Division of Early Warning and Assessment

Mau Complex under siege

Shrinking forests of Kilimanjaro The Mau Complex forms the largest closed-canopy forest ecosystem of Kenya, as large as the forests of Mt. Kenya and the Aberdare combined. It is the single most important water catchment in Rift Valley and western Kenya. Through the ecological services provided by its forests, the Mau Complex is a natural asset of national importance that supports key economic sectors in Rift Valley and western Kenya, including energy, tourism, agriculture (cash crops such as tea and rice; subsistence crops; and livestock) and water supply. The Mau Complex is particularly important for two of the three largest foreign currency earners: tea and tourism.

The market value of goods and services generated annually in the tea, tourism and energy sectors alone to which the forest of the Mau Complex have contributed, is in excess of Kshs 20 billion. This does not reflect provisional services such as water supply to urban areas (Bomet, Egerton University, Elburgon, Eldama Ravine, Kericho, Molo, Nakuru, Narok, and Njoro) or support to rural livelihoods, in particular in the Lake Victoria basin outside the tea growing areas. This figure also does not reflect potential economic development in the catchments of the Mau Complex, in particular in the energy sector. The estimated potential hydropower generation in the Mau Complex catchments is approx. 535 megawatts, representing 57% of the current total electricity generation capacity in Kenya.

Looking forward, environmental stability and secured provision of ecological goods and services will remain essential to attain sustainable development in Kenya. They are cross-cutting, underlying requirements to achieve Vision 2030 - Kenya’s development blueprint aiming at making the country a newly industrializing middle income nation, providing high quality of life for all the citizens.

Despite its critical importance for sustaining current and future economic development, the Mau Complex has been impacted by extensive illegal, irregular and ill-planned settlements, as well as illegal forest resources extraction.

Degazettement of forest reserves (excisions) and continuous widespread encroachments have led to the destruction of some 104,000 hectares representing over 24% of the Mau Complex area over the last 10 years. In 2001, 61,023 hectares of forest in the Mau Complex were excised. In addition, some 43,700 hectares have been encroached in the remaining protected forests of the Mau Complex. Such an extensive and on-going destruction of key natural assets for the country is a matter of national and regional concerns. It presents significant environmental and economic threats and underlines a breakdown of law and order.



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