Friday, September 23, 2011

Increasing Kenya’s forest cover through farmer forest field schools

The Head of Conservancy for Eastern Mr. Samuel Ihure addressing graduating farmers and guests at Kitoo in Mutomo District during the graduation of farmers

Graduating farmers of Kavukua FFFS take fellow farmers through their model woodlot at Kavukua area in Kitui Central District
Graduating farmers and guests engage in group dynamics or entertainment at a graduation ceremony in Zombe District of larger Kitui 
The Head of Drylands for KFS Mr. Clement Ng'oriareng' (r) presents a certificate to one of the graduating farmers at Kitoo in Mutomo District
A farmer adorns a t-shirt with the writing: Mkulima Mtaalamu (expert farmer)

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) will use the Farmer Forest Field School (FFFS) methodology as one of the ways of increasing Kenya’s forest cover to the prerequisite 10%. This was said by the Head of Drylands for KFS Mr. Clement Ng’oriareng’ when he officiated over the graduation of farmers who had undergone a one year FFFS training in Kitui Forest Zone recently.

“The new Constitution requires us as Kenyans to attain and maintain a 10% forest cover and the FFFS is one of the best ways through which we can achieve this”, said Mr. Ng’riareng at Kavukua in Kitui Central. The country’s development blueprint – vision 2030 – had also set the target of Kenya attaining the required forest cover, he added. He congratulated the farmers and encouraged them to put to practice what they had learnt saying that KFS will continue working with them.

Speaking at the same event, Ms Jane Ndeti, the Project Manager for Support to Community Based Farm Forestry Enterprises (SCBFFE) which is sponsoring Farm Forestry Field Schools in Kitui, Tharaka and Mbeere forest zones said that 24 farmer field schools with over 180 individual farmers will be graduating this year. She added that another 28 schools will be opened and trained for another one year.
The Project Manager said that the project was initiated by the Kenya and Japan Governments to assist farmers in dry lands acquire necessary skills to enable them establish viable farm forestry enterprises that they can use to alleviate their status of living as well as increase tree cover in the arid areas. 

Ms Ndeti added that the project was now working with organized groups comprising of graduated farmer field schools and others engaged in environmental enterprises in a bid to offer them loans with which they can start income generating activities within their farms.

She urged the graduating farmer groups to join networks which she said were working with the project for this purpose.

The Zonal Forest Manager for Kitui Mr. Maurice Wanyiri while addressing the same gatherings also congratulated the farmers saying that Kitui Zone had the highest number of farmer field schools established under the project with 12 of them graduating this year while 16 more will be opened in the next year. 

The farmers were taken through practical lessons on fruit orchard, woodlot and tree nursery management by farmer facilitators who are themselves graduates of the FFFS system who have undergone further training. KFS technical officers only support in terms of logistics and backstopping in a forest extension methodology that has been described as the best. The farmers are also trained in other fields including poultry farming, goat keeping, rabbit rearing among other enterprises to supplement their incomes from forest related enterprises. 

The FFFS that graduated in Kitui include; Kavukua, Kaungu, Nziani, Soweto Youth, Meko, Muuo and Kalungu. Others are; Tuone Mbee, Sisi kwa Sisi, Wasya wa Usai, Usenyu and Vaati FFFS. 

Article and Pictures by Leakey Sonkoyo

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Communities in North Rift benefit from GZDSP

Students of St. Agatha Mokwo Secondary School demonstrate how biogas is used in their laboratory
The KFS Deputy Commandant Mr. Alex Lemarkoko addressing members of the public in Marakwet
The GZDSP Project Manager Mr. Jerome Mwanzia addresses the same gathering

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) through the African Development Bank funded Green Zones Development Support Project (GZDSP) is supporting community income generating activities in order to alleviate poverty levels in the community as well as reduce pressure on forests.

The project has put up a biogas production unit and fishponds at St. Agatha Mokwo Girls Secondary. The biogass is being used in the school for cooking while the fish is sold to the surrounding community apart from being consumed by the students.

In a recent visit to monitor various activities being sponsored by the project in the North Rift Conservancy, the KFS Deputy Commandant Mr. Alex Lemarkoko hailed the support being offered to the community saying that it will go a long way in ensuring that forests are secured from destruction.  Mr. Lemarkoko was accompanied by the GZDSP Project Manager Mr. Jerome Mwanzia who assured the communities of continued support. He encouraged the farmers to practice agro-forestry saying that it will boost their incomes while at the same time conserving the environment.

