Sunday, October 31, 2010

Unilever Kenya's biodiversity initiatives provide habitat for rare birdlife and other species

One of the main threats to Kenya's delicate biodiversity is deforestation. Since 2000, Unilever Tea Kenya’s tree planting initiatives have been helping to protect biodiversity in areas such as the threatened Mau Forest.

Forest conservation at Unilever Tea Kenya

The rich volcanic soils, cool air and moist tropical climate of Kenya's Kericho district in the Great Rift Valley – home to Unilever's Kericho tea estate – create the perfect environment for growing tea. The area is part of the Mau Forest, Kenya's largest water catchment area, which is under threat from human activity and Unilever is working to protect this important natural resource.
Forests, wetland and windbreaks consisting of indigenous and exotic trees cover over 10% of the Kericho tea estate. The forests provide a sanctuary for Colobus, Vervet and Red Tailed monkeys, while the rivers support African clawed otters. We launched the Trees 2000 project to mark the millennium and it has contributed around 850 000 trees to Kenya's landscape. Seven tree nurseries were established to grow indigenous seedlings for planting around the estate and surrounding community. The aim is to increase biodiversity and complement existing conservation and environmental protection programmes designed in partnership with colleagues from Unilever's Sustainable Agriculture Programme.

Birdlife & biodiversity

Wild birds are an important indicator of the health of natural habitats. In 2009, a report commissioned by Unilever Tea Kenya (UTK) and published by the National Museums of Kenya confirmed the value of indigenous tree planting for the estate's biodiversity.
The "Avifaunal Assessment Report" identified nearly 200 species of birds thriving in Kericho's forests, including threatened species such as the Semi-Collard Flycatcher (right) and the Pallid Harrier (below). Many of these birds could not survive without the indigenous trees found on the estate.
The report's other key findings were:
  • The number of bird species recorded at Kericho was higher than previous studies in the adjacent Maasai Mau forest
  • Retained forest and riparian strips provide an important habitat, together with tea bushes and eucalyptus trees
  • Several rare bird species of national and global importance are found, and are being conserved, on UTK property
  • The majority are forest dependent and insectivorous birds.
Scientists from the National Museums of Kenya commented: "Overall, the retention of non-tea habitat (especially indigenous riparian strips and forest blocks) under the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative at Kericho Estate can be said to be a key addition to the natural environment, providing important additional habitat for forest-dependent biodiversity. Through this, a wide range of plant and animal species are sustained, which contributes to maintaining the natural balance across this extensive landscape that includes the vast Mau".
The report is available to download in related links.

Why are trees so important?

Tea bushes require regular rainfall of 1200-2000 mm evenly distributed throughout the year if they are to produce their best leaves. Deforestation is a serious threat because Kenya's forests have been one of the key factors in ensuring that rainfall patterns remain stable. 
Nationwide, it is estimated that Kenya needs to plant 100 million trees a year to restore lost and declining forests. As well as improving water catchments, they provide habitats for birds and insects, shade for animals and recreation and medicines for local people. For example Warburgia ugandensis is used to treat chest pains and coughs and Syzygium treats diabetes and high blood pressure.

Preserving the Mau Forest

Around three million people depend on the Mau Forest for their livelihoods, putting it under enormous strain from deforestation due to the needs of agriculture and settlement. Every year, Unilever contributes around 240 000 Kenyan shillings (around €2 800) to Friends of the Mau Watershed (FOMAWA), an environmental charity set up to tackle the rapid depletion of the Mau Forest. The funds support a field worker whose job is to promote tree planting in schools and farms and create awareness of the need to protect indigenous forests.
Since 2003, we have been a member of WWF's East Africa Corporate Club, a partnership of regional companies that seek to encourage sustainable development through conservation. Activities include rehabilitating degraded forest areas, supporting communities to establish tree nurseries and raising environmental awareness. "The Club targets farmer-friendly conservation projects that provide alternative sources of income to ease pressure on the Mau Forest," explains Dr Kwame Koranteng, WWF's regional representative. 
Report Courtesy of

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Keiyo Forest Zone Community Project To Be Launched By Wangari Maathai

Kanini Evans Kariuki
Nobel Laureate prof Wangari Maathai has been invited to preside over the official launch of the environment-oriented Kagoech New Dawn Foundation in November this year in Kenya, where crucial matters revolving around environmental conservation will take center stage.

