Changes in the State of Conservation

change in the state of conservation of Mt. Kenya In 1999, following public outcry on the destruction of Mt. Kenya forests, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) with the support of UNEP undertook a systematic aerial survey of the forests of Mt. Kenya. The survey was to provide factual information on the extent, the type and the location of destructive activities in the forest. The results established that the whole of Mt. Kenya forests were heavily impacted by extensive illegal activities. Illegal logging, especially of Camphor and Cedar, encroachment into the fringes of the indigenous forest, extensive charcoal production and marijuana cultivation were recorded throughout the indigenous forest. The shamba-system (non-residential cultivation) regulations had also not been effected and large areas of clear-felled plantation remained unplanted.

 As a result of the 1999 survey report, a number of important policy measures were implemented by the Government in late 1999 and 2000, the most significant being the gazettement of Mt. Kenya National Reserve to provide enhanced conservation status to the entire forest belt on the mountain. The newly established National Reserve was accompanied by a shift in management from Forest Department to KWS.

 In order to determine the effectiveness of the new management practices and their impact on the forest cover, four organizations, the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology (DICE) of University of Kent, KWS, UNEP and the Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG), undertook an assessment study of the changes in Mt. Kenya forests between 1999 and 2002.

The study involved three parallel assessment approaches: analysis of satellite images, ground surveys and sampling aerial surveys.

 The study reveals that the level of destructive activities - in particular logging of indigenous trees, identified as the main threat to the forest – has significantly reduced. Since 1999 logging of indigenous trees has fallen by over 93 percent, with logging of Camphor, a highly valuable hardwood, reduced by 96 percent. The number of recorded charcoal kilns went down by 62 percent from 547 in 1999 to 205 in 2002. Marijuana cultivation has decreased from 31 ha in 1999 to 5.8 ha in 2002 - a reduction in area of 81 percent and now occurs mainly in the bamboo zone rather than in the mixed broad leaf forest.

Effective and regular patrolling of the forest by KWS rangers have much to account for the improvement in the state of the forests. Air-based operations to destroy marijuana fields have also been key to the successful reduction in the growing of this illicit crop.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, said: “UNEP has been delighted to have been associated with this important report. It shows that where there is a will to address environment and development issues, there is a way. Our attention must now focus on other, more vulnerable ranges in East Africa including the Aberdares. One must hope that the successful lessons learnt in Mt. Kenya can be applied elsewhere”.

The report also reviews the implementation of the recommendations of the 1999 aerial survey. Its shows that short term measures such as aerial surveys of other forests, destruction of marijuana fields, proper management of the shamba-system, rounding up of illegal material and apprehension of lawbreakers have been implemented. A crash replanting has also taken place in most areas under the shamba-system. However, the report notes that transit of illegally acquired forest produces still continues unabated.

Further recommendations are made. These include the strengthening of the capacity of KWS to protect and manage the ecosystem as there are still some persistent threats to the forests. Coordinated efforts by all government arms are also required to bring the transit of illegal forest produce under control. In addition, the Government needs to commit to stopping any further reduction of the ecosystem through excisions.

Click to download REPORT (pdf 1,316 KB)
Click to download SLIDE PRESENTATION (pdf 1,862 KB)


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