Division of Early Warning and Assessment

Destruction of Mt. Kenya forests

observations on Mt. Kenya Mount Kenya, Kenya's highest mountain, is located on the equator. Forests cover the major part of the mountain which presents a rich biodiversity, not only in terms of ecosystems but also in terms of species. Mt. Kenya plays a critical role in water catchment and is one of the five main "water towers" of Kenya with the Aberdare Range, Mau Complex, Cherangani Hills and Mount Elgon, all providing most of the nation's water.

In the late 1990s, numerous reports and public outcry about forest destruction on Mt. Kenya called for a rapid and systematic assessment of the status of the forests. The assessment was to inform all stakeholders and trigger new policy measures to stop forest destruction.

Consequently, Kenya Wildlife Service, with the support of UNEP, undertook an aerial survey of the entire forest of Mt. Kenya in 1999. The survey was to provide factual information on the type, extent and location of destructive activities in the forests.

The result of the survey established that the whole of Mt. Kenya forests are heavily impacted by extensive illegal activities leading to serious destruction below the bamboo/bamboo-podocarpus belt. Over 6,700 Camphor (Ocotea usambarensis) trees have been destroyed through logging whereas in the overall 14,662 indigenous trees have been cut, most of them recently. Over 75 percent of clear-felled plantations have not been replanted with tree seedlings, although all these area are under the Shamba (taungya) system. Encroachment into edges of indigenous forests was recorded emanating from Shamba-system cultivated areas. Most of all the natural forest in the Lower Imenti have been destroyed and are under crop cultivation. In the lower part of the Upper Imenti, extensive past and on-going charcoal production was observed throughout the area, leading to extensive destruction of the indigenous forest. Marijuana (bhangi) cultivation is quite extensive totaling 200 hectares, and is being grown in the indigenous forest from the edges to deep inside and high up in the forest. The Ngare Ndare is impacted by illegal logging of Cedar (Juniperus procera), livestock grazing and fires. However, current pressure on this forest have not led to the same level of destruction as in many parts of Mt. Kenya and Imenti forests.

As a result of the survey report, a number of important policy measures were taken by the Kenyan Government in late 1999 and 2000. They include: the appointment of a new Chief Conservator of Forests to head the Forest Department (October 1999) the establishment of a country-wide ban on the commercial exploitation of all forest reserves in Kenya (December 1999); and the designation of Mt. Kenya National Reserve to provide a more strict conservation status to the entire forest belt (July 2000). The newly established National Reserve was accompanied with a shift in management from Forest Department to Kenya Wildlife Service.

Click to download REPORT (english) (pdf 1,521 KB)
Click to download Annexed maps (zip 1,429 KB)



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