The patron of the foundation, Micah Kigen, lauded the world renown Nobel Peace winner for her indefatigable efforts in protecting the environment saying the people of Keiyo district, Rift Valley Province, would enthusiastically receive her during the auspicious occasion.

At the same time, Kigen- also recognized for his vision on the interesting and challenging environmental world in Kenya, announced that the Kagoech Foundation had launched a campaign to plant 10 million tree seedlings in Keiyo district this year alone.

"I appeal to all partners to join hands with my Foundation in order to improve the rehabilitation of the Keiyo forest", stated an emphatic and concerned Kigen.

He added:

"We have partnered with the Kenya Forest Service to rehabilitate Keiyo forest and in the conservation of the water catchment areas. We expect prof Wangari Maathai to kick off the campaign in November."

Kigen, who is also a leading business executive in Africa, underscored the importance of environmental conservation not only in Kenya, but also in Africa and the world at large.

He noted that environmental destruction was an international disaster which should be combated at all costs.

"There is every need for us, as citizens of the world, to do everything possible at our disposal to protect the environment for the benefit of the current generation and posterity, since a proper environment leads to a better and developed world", a composed Kigen stressed to wild cheering, ululation and feet-thumping from the huge crowd.

The occasion at which Kigen spoke was the Kagoech Foundation Trust ceremony to sign a Memorandum of understanding with CFA'S (Community Forest Associations).

Kigen echoed the government policy of 10% to any privately-owned land in the country saying Keiyo was no exception, hence the need for Kagoech's partnership with the Kenya Forest Service to rehabilitate Keiyo forests smashed or annihilated during the 2007 ugly orgy of election violence.

"There is need for the government to put in place measures against wanton destruction of forests as it is a threat to food security," said Micah Kigen.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 families evicted from public forests in the North Rift region want the government to allocate them alternative land.

The families who were forcefully moved from forests in Uasin Gishu, Nandi South and Marakwet districts more than five years ago, said the eviction interfered with their socio-economic lifestyles subjecting them to poverty.

"It was wrong for the government to evict the families without putting in place mechanisms on how to resettle them," said Francis Mutwol, former Marakwet West MP.

The government evicted more than 3,000 families from Embobut forest in Marakwet district and more than 6,000 others from Kipkurere, Cengalo, Serengony and Tindiret forests in Uasin Gishu and Nandi south Districts.

They were accused of wanton destruction of public forests and water catchemnet areas that are the main sources of water to rivers in the region.

The families have sought refugee from relatives while others are camping on road reserves along the forest.

The government has not carried out any re-planting of trees has not been implemented while water volumes on most rivers and streams remain low," said Joseph Yamto, a victim from Serengony forest.

The displaced families depend on well-wishers and humanitarian organizations such as Kenya Red Cross Society for their basic needs including food, shelter and clothing.

But the Kenya Forestry Services (KFS) and environmental lobby groups in the region have warned that several rivers are threaten with dying up due to wanton forest destruction.

"At least eight streams flowing from Kaptagat forest have dried up in the past couple of years. springs that feed rivers flowing to River Kerio and Sosiani River are on the verge of drying," explains Mr John Chumo of Friends of Nandi Environmentalists, a local lobby group.

Agricultural experts warn that massive destruction of the forest has contributed to climatic change resulting in declined crop yields.

"The region has of late recorded erratic rainfall pattern which disrupts the planting programmes for farmers resulting in declined crop production," discloses Joseph Langat, an agricultural extension Officer from Nandi South District.

