Between 1980 and 2000, Kenya lost nearly 50% of its forest cover. Some 300,000 hectares of forest were destroyed due to intensive logging, charcoal production and large-scale clearance of wooded areas for tea plantations.
Symbolic of this destruction is the Mau Forest, at 273,000 hectares the largest forested area in Kenya with a seven-lake drainage basin covering more than 69,000 km2, from which one quarter of its canopy had disappeared, threatening the survival not only of millions of wildebeest and thousands of gazelles and buffaloes migrating through Kenya and Tanzania, but also of riparian communities.
But, thanks to implementation of the Green Zones Development Support Project, with US$38.8 million in funding from the African Development Bank, more than 14,000 hectares of forest were replanted between 2007 and 2016, in order to stem this deadly trend.
Years of overexploitation of forest resources without respect for ecosystems had left bare the hills around Joseph Kimani’s house. Deforestation had even caused a local river in the Rift Valley to choke up. On these cleared areas threatened by drought and famine, Kimani, a community manager aged around 50, found himself up against the wall, just like neighbours — farmers and loggers – living near the Mau Forest.
Massive deforestation was followed by more frequent flooding, while the rivers shrunk to a trickle during the dry season. It looked like the end for any kind of agriculture. “It was very difficult. We didn’t have enough money to get us out of it,” said Ann Ruto, a farmer from the village of Simotwet, in the Rift Valley.
This was a critical situation that not only imperilled thousands of animal and plant species and the indigenous population, but also aroused concerns about the economic future of Kenya, since vital sectors, including agriculture, tourism and energy depend on the natural environment.
The details of reforestation projects are:
- US$38.8 million contribution from African Development Bank
- 14,300 hectares rewooded between 2007 and 2016
- 3,000 sustainable jobs created in communities bordering forests
- 17,100 households (40% headed by women) have seen their incomes increase.