The team later visited Marakwet where they presided over the launch of the Embolamai Self Help Group and donated beehives to local Community Forest Associations (CFA). They also visited Keiyo Forest where GZDSP is putting up a fire tower.  

Story and pictures by Caroline Kahuria

Monday, September 12, 2011

KFS gets new vehicles

The vehicles
The Deputy Director for Forest Conservation and Management Mr. Esau Omollo flags off one of the vehicles
Deputy Director for Human Resource and Administration Mr. Julius Olayo flagging off one of the cruisers
The Senior Deputy Director of Forests Mr. Emilio Mugo tries his hand in one of the new vehicles

The Senior Deputy Director of Forests Mr. Emilio Mugo on Monday 12th September 2011 flagged off nine vehicles purchased by the World Bank funded Natural Resource Management Project (NRM).

The Hard Top Land Cruisers which have been branded in the corporate colours of the Service will be used by Regional Commandants to coordinate security issues in the conservancies.  

Speaking while flagging off the vehicles, Mr. Mugo on behalf of the Director expressed his delight at receiving the vehicles saying that they will go a long way in improving service delivery in the Service noting that the ENCOM Division had been lucking in the area of transportation. He said that management will continue improving the capacity of the Division adding that it played a critical role in the management of forests.
He urged the people responsible for the vehicles to take good care of the vehicles.

Story by Lydiah Ogada pictures by Leakey S0nkoyo

Thursday, September 8, 2011



Aberdare Fence Has Improved Livelihoods, Land Values and Biodiversity, says New Study

Ecosystem Services in Aberdares Worth KES 59.3 billion (US$ 630 million) Annually

Nairobi, 5 September 2011 - The now completed 400 km electrified fence enclosing the Aberdare Conservation Area (ACA) has improved the livelihoods of millions of people in central Kenya, according to an independent study launched today at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi. 

The study, The Environmental, Social and Economic Assessment of the Fencing of the Aberdare Conservation Area, also attributes improved forest cover, safer living conditions for local communities and greater security for wildlife to the fence, which was completed in 2009 after 20 years of construction.

The study was requested by The Rhino Ark CharitableTrust, the Kenya conservation charity that has pioneered the fence project, with funding support from thousands of Kenyans and friends of Kenya overseas.  The study was co-funded by UNEP, Rhino Ark and Kenya Forests Working Group and supported by the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Kenya Forest Service and the Greenbelt Movement.
Speaking at the launch, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "The Aberdares conservation efforts underline the extraordinary and wide-ranging returns possible when a more creative, decisive and sustainable approach to managing nature is undertaken--they also offer a model for exemplary public-private partnerships”.

“Indeed Kenya's new policies on renewable energy to conservation of its water towers including the Mau complex, Mt. Elgon, Mt. Kenya, the Cherangany, and the Aberdares, is demonstrating practically and politically that a transition to a Green Economy is as relevant to a country in Africa as it is to countries across the world,” he added.
“The study affirms that the fence has proved a prime management tool in the process of both conservation integrity and ensuring better incomes for all – fence edge farmers, as well as the national and global interests that are derived from the Aberdares as a prime water, forest and biodiversity hot spot,” said Colin Church, Chairman of the Rhino Ark Management Committee.   

“The study re-affirms that the Aberdares is offering a management and policy blue print for the precious ‘water towers’ of Kenya and other tropical mountain ecosystems and upon which so much human resource is increasingly dependent”, he added.
Over the last 15 years, UNEP has been highlighting the vital role of Kenya’s “water towers”, such as the Aberdare Range and the Mau Forest complex, in securing environmental stability, economic development and human well-being.  The financial and technical support to the Aberdare assessment study is part of UNEP’s ongoing work in enhancing the understanding of the importance of ecosystem services.

Key findings in the report confirm:

  • A 20.6% increase in forest cover between 2005 and 2010

  • A 54% decrease in open areas (grassland and cultivation inside the now fenced 2000 km² Aberdare Conservation Area)

  • A 47 % increase in exotic plantations outside the fenced area

The report attributes these improvements to the effects of the fence and associated fence management guidelines as well as more assertive policy interventions.