The indiscriminate forest destruction has resulted in decline of the country´s canopy from 3.1 per cent in 1963 to less than one per cent which is below the international standards of 10 per cent.

The government recently announced plans to lift logging activities in public forests following a ban imposed over 10 years ago that led to increased prices of timber products.
Report Courtesy of American Chronicle

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Misitu Golf Challenge Goes To Nyali- Mombasa

The KFS Commandant Col (rtd) John Kimani hands over the top prize to the winner Mr. Ushwin Khana.JPG
The KFS Commandant Col (rtd) John Kimani hands over the top prize to the winner Mr. Ushwin Khana.
A golfer takes part in the tournament at the Nyali Golf and Country Club in Mombasa.JPG
A golfer takes part in the tournament at the Nyali Golf and Country Club in Mombasa
The KFS Deputy Director Finance and Accounting Mr. Peter Ruto hands over the guest winner's prize to Mr. Maina Kageni (1).JPG
The KFS Deputy Director Finance and Accounting Mr. Peter Ruto hands over the guest winner's prize to Mr. Maina Kageni

The tenth leg of the Misitu Golf challenge sponsored by KFS took place in Mombasa’s Nyali Golf and Country club where a record 110 golfers from the club and other coastal clubs participated. The tournament was won by Ushwin Khana who will join the winners of the other tournaments for the grand final which will take place in Nairobi’s Muthaiga Golf Club in early 2011.

Speaking at the prize giving ceremony, the KFS Commandant Col (Rtd) John Kimani who represented the Director congratulated the winner and all the participants saying that golf was probably the most environment conscious sport as most golf clubs boasted of very well maintained forests. He added that KFS hoped to use sportsmen and women to reach out to the public with a message of conservation.

On his part, the Head of Corporate Communication at KFS Mr. Raphael Mworia urged the participants to each take the initiative of reserving ten percent of their individual parcels of land for tree planting. He said this was the only way Kenya was going to achieve a 10 percent forest cover by the year 2030.

Among the participants at the tournament was the popular radio presenter Maina Kageni who won a prize for best guest player.

Report by Leakey Sonkoyo

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pomp As Kitui County Farmer Field Schools Graduate

14th of October, 2010 had a major significance to the farmers of several Farmer Field Schools in the larger Kitui County who had worked tirelessly to see to it that the day was a memorable one as it was the day that they were to graduate and hence the certificates which they were to be awarded meant a lot to them.

The air was full of anticipation as the farmers started their journey with song and dance, singing praises for the KFS, their respective Division Managers, the Project Coordinator and their when they boarded the KFS Bus that was taking them to the designated site for the graduation from Mutito and Zombe Areas of Kitui, which are in remote and arid areas characterized by lack of proper access roads, water and mainly long dry spells.

This was yet another one of Kenya Forest Service initiated community based participatory programme in partnership with other stakeholders e.g the Japanese Government, and the World Bank,  in the feat to attaining the 10% tree cover by 2030, thro involving the farmers who are main population in the country through training them in agro based sustainable management of trees. This involves Agro Eco-System Analysis (AESA) methods to determine which species of trees and crops did best in their areas. This comprises of the groups using different soils, species of crops, in different conditions and analyzing which of the species did how in the different settings. When they get the desired results, then they can be in a position to make the best choices and thus help in alleviating hunger and reduce poverty levels in the area.

The graduation site was in Mutongoni Location where the host FFS – Safari had laid out the welcoming mat and a sumptuous meal awaited the guests from the KFS Headquarters, including Mr Luke Njuguna who was the representative of the Director who could not be in the function as he had prior commitment. The Coordinator of SCBFFE, Madam Jane Ndeti was also in attendance and you could see the love the farmers had for her whenever she stood up to speak. Also in attendance was Madam Nafasi Mfahaya, Mr. John Njoroge, Mr. Bundotich and a support team from the Headquarters.  The Zonal Manager for Kitui Mr. Wanyiri was also in attendance with his team from the Zone and Tharaka Zone Manager, Mr. Muthembwa who had a team from his zone.

