At the request of Rhino Ark, UNEP, Kenya Wildlife Service, Rhino Ark and the Kenya Forests Working Group undertook an aerial survey of the destruction of the Aberdare Range forests The Aberdare forests are one of Kenya's five main "water towers" and play a critical role in supporting the country's economy. They are the main source of water for Nairobi. 55 percent of Kenya's electricity is generated by water flowing from the Aberdares and Mt. Kenya. The survey of the Aberdare forests was undertaken in the second half of 2002. It covered all forest reserves of the Aberdare Range ecosystem, as well as any forested area located within the Aberdare National Park. It required some 61 hours of flight time. The survey revealed that the forests are heavily impacted by illegal charcoal production in most areas on the western, southern and south-eastern slopes. Illegal logging of indigenous trees is a major concern across the entire Range, in particular the logging of Cedar trees that extensively affect the northern and western slopes. Illegal cultivation of crops and settlements present a major threat to the integrity of the ecosystem, having already led to the destruction of well over 6,100 hectares.
Southern slopes of the Aberdare Range
Illegal activities affect the entire mixed broadleaf forest. The moist Ocotea forests that cover most of the southern slopes are undergoing serious destruction caused by the intensive charcoal production and illegal logging. During the survey, over 10,000 charcoal kilns were counted. In the drier forest that covers the escarpment bordering the Rift Valley, charcoal production had led to the destruction of over 80 percent of the forest canopy in many areas. Over 2,800 recently-logged indigenous trees were counted. Although Camphor trees used to be a dominant species in most areas on the southern slopes, only 272 recently-logged Camphor trees were counted. Past depletion of the Camphor stand explained this low number. Livestock grazing presents a major threat to forest regeneration, with over 5,700 head counted on the southern slopes.
Western slopes of the Aberdare Range
Logging and charcoal production also impact heavily on the western slopes. Over 2,000 recently-logged Cedar trees were counted, as well as some 1,100 other indigenous trees, in addition to over 3,500 charcoal kilns. The cumulative impacts of illegal logging and charcoal production has opened up most of the forest areas that cover the steep slopes along the western fault escarpment and the ridges emanating from Kinangop peak. Large tracts of forests have been destroyed and irregularly converted into settlements, including 4,475 hectares around Kipipiri and 1,104 hectares in Ragia forest.
Northern slopes of the Aberdare Range
The northern tip of the Range is mostly grassland with scattered clusters of trees. These remaining clusters, located outside the fence, are the target of illegal activities, mainly charcoal production and logging of Cedar. Well over 5,100 heads of livestock were observed in that area, most likely leading to overgrazing and inhibiting regeneration.
Eastern slopes of the Aberdare Range
Logging of indigenous trees and illegal cultivation are the two major threats to the eastern slopes. Over 1,800 recently logged Cedar trees were recorded, as well as some 2,750 other indigenous trees. In the northern block of South Laikipia Forest Reserve, past logging activities has led to the removal of over 90 percent of the forest cover. Some 49 cultivated fields in the indigenous forests were found near Chinga. In addition, the survey identified 16 small marijuana fields, most of them being planted or partially planted. The majority of the clear felled forest plantations under the Shamba-system have not been replanted with young trees, as required by the normal rotation management.
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HIGH RESOLUTION POSTER (jpg 1,437 KB)
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