|Kenya Water Towers Agency leadership following proceedings during the launch of Mau Stakeholders Forum|
Participatory forest management approach has been practised officially in the country since 2005 when the Forests Act of 2005 came into force. ... Read More
Hati hii ni tafsiri rahisi ya mswada wa kitaifa juu ya misitu (Uhifadhi na Usimamizi) 2012. Read More ...
Monitoring of Water Towers
KFWG is a National NGO concerned with all forests but currently working in these key areas :
Water towers – KFWG carries out monitoring of five key forests, the “water towers”, every two years to determine their status. This activity, carried out through the study of satellite images, started in 2002. KFWG shares information from this study with government, politicians and other stakeholders in order for remedial action to be taken where necessary. The five “water towers” are Mt Kenya, Aberdare Range, Mau Complex forests, Cherangani Hills and Mt Elgon. In addition, KFWG has been carrying out an advocacy campaign since 2001 – the Mau forests advocacy campaign – to have the forests of the Mau protected.
The Aberdare Range is located in central Kenya on the Equator. The Range stretches over 125 kilometres from Nyahururu in the North to Limuru in the South. It is the third highest mountain in Kenya, with two main peaks, Oldonyo Lesatima (also known as Sattima) and Kinangop, which reach, respectively, altitudes of 4,001 and 3,906 metres. The Range presents a deeply dissected topography sloping gradually to the east. In contrast, the western side drops along impressive fault escarpments towards the Rift Valley.
Various vegetation zones can be distinguished on the Aberdare Range, including the closed-canopy forest belt, the bamboo zone, the sub-alpine and alpine vegetation. The forest belt covers a major part of the range. Most of the forest is gazetted as forest reserves. However, parts of the upper forest zone fall within the Aberdare National Park.
The Aberdare Range plays a critical role in water catchment for the country and is one of the five main “water towers” of Kenya with Mt. Kenya, Mau Complex, Cherangani Hills and Mt. Elgon, all providing most of the nation’s water. The Aberdares are the main catchments for Sasumua and Ndakaini dams, which provide most of the water for Nairobi - a city of more than two millions people.
The eastern slopes are catchments of the Tana River, Kenya’s largest river that supplies water to the Seven Forks hydropower plants where over 55 percent of Kenya’s total electricity output is generated. It also feeds major irrigation schemes such as Mwea rice scheme, Bura settlement scheme and the Tana Delta irrigation scheme. The south-eastern slopes form the upper catchments of the Athi River, the main tributary of the Sabaki River that drains into the Indian Ocean. The northern slopes are catchments for the Ewaso Nyiro River, the main river crossing the semi-arid Laikipia plateau and the Samburu plains and deserts beyond. The Malewa River, the major surface source of water for Lake Naivasha, originates from the north-western slopes. The adjoining districts and, in particular, the high densely populated areas on the eastern and southern slopes rely primarily on the water flowing from the Aberdare Range.
The Aberdares have a rich diversity of vegetation types that result mainly from the wide range in altitude and rainfall. The Aberdares host a wide variety of plant species. A study carried out in 1986-88 identified 778 species, subspecies and varieties in the Aberdare National Park alone (Schmidt, 1991). Common hardwood tree species include Camphor (Ocotea usambarensis), Cedar (Juniperus procera), Podo (Podocarpus).
The Aberdare Range forests host a number of threatened fauna species. The Jackson mongoose (Bdeugale jacksoni), endemic to Kenya’s montane forests and the rarely seen golden cat (Felix aurata) are two threatened mammals. Other large threatened mammals of international conservation interest that occur in Aberdare forests are bongo (Tragelaphus euryceros), giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni), black rhino (Diceros bicornis), elephant (Loxodontaafricana), leopard (Panthera pardus) and African hunting dog (Lycaon pictus). In addition, the forest harbours bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula), waterbuck (Kobus ellipsi prymnus), cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer), suni (Neotragus moschatus), side-striped jackel (Canis adustus), eland (Taurotragus oryx), and varieties of duikers and bushbabies.
The forests are rich in primates; the common ones include the black-and-white colobus monkey (Colobus guereza), sykes monkey (Cercopithecus mitis), vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops) and baboons (Papio anubis neumanni). The Aberdare Range is internationally recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA). The Range holds 52 of Kenya’s 67 Afrotropical highland species and six of the eight restricted range species in the Kenyan montane endemic bird areas.
Over 270 species of birds have been recorded in the Aberdares including the following globally threatened and restricted-range species: Sharpe’s Longclaw, Abbott’s Starling, Aberdare Cisticola and Jackson’s Widowbird. Regionally threatened species found in the Abedares include Cape Eagle Owl, African Crowned Eagle, and African Green Ibis. Jackson’s Francolin, Hartlaub’s Turaco and Bar-tailed Trogon are characteristic and spectacular birds of the Aberdare Range. The Aberdares also hold several amphibians that are endemic to the central Kenyan highlands.
The Aberdares have the distinction of being the first wildlife area in Kenya to boast a game viewing facility. This was started in the 1930s on farmland, before being encompassed in the National Park as gazetted in 1950. Called Treetops, it was a simple tree platform on which guests could sit up during the night to see animals drinking at a waterhole. Today the fully functional lodge by the same name and the Ark lodge – both sited in the Salient are some of Kenya’s prime game viewing lodges. The Salient is the eastern extension of the National Park that crosses the forest belt and reaches the settlements.
The forests of the Aberdares yield a wide range of non-timber forest products, many of which are consumed only at the household level. These range from medicinal plants to sources of wild honey, wild fruits, fibres for ropes, baskets and mats. The non-market value of such forest resources is immense. The economic benefits of the Aberdares for forest adjacent households are estimated as US$ 165 per household per year (Emerton et al, 1998).
The Aberdare Range remains one of Kenya’s most important forest and water catchments. It is estimated that at least one in three people in Kenya depends in some way on the natural resources of the Aberdare Range. Its foothills and lower slopes are some of the most productive farmlands in Kenya – giving a livelihood to millions of people.
Adapted from: Aerial Survey of the Destruction of Aberdare Range Forests.
Mount Kenya is located on the equator 180 Km north of Nairobi. It is a solitary mountain of volcanic origin with a base diameter of about 120 Km. Its broad cone shape reaches an altitude of 5199 m with deeply incised U-shaped valleys in the upper parts.
Various vegetation zones can be distinguished on Mount Kenya. Forest vegetation covers the major part of the mountain. Most of the indigenous forest is protected within the national reserve with some small areas falling within Mt. Kenya National Park.
Mount Kenya plays a critical role in water catchment for the country and is one of the five main “water towers” of Kenya with Aberdare Range, Mau Complex, Cherangani Hills and Mt Elgon, all providing most of the nation’s water.
North east to south west Mount Kenya is the catchment for the Tana River, while the western and northern slopes form the catchment for the Ewaso Nyiro River. The Tana River is Kenya’s largest river and drains intothe Indian Ocean. Its course supplies water to numerous hydropower stations, as well as to major irrigation schemes such as Mwea rice scheme, Bura settlement scheme and Tana Delta irrigation scheme. The Ewaso Nyiro River drains into the Lorian swamps and is the main river crossing the semi-arid Laikipia plateau and the Samburu plains and deserts beyond.
Mt. Kenya forests present a rich biological diversity, not only in terms of ecosystems but as well as in terms of species, in particular plant species. The wide range in altitude clines and rainfall cline contributes to the highly diverse mosaic pattern of Mt. Kenya forests of which the following major types can be distinguished (Table 2).The diversity in flora on Mt. Kenya is high. A number of studies of the flora and vegetation of Mt. Kenya and the mountain regions of East Africa have been undertaken since 1885. In the latest and more comprehensive study undertaken between February 1992 and August 1994 some 882 plant species, subspecies and varieties belonging to 479 gener is of 146 families were identified on Mt. Kenya (Bussmann, 1994). Mt. Kenya has 81 plant species that are endemic (KWS, 1996).
The most common species of large trees on Mt. Kenya include Camphor (Ocotea usambarensis), Cedar (Juniperus procera), Wild Olive (Olea europaea), Meru Oak (Vitex keniensis), Podo (Podocarpus latifolius), East African Rosewood (Hagenia abyssinica), Croton (Croton macrostachyus), Mugumo (Ficus thonningii). Mt. Kenya has a wide variety of wildlife, but no comprehensive description of the forest fauna has been published yet, although Alpine fauna has been described by Coe and Foster in 1972 and by Young in 1993. Moreau compiled a species list in 1944.
The KIFCON Programme in conjunction with the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) published “Mammals of Mt. Kenya and its Forests, a Preliminary Survey” in 1993. The KWS Elephant Programme conducted a survey principally of large mammals (Reuling in 1992 and Litoroh in 1993). Individual species of large mammals have also been the subject of research: leopard and elephant (Vanleeuwe, 1999).Six species of large mammal of international conservation interest occur within the Mt. Kenya forests -elephant (Loxodonta africana), black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), leopard (Panthera pardus), giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni), bongo (Tragelaphus euryceros), black-fronted duiker (Cephalephus nigrifrons hooki). Also present are about twelve species of ungulates, such as bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), suni (Neotragus moschatus), red duiker (Cephalophus harveyi), grey duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia altivallis), defassa waterbuck (Kobus ellipsi prymnus), mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula) and Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer). Various primates also occur, the common ones being the black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza), sykes monkey (Cercopithecus mitis) and the olive baboon (Papio anubis).
Total environmental accounting for all goods and services provided by a forest ecosystem continues to draw debate world-wide. In an attempt to attribute economic benefits to Mt. Kenya forests, Lucy Emerton assigned a total value of Ksh 2 billion per year (Emerton, 1997). This estimate excludes ecological, option and existence values. The bulk of this value is comprised of watershed catchment protection and domestic use benefits. She justified that it is not possible to make an overall statement about its economic profitability.
Mt. Kenya has very attractive scenery that is highly appreciated by tourists. It attracts both domestic and international visitors, including climbers en-route to Mt. Kenya, walkers, bird-watchers and fishermen. The tourism potential of Mt. Kenya, if well developed, is high estimated at Ksh. 50 million per year, and would go a long way in supporting economic development, including rural employment.
There are several cultural values attributed to Mt. Kenya by all the various groups of people living around the forest. The forest provides an important location for religion and other rituals for the people. A most interesting and unique characteristic attributed to the forest by the Embu, Meru and Kikuyu is that it is the traditional home of their God, Ngai, Murungu, whose presence is strongly associated with the peaks of Mt.Kenya. Prayers and rituals are carried out in several sacred areas in the forests in time of need, for example, to bring rain and bless the community. Many tree species including, Ficus ssp. Indigofera erecta, among others, are considered sacred and used in various ways. Other species are also used in many other ways, in particular, medicine and food, including honey production.
Mt. Kenya National Park was established in 1949 and became a Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme in 1978. Before then, Mt. Kenya forests had been declared as Forest Reserve in 1932. In 1997, Mt. Kenya National Park and the surrounding natural forests in the Forest Reserve were listed as a World Heritage Site. The World Heritage Committee inscribed Mt. Kenya on the list since it is internationally recognized as “one of the most impressive landscapes of Eastern Africa with its rugged glacier-clad summits, Afro-alpine moor lands and diverse forests, which illustrate outstanding ecological processes” (UNESCO, 21st Session of the World Heritage Committee, Naples, Italy, 1-6 December 1997).
Mau Complex forests
The forests of the Mau Complex when combined cover an area of over 400,000 ha. The Mau Complex is the largest remaining closed canopy forest block in Eastern Africa. It is situated at 0°30‘ South, 35°20‘ East and in the Rift ValleyProvince and spans across four administrative districts: Narok, Nakuru, Bomet and Kericho.
Forests that constitute the complex include Transmara, OlPusimoru, Maasai Mau, Eastern Mau, Mau Narok, South West Mau, Western Mau, Mt. Londiani, Eburru, Molo and SouthMolo. The northern part comprises Tinderet, Northern Tinderet, Timboroa, Nabkoi, Kilombe Hill, Metkei, Maji Mazuri,Chemorogok and Lembus forests. The Mau Forest Complex is one of the five water towers in Kenya, providing the upper catchments of many major rivers, including Nzoia, Yala, Nyando, Sondu, Mara, Kerio, Molo, Ewaso Ngiro, Njoro, Nderit,Makalia, and Naishi. These rivers in turn feed major lakes, including Natron, Victoria, Turkana, Baringo and Nakuru. The forests of the Mau Complex are also very rich in flora and fauna.
The original vegetation pattern followed an altitudinal gradient with local topographical ecoclines. The closed canopy moist montane forest at lower altitudes becomes increasingly intermixed with bamboo from 2,200 m onwards. Between 2,300 and 2,500 m pure bamboo (Arundinaria alpina) swards are found. Above 2,500 m this gives way to mixed bamboo/tree stands, both associated with grass clearings that usually represent a sub-climax resulting from burning and cutting of bamboo. A marginal type of montane sclerophyll forest occupies the highest altitudes of the Mau complex (Jackson and McCarter, 1994).East Mau has a drier vegetation type of Cedar and Podo. Wherever these species have been extracted, colonising species such as Neuboutonia macrocalyx and Macaranga capensis can be found (Ngoda and Kiruki, 2000).Large areas mainly in the north eastern parts of the reserve have been planted with Pinus patula and Cupressus lusitanica.
Mt. Elgon forests
Mt. Elgon forests are located north of Lake Victoria on the border between Kenya and Uganda. Mt. Elgon is a mountain of volcanic origin, which reaches an altitude of 4,320 metres.
The forest belt is protected as National Park and Forest Reserve; the latter covers 73,706 ha. Mt. Elgon forms the upper catchment area for two major rivers: Nzoia and Turkwel rivers. It also provides water to the Malakisi River that crosses the small scale farming area south of the mountain before entering Uganda. The Nzoia River is a critical river for Western Province where it provides most of the much needed water to highly populated areas before flowing into Lake Victoria. The Nzoia River crosses 123 Sub-locations where the total population amounts to 1,054,283 inhabitants, according to the census undertaken in 1989. The Turkwel River is one of the three major rivers that feed Lake Turkana. Its course provides water to the Turkwel Gorge dam and its hydropower plant. It is the main river that crosses the semiarid and arid areas of the region on the south west side of Lake Turkana.
Its vegetation is zoned by altitude. Montane forest vegetation spans between 2000 and 3500 metres with Olea capensis and Aningeria adolfi-friedericii grading into Olea-Podocarpus falcatus forest, a zone of mixed Podocarpus and bamboo Arundinaria alpina, and the Hagenia abyssinica zone with Giant Heath Erica arborea and E. trimeraelgonensis. Above 3,500 metres, Afro-Alpine moorland is the main vegetation type with tussock grasses such as Festuca pilgeri, bogs of Carex runssoroensis, giant groundsels and giant lobelias (Bennun and Njoroge, 1999).
Most of the montane forest is gazetted as Forest Reserve (73,705 hectares) and managed by the Kenya Forest Service, with the exception of the transect of forest on the north-east slopes that falls within Mt. Elgon National Park (16,900 hectares) under the jurisdiction of Kenya Wildlife Service. The National Park that was established in 1968 extends from the lower montane forest to the caldera edge, covering a large area of the moorlands. The remaining of the moorlands is part of Mt. Elgon Trust Land that is managed by Bungoma County Council.
The forest has species that are globally threatened including Kenyan endemics, making the area a priority for species conservation and an attraction for tourists. The combined Kenyan and Ugandan protected areas (National Parks and Forest Reserves) are sufficiently large to maintain viable populations of many of the larger and rarer species of mammals which are vulnerable to extinction in smaller National Parks. Although elephants (Loxodonta africana) and buffaloes (Syncerus caffer) were almost eradicated from the Ugandan side of the mountain by the late 1980’s, substantial populations of each still remain on the Kenyan side. Reported animals for Mt. Elgon are: leopard (Panthera pardus, a threatened species), giant forest hog (Holochoerusmeinertzhageni), waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus), bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia), black and white colobus monkey (Colobus guereza), blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis), the spotted red tailed monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius), which was thought to be locally extinct (van Heist, 1994) and de Brazza’s monkey (Cercopithecus neglectus shclegel), which is endangered in Kenya and the presence of which remains to be confirmed (Olubayo and Taiti, 1998).
Surveys (van Someren 1922, 1932, Britton 1980, Katende et al. 1990 and Howard 1991) show that the avifauna of Mt. Elgon is diverse. It includes a number of rare and threatened bird species that are restricted to Mt. Elgon and a few other East African mountains. Due to the rarity of some of the species, Mt. Elgon has been awarded the status of an Important Bird Area.
The Maasai name for Mt. Elgon is Oldoinyo Ilgoon which means the mountain shaped like breasts. It is a common belief that water from the hot springs in the caldera has healing properties and this is collected and carried down in bottles whenever anyone visits the springs.
The El Kony people used to live in the caves on the mountain and used to coral their cattle into the caves at night for protection. To date none of the caves have been excavated so it is uncertain who might have occupied them prior to the El Kony, for how long, and why. The forest was a sacred place for the Sabaot people (KENGO, 1996) The gold tree (Elgon Teak Olea capensis) was traditionally used as a herbal medicine (KENGO, 1996).