After the tour of the different projects that the host team had, the group settled down in one of the FFS member’s compound. One member from the group welcomed the guests after a prayer session for the day. He also invited the District Officer for Kitui West Mr. D. Aoko Odimba who represented the Provincial Administration. He invited the guests to the area and challenged the farmers to put to use the skills they had learnt to better themselves and the environment by using economically viable ways of conservation.

M/s Ndeti, the Project Coordinator introduced the group from Nairobi. She also echoed what the DO had earlier said that the farmers should put to practice whatever they had learned in the past year. She also talked in brief of the upcoming launch which was to be on the following day and congratulated them for their unrelenting efforts to learn as much as they could from the Farmer Field Schools.
The guest of honor for the day Mr. Luke Njuguna arose and gave a congratulatory speech from the Director Kenya Forest Service. The speech laid out the mandate of the KFS and the aim of the FFS as to create awareness of the importance of forests thro the farmers to reach the 10% tree cover goal which if  the farmers applied and practiced what they learned in the school would greatly  contribute in helping the Service realize that goal. He also gave out the importance of forests as; economically empowering to farmers who planted trees as they filled the gap left after the ban on logging by supplying the deficit.  He also run down the importance of the farmers knowing the charcoal rules which the KFS tries to regulate the way the Charcoal business is handled bearing in mind the area is an interested party. Mr. Njuguna urged the farmers to keep and work with the other networks (FFS networks) , take what they had leant to their villages and lead by example.

The presentation of the certificates to the graduates was a grand affair which was to be done to all the farmers who had participated in the FFS’s. There was a hushed excitement and expectation as each certificate was awarded.

When it came to “Groups Dynamics” as the called the dancing session there were hilarious moments when it came to “Kunengua Viuno” with shows of “military drills”, the FFS “Anthem” Poems. Everyone had to stand to attention when the Anthem was on. The songs were basically telling on what they had leant in their Field Schools, praises for the KFS. The guests were called, cajoled and teased to come to the front and dance to the Kamba tunes. It was amazing how those ladies could dance regardless of their ages.

Everyone agreed it was a very short day indeed as they headed home with their treasured certificates bearing in mind that their efforts had been rewarded and with a new zeal to put into use what they had leant.

Report by Rahab Gitau 

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Kenya Forest Service Disciplined Officers Join In Joint Thanks Giving Mass At Holy Family Minor Basilica.

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Marching to the site 
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Marching to the site 
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Rangers making offertory  
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H.E. President Mwai Kibaki greets the service commanders on arrival

In this year’s thanks giving ceremony for disciplined officers held at the holy family minor Basilica ‘A new heart, a new spirit, one Nation’ was the theme of reflection. The mass brought together disciplined forces officer and their families from different forces. The mass was presided over by the His Excellency the president of the republic of Kenya, Hon. Mwai Kibaki.  In his speech the president paid tribute to officers who had lost their lives in the line of duty. He said that the government is committed in ensuring that all officers are covered by a medical scheme that shall see families of such officer left cared for.

He said that officers shall be catered for with good remunerations and also proper housing as a way of motivating them as they discharge their duties. He said that the Officers face a lot of challenges as they discharge their mandates in providing security, youth development, rehabilitation of offenders and the environment. The president clarified that through parliament, the government shall ensure various policies and bills aimed at strengthening our security apparatus shall be passed.

The president also thanked the church in its efforts in ensuring that the disciplined forces officers are catered for spiritually by seconding chaplaincy in the services as Pastors, Priests and Imams. He said that their role is crucial as they offer spiritual nourishment and their families.

The KWS Director, Julius Kipng’etich assured the president on behalf of the service commanders that all disciplined forces officers shall continue to discharge their new mandates according to the new constitution that was recently promulgated. The forces shall work as a team in ensuring that all Kenyans are safe and not threatened by the external challenges that bring setbacks as far economic development is concerned. The KWS director who was also the chairman of this year’s ceremony passed on the mantle to the Kenya Police who are going to take charge of the ceremonies in the next two years. The mantle goes on rotation after every two years. 

The celebrations saw the emerging of a strong inter discipline forces choir that entertained the procession. The Choir carries Choirmaster from within the forces. Kenya Forest Service was represented by Mr. Makau Mumo who is a Forest Ranger stationed at Karura. The vigorous dancing children all sons and daughters of the disciplined officers roused the crowd as they matched the tunes from their Dads and Mums in the choir.

 Kenya Forest Service was represented by Commandant, Col (Rtd.) John Kimani, and Head of Nairobi Forest Conservancy, Charity Munyasia, Asisstant Commandant Nairobi Conservancy: Lt Col (Rtd.) Otieno, a marching squad and other Rangers delegated to perform several tasks during the function. The forces use this as an opportunity to give back to the society as they give offerings and gifts which is later distributed to various homes. KFS donated its gifts led by the Commandant.

Report by Vincent Bwire

President Kibaki Tasks KFS during Mashuja day Celebration

KFS Rangers match past the main dias 

KFS Rangers looking good. 
Col. (Rtd) Kimani arriving at the venue. 
H.E. President Mwai Kibaki during the function. 

It was pomp and colours as the country celebrated its first ever Mashuja day celebrations at Nyayo National stadium. The stadium was parked to the brim as the event attracted Kenyans from all corners of the country. In his speech, the president tasked the Kenya Forest Service to ensure that there is enough seedlings to match the demand to forestation. In his reading He said, ‘I also call upon Kenyans to reserve 10% of our land for tree cover as stipulated in our constitution. With our concerted efforts, this target can be achieved with minimal effort.

 The Kenya Forest Service has been directed to expand its tree nurseries so that we have enough tree seedlings. Trees are not only important for water conservation and rainfall but they are also an important resource for domestic and commercial use. Trees are a source of wealth and I call upon more Kenyans to venture into this line of business.’  It was a challenge the president posed to KFS and the Communities at large to ensure that the supply of seedlings is constant and Kenya walks towards getting green. Kenyans were urged to pick tree seedling tendering as a business to enable majority of Kenyans earn a living.

The Mashuja day celebrations were attended by Prime minister, vice president amongst other dignitaries. KFS was represented by the Commandant COL (RTD) Kimani, The assistant Commandant LT (RTD) Otieno and Inspector Joshua Kitutu. The service also had a platoon full of rangers who matched past the president. The neatly dressed up Rangers who wore light combat regalia impressively flushed there ‘left right’ skills as they trailed arm the Germany made G3 rifle saluting to the president and who is the commander of all the defense forces.

The celebrations that saw the government recognize people who have made the country proud in various disciplines such: MAU MAU veterans, athletes, footballers, Journalists, Musicians amongst others. Kenyans were entertained by various dance groups and musicians from \Kenya. Amongst the participants were Jimmy Gait, the Universities of Kenya Mass Choir, the state house choir and the veteran musician Gabriel Omollo who sung ‘sasa ni lunch time’  a song that  was a heat in Kenya and west Africa.

It was indeed a new page for Kenya moreso after the promulgation of the new constitution which ushered in Mashuja day which was popularly known us Kenyatta day.
Report by Vincent Bwire

Together for biodiversity: A project in Uganda and Kenya

Scientists from the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences working in Kenya and Uganda are about to conclude an international project realized by the Biodiversity Monitoring Transect Analysis in Africa (BIOTA). Since 2001, the research network has been analyzing changes to African species diversity.

The Kakamega Rainforest at sunrise, Kenya, Photo: (cc) wiki user Melanie Szirony
The Kakamega Rainforest at sunrise, Kenya, Photo: (cc) wiki user Melanie Szirony
The effects of fragmentation, human use and disturbances have been studied in three major forests in East Africa: the Kakamega Forest in western Kenya, one of the most densely populated rural regions in the world, as well as two lowland forests in Uganda, the Mabira Forest on Lake Victoria and the Budongo Forest on Lake Albert.

Gertrud Schaab from Karlsruhe University’s Department for Geomatics led the subproject E02, representing the only university for applied sciences in the BIOTA research network.
An atlas documenting 100 years in the forest
Remote sensing, the analysis of satellite imagery, historical aerial photographs and old maps enabled the scientists to observe changes in forest coverage over the last 100 years and classify the forests by type. The changes were documented in an atlas given to the responsible parties in Kenya and Uganda. Together with that from other project partners, the data provides the foundation for mapping biodiversity changes.
The Kakamega Forest was evaluated by high-resolution satellite images to develop scenarios for the future livelihood of the rural population. As a service to the project partners, a Geographic Information System (GIS) will be built with an online geo-data catalogue with extensive data on the studied areas and individual countries, already containing 500 spatial data sets as well as 55 ready-made cards. For the GIS, a simplified tool was developed to encourage those unfamiliar with the technology to include the spatial information in their analysis and work.
Biodiversity Information Center
The University of Karlsruhe BIOTA group also contributed to the formation of a Biodiversity Information Center (BIC) in Kakamega. The construction of a special data catalogue, support in the planning of additional forest management offices and a new information center were elements of the third and final phase of the project, in which local project partners have been brought in to independently continue the work begun by BIOTA.

“With the BIOTA East Africa Atlas, the construction of a Geo Information System and a Biodiversity Information Center,” explains Gertrud Schaab, “we can have an international and interdisciplinary network with local partners to document changes in the forest regions, and hopefully increase the understanding of vulnerable rainforest ecosystems. With this, a more sustainable management of these areas is possible, hopefully contributing to the biodiversity of East Africa.”

Additionally, fourteen Karlsruhe students are working on their thesis as part of the project and another three their doctorates, combining their practical knowledge with intercultural experiences.

Courtesy of 

Implications of forest utilisation on bird conservation- NMK Study

Authors: Edward Waiyakia; Leon A. Bennuna


Waiyaki, E. & Bennun, L.A. 2000. The avifauna of coastal forests in southern Kenya: status and conservation. Ostrich 71 (1 & 2): 247-256.

The biological importance and uniqueness of East African coastal forests is widely recognised; they form an Endemic Bird Area. Important remnants of this fragmented habitat OCCUT on the southern Kenyan coast, but their avifauna has been little studied. In October 1992, September 1993 and May-August 1994, we systematically assessed the avifauna of fifteen South Coast forest fragments (and the threats facing them) using mist-netting, timed species counts and direct observations. Sixty forest-dependent bird species were recorded, amongst them three that are globally threatened (Sokoke Pipit Anthus sokolcensis, Spotted Ground Thrush Turdus fischeri, East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi) three that are near-threatened (Southern Banded Snake Eagle Circaetus fasciolatus, Fischer's Turaco Tauraco fischeri, Plain-backed Sunbird Anthrepres reichenowi) and four that are 'restricted-range' (Fischer's Turaco, Sokoke Pipit, Mombasa WoodpeckerCampethera mombassica, Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes neglectus). Globally or regionally threatened and near-threatened species were relatively rare and were patchily distributed across forests. In contrast, most other forest species were widely distributed, being present in most or all fragments. The breakdown of traditional conservation systems, selective logging, encroachment by cultivation and fire-maintained grassland, fragmentation, allocation of land for urban development, pole cutting, charcoal burning, hunting and trapping, prospective mining, bark stripping and elephant damage are the major threats to the continued survival of these forests. Shimba Hills (Mkongani & Longomagandi), Gandini, Mrima, Marenji, Dzombo, Waa, Buda and Gongoni forests met the criteria for Globally Important Bird Areas set by Birdlife International. A number of urgent steps are needed for improved forest management if these important sites are to survive and retain their biological diversity.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shell BP Sports Club To Be An Environmental Educational Centre

the CEO of Shell Kenya Mr. Jimmy Mogerwa receives the 'key' to the Shell Club from  staff members of Shell for onward transmission to the Trustees of the new environmental center.JPG
The CEO of Shell Kenya Mr. Jimmy Mogerwa receives the 'key' to the Shell Club from staff members of Shell for onward transmission to the Trustees of the new environmental centre. 
students from Westlands Primary School present a poem at the event.JPG
Pupils from Westlands Primary School present a poem at the event
the KFS Director Mr. David Mbugua signs trustee trustee documents during the handover..JPG
KFS Director Mr. David Mbugua signs trustee trustee documents during the handover.

An environmental educational center will be put up at the former Shell Club in Karura Forest. This was announced during the official handover ceremony of the club to the trustees of the institution to be set up by conservation stakeholders and managed by Friends of Karura CFA.

According to Mrs. Alice Macaire the chairperson of Friends of Karura, the Karura Forest Environmental Education Trust will be a place for children to come and learn the importance of forest conservation. She said that the center will be built using the best and latest environmentally friendly technologies for it to be a best case study of environmental conservation.

Speaking at the event, the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife Hon. Dr. Noah Wekesa who was the guest of honour lauded the initiative saying that Karura had turned out to be a good example in forest conservation. He commended the work of the local community in protecting the forest and pointed out the recently completed electric fence as the epitome of stakeholder involvement in forest conservation.

On his part, the KFS Director Mr. David Mbugua said that the center will provide a good foundation for children to learn environmental conservation at a young age. He said it was only this way that future generations will be able to appreciate the importance of a clean environment.

Among the trustees of the center are KFS, Shell Kenya, Oshwal Education and Relief Foundation, the Green Belt Movement and Friends of Karura CFA. 

Watch the NTV report on the event here-

Report by Leakey Sonkoyo

T.B.P.T. Sponsors Misitu Golf Tournament In Ruiru

the Programme Manager for TBPT Mr. Bension Kanyi addresses the golfers during the prize giving ceremony.JPG
Programme Manager for TBPT Mr. Bension Kanyi addresses the golfers during the prize giving ceremony.

Mr. Leakey Sonkoyo of KFS awards one of the winners with a prize.JPG
Mr. Leakey Sonkoyo of KFS awards one of the winners with a prize.

A participant putts in the TBPT sponsored Misitu Golf Tournament at Ruiru sports club.JPG
A participant putts in the TBPT sponsored Misitu Golf Tournament at Ruiru sports club

The Tree Biotechnology Programme Trust (TBPT) recently sponsored a special leg of the now famous Misitu Golf Challenge at Ruiru Sports Club in a bid to highlight the importance of forest conservation to golfers. The none qualifying round brought together golfers from other courses including Machakos Golf Club in a one day tournament that was played in the scenic though melting Saturday heat.

Speaking during the prize giving ceremony later in the evening, the Programme Manager for TBPT Mr. Benson Kanyi who was the guest of honour said that his project will continue to support forest conservation activities in conjunction with KFS. He added that the project which propagates fast growing tree species including eucalyptus for the different ecological zones had supported golf in the past and will continue doing so saying that it was a worthy investment.

At the event, golfers were educated on the best tree species to grow for the Ruiru area and other new tree planting technologies. KFS donated over 200 seedlings to the sports club to be planted on the course.

Report Courtesy of Leakey Sonkoyo

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Placing a value on Kenya's largest forest: Mau Forests Complex worth $ 1.3 Billion a year.

Published: 18th Oct 2010 12:19:14
They fall as mere raindrops but quickly transform into cogs in a billion-dollar machine crucial to the future of a nation's economy.

That's the startling conclusion of new research into the economic value of the preserving Kenya's Mau Forest, the country's largest.

Having the hard numbers for the value of nature changes the way people think about it”
In the jargon of environmental science, the forest's ability to generate rain and to store water is "an ecosystem service" worth huge sums to activities downstream.

