The Forest Conservation Programme was established in 1991. A major concern in Kenya today, is the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, especially forests. Although a significant amount of forests and woodlands are under the jurisdiction of KWS, the majority of forest ecosystems are under other government agencies and private hands. These forests comprise critical wildlife habitats and KWS has agreements (MoUs) for their management with the partners. The Forest Conservation Programme plays a major role towards sustainable management and utilisation of forests.
Arabuko Sokoke Forest
The main goal of the programme is to promote integrated indigenous forest management and conservation in partnership with key institutions, organisations and stakeholders for sustainable development that promotes socio-economic development and poverty alleviation in the rural areas.
To collaboratively enhance the sustainable management of the forests and conserve their functional values of biodiversity, soil and water protection and the social- economic and cultural benefits to stakeholders.
- To promote community participation in forest conservation.
- To enable and promote communities adjacent to forests to improve their welfare and become less reliant on the forests; through:
- agroforestry development
- alternative sources of income from conservation supporting income generating activities.
- To develop the potential for, and promotion of, forest-based eco-tourism.
- To promote and develop capacity in conservation research and education.
Strategic and Management Plans
A new planning strategy focused on Arabuko Sokoke forest has been developed. In this new strategy, a 25 year strategic plan is being drawn out of which 5 year thematic operational plans will be developed. At the same time five-year management plans for Mt. Kenya, Shimba Hills and Mt. Elgon are underway.
The planning process has been participatory, involving key stakