President Kibaki commissions 400km Aberdare National Park Fence
Date Published: 18 Mar, 2010
President Kibaki officially commissioning the Aberdare fence, looking on is the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon.Raila Odinga, looking on is KWS Director (middle)
HE President Mwai Kibaki on Friday March 12, 2010 officially commissioned the electric fence surrounding Aberdare National Park .The ceremony marked the end of 21 years of a partnership conservation effort by the Kenya Wildlife Service, Rhino Ark, Kenya Forest Service, the local community and various other stakeholders to complete the nearly 400 km fence at a cost of Sh750 million. Speaking at the event, the President reiterated the government’s commitment towards environmental conservation and pledged to increase the country’s forest cover from the current 2 per cent to 4 per cent by 2012 and the world standard of 10 per cent by 2030.
“The government has contributed to construction of this fence by providing fencing materials valued at over Sh128 million during the last four years,” the President said. He added that the government continues to recognise the central role forests play in development and has already embarked on an ambitious program of re-afforestation and restoration of the country’s forests placing specific emphasis on the conservation and management of all the country’s five water towers. Land owners are also being encouraged to plant trees on at least one-tenth of their land to increase the forest cover.The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Raila Odinga, who accompanied the president at the event, said the government planned to plant 7.6 billion tree seedlings in the next 20 years and urged the local community to take advantage of the fencing of the park to spur the economy of the area.
The park is also home to various historical, cultural and religious sites dating back to hundreds of years. Forestry and Wildlife Minister, Hon. Dr Noah Wekesa, thanked the enormous contribution of the local communities that largely led to the success of the completion of the fence. “This has drastically reduced cases of human-wildlife conflict, poaching and illegal logging in the area,” he said. Dr Wekesa also confirmed that the new Wildlife Bill has already been queued up for discussion in the Cabinet, seeking to among others, address the compensation issue by updating the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act. He specifically thanked the community from Kipipiri who gave up their mountain to be part of the fenced conservation area.KWS Director, Mr Julius Kipng’etich, acknowledged all those involved in the exercise and termed it a world record given that it was the largest conservation fence in the world. He said the management plan for the park would be completed in the next two months, and called for the community to identify other sites within the park to enhance economic growth. He also called for setting up of more lodges to enhance tourism and aid in creation of job opportunities.
The Chairman of the Rhino Ark Management Committee, Mr Colin Church, said the fencing had created a workable tool for ecosystem management that involved the fence line farmers, and the wider public of Kenya who depended on the resources, especially the water outflows from the Aberdares. “The fence has further secured the protection of the priceless flora and fauna of the Aberdare mountains: one of Kenya’s vital water towers and a proven and famous tourist attraction,” he reaffirmed.The fence provides a valuable asset in efforts to protect wildlife, especially endangered species, including the black rhino and the mountain bongo that are now better protected within a fenced ecosystem. Thanking the sponsors, and especially the rhino chargers, whose annual event has grown into an internationally recognised event, and has raised 65 per cent of the funds raised so far, Mr. Church reiterated the need to ensure for clear fence maintenance structures. Towards this end, he announced the creation of the Aberdare Fence Trust by KWS, KFS and Rhino Ark.
The Aberdare National Park’s ecosystem provides a vital water tower that supplies water to about 30 per cent of Kenya’s population.
The fence encloses some 2000 sq. km of indigenous forest and vital water catchment areas that also includes the Aberdare National Park and is the longest and most technically advanced fence resolving human/wildlife conflict in Africa. It has 8000 miles, approximately the distance from Kenya to London, and was built largely from recycled plastic stakes made from the waste of dozens of flower farms at nearby Lake Naivasha. The fencing has increased the land value for fence line farmers by as much as 300 per cent. The Aberdares Ranges area produces 30 per cent of Kenya’s tea and 70 per cent of its coffee, and is home to diverse species of wildlife that include elephants, giant forest hog, rhino, the mountain bongo and the leopard.
By Dennis Kibet