It emphasizes that there should be an integrated management plan for the Aberdares and by inference that future government policy should incorporate holistic approaches to the way high value mountain forest ecosystems are managed.

The study also recorded socio-economic effects, such as higher household incomes and land values (as high as 300% in some cases) due to improved farmland security, crop yields and safer living conditions.  Wildlife crop destruction has been all but eliminated and children travelling to school face fewer risks from animals.

The number of fence edge communities growing wood lots for farm fuel is increasing.  In some areas, communities have initiated indigenous tree re-planting inside the fence where previously illegal logging, uncontrolled cattle grazing and indiscriminate cultivation were rampant.

Cattle rustling using the forest as an escape route has ceased and disease transmission between wildlife and livestock has greatly reduced.

The report confirms that wildlife populations have increased, though poaching remains a threat. It confirms that whilst the fence protects farmers’ land, it is not, nor was designed, to be human proof.  The report calls for stricter gate access policies to regulate access to the Aberdare Conservation Area and to tackle illegal activities inside the indigenous forest areas.

On water resources, the report says limited data indicates that the Aberdares rivers are “more stable than the Mount Kenya rivers” – a fact it attributes to better land cover in the ecosystem.

The report’s economic analysis gives a breakdown of identifiable benefits provided by the Aberdares to many parts of Kenya.  The value of providing domestic water supply to central Kenya, parts of the Rift Valley and the Tana River valley, for example, is estimated at KES 646 million (US$ 6.9 million) annually.  For Nairobi, where almost all the water supply comes from above and below ground Aberdare sources, the value given is KES 1.46 billion (US$ 15.6 million) annually.

The Aberdares is a key contributor to hydropower, which represents 58% of the national total installed capacity. The mountain range is a core provider of water for the horticulture and floriculture production around Lake Naivasha and is also vital to the Ewaso Nyiro River, which flows into Laikipia and the arid northern rangelands.

On carbon sequestration and soil erosion control, the report assesses the annual value at just under KES 1.9 billion (US$ 20.3 million). .
Carbon credits account for KES 450 million (US$ 5 million) annually.

The report stresses important values to fence adjacent communities and key revenues from the Nyayo tea zones and tourism.

Total products and services values are put at KES 39.3 billion (US$ 420 million) and biodiversity at KES 20 billion (US$ 214 million) – an overall total of KES 59.3 billion (US$ 633 million).

The overall distribution of economic benefits from the Aberdares gives the central Kenya/Rift Valley area 71 %, whilst the total national benefit is logged at 12%.  The fence adjacent communities receive 7.6% of the total cake. The global value from agricultural exports, tourism and biodiversity is just under 7%.

In per capita terms, the 40,000 families whose land borders the fence and gazetted forest line are receiving by far the largest value benefits at KES 14,580 (US$ 155) per capita compared to a regional figure of KES 4,661 (US$ 50) per capita.

However, despite these substantial positive changes, the study affirms that the fence is under-supplied in both human and capital needs. 

It recommends that the Ministry of Finance be further sensitized as to the value of the Aberdare ecosystem and to provide appropriate budget allocations to its overall contribution to the economy and GDP of Kenya.   

The report affirms that a public-private partnership using a trust mechanism should be formed, which would enable stronger ‘participatory management’ by communities with the relevant government agencies.  It stresses that there is an urgent need to ensure a properly implemented gate management and access policy for gazetted (vis à vis national park) forest areas.

The report proposes that given adequate financial and human capital support through immediate Treasury funding, the long term financing could be derived from Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) mainly from water and electricity users. In addition to ensuring ecosystem stability, PES could then be re-directed to accelerate income generating and non-exploitive activities for fence adjacent farmers.

The study recognizes that the fence adjacent communities could place new exploitive pressures on the forests and so need greater long-term support to create income activities that are compatible with conservation.

It concludes by affirming that management of the buffer zone - the five kilometre area around the fence - should be clearly identified and every effort made to create “positive benefits by deliberate investment in support of local livelihoods.”

For more information, please contact:

Colin Church, Chairman Management Committee, Rhino Ark Charitable Trust on +254 724 604233 or 0733-632460 or Email:

UNEP Newsdesk on +254 20762 5211 or Email: