trees in plantations, terracing, tree planting and rehabilitation of hills and degraded land. For example in the Coast Conservancy’s Dzombo forest hill in Kwale, there has been degradation of the forests due to fire outbreaks which have been common in the past, due to prolonged dry spells.
In this region, the youth have been doing hilltop rehabilitation by managing to plant more than 12,000 indigenous tree species on 40 hectares of land in the last one year. The community reveres Dzombo hill as a sacred site, commonly referred to as ‘Kaya’ among the Mijikenda community. The hill provides a water catchment, from where streams of water flow to fill the nearby rivers. In support of rehabilitation of this hill, Kenya Forest Service has also been providing funds, seedlings and also educating the youth and the community around it on the importance of rehabilitation, and suitable tree species for the region as it has a rich soil which supports agriculture.
Dzombo forest is also considered to be of cultural importance as the local people believe that their ruler/leader known as Kubo was buried there, thus it is categorized as a Kaya (village). Dzombo forest reserve is managed by the Buda forest station in Kwale Zone and the National Museum’s Coastal Forest Conservation Unit office in Ukunda. The community uses the forest for cultural festivals, ceremonies and religious practices.
The adjacent predominant communities of Duruma and Digo depend on the forest for cultural and religious practices, with different but convergent views. On one hand, the Digo believe that the first person to settle in Dzombo with his family was called Mwachikonga who migrated from Kaya Tsimba/Shimba and became a ruler (Kubo) of most of Southern Digo. On the other hand, the Duruma argue that Kaya Dzombo was discovered by one of their ancestors by the name of Dzombo. After all, Dzombo is a Duruma word. Presence of caves in various parts of the forest and graves at the top are evident of these claims. Thus, upholding of values and practices held by these communities is important in the management of the forest.
Story Courtesy of Martin Masila