The forest stretches over hills between the Rift Valley and Lake Victoria and is the source of no fewer than 12 rivers flowing through the heart of Kenya.

Prized as a "natural water tower", the forest has also been the target for aggressive clearance and timber logging in recent decades and its size has been cut by at least 40%.

Research by the Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates the economic benefit of the forest to be more than $1.3bn per year.
The aim of the work is to bring a financial focus to the cause of conservation.
UNEP's executive secretary Achim Steiner told me: "Having the hard numbers for the value of nature changes the way people think about it.

"If we destroy the forest, we compromise nature's ability to supply water, and if we lose the water supply we'll have to spend lot of money finding alternatives."

The study comes as officials and ministers gather at Nagoya in Japan for a major conference on the UN Convention on Biodiversity.

With targets for conserving the natural world repeatedly missed, the hope is that introducing an economic argument will help to halt the losses.

Key industries that depend on water from the Mau Forest are already aware of its critical importance.

Bordering the trees are some of Kenya's largest tea plantations - tea is one of the country's key exports and the research calculates that it benefits from the forest to the tune of $163m a year.

Standing in a field of tea bushes owned by the food giant Unilever, Florence Mitei, a company official, describes the forest as essential.

"The forest gives us rain. Without the trees we don't get rainfall, therefore we do not get our tea.
"During the dry spells, the plants dry up and we cannot support the livelihoods of our employees."

Further downstream, Kenya's state power company Kengen operates a Japanese-funded hydro-electric power station on the Sondu River - half of the country's power is driven by water.

Without water, there is no life. And without forests, there is no water. It's as simple as that”
Some 90% of the Sondu's flow comes directly from the Mau Forest and the station itself generates as much as 6% of Kenya's total supply.

A massive system of barriers channels part of the river's flow towards a steep pipe that leads to a turbine hall - but output fell drastically during a drought last year.

The study calculates that the Mau Forest's value to the electricity sector is $131.6m.

Manager Alfried Abiero says that, "long-term you get worried about the future of the forest because for the sustainability of this project, the Mau has to be there."

I ask him what would happen if the forest were to be cleared.

"God forbid," he says. "We'd get reduced precipitation and reduced flows and it would affect the viability of the whole system."

Further from the forest are six lakes that receive the Mau's water, among them Lake Nakuru, renowned for its population of brilliant pink flamingos.

This blaze of lurid colour helps to make tourism one of Kenya's biggest earners, and the study reckons this industry receives $65 million in benefits from the forest.

Further services provided by the forest include an estimated $89million in storing carbon, $98million in controlling soil erosion and $21million in support for fisheries.

For Jacob Mwanduka, of the campaign group Friends of the Mau Forest Watershed (FOMAWA), the forest is "the leading ecosystem in this country, supporting a third of country's population.

"Without water, there is no life. And without forests, there is no water.

"It's as simple as that. It's painful that we are losing our forest, so we need to act now."
Aware of these pressures, the Kenyan Government is committed to saving the Mau Forest and has plans to confront the main cause of its destruction: the presence of 20,000 families inside it. Some have been resettled already.

But this raises highly sensitive questions - how much should people be compensated? What about illegal settlers? And where should they be moved to?

Beside one track through the forest, Margaret Kwamboka and her husband Kennedy are planting pea seeds on a patch of cleared land. The charred stumps of felled trees still stand around them.

Margaret says she understands the value of the trees but cannot afford to leave.
"There's nothing we can do. I am afraid because I don't have anything. How will I feed my children?"

The fate of the forest raises a difficult dilemma: the balance between the immediate needs of impoverished people in a developing country and the long-term ability of the natural world to support for key elements of the economy.

Usually, struggles of this kind end with nature losing.

That is why there's such a clamour for governments to commit themselves to tougher targets for conservation at the talks in Nagoya.

The raindrops trickling from the leaves of the Mau Forest - and their worth in hard currency - are a reminder of what is at stake.

Courtesy  of David Shukman- Environment Corresponded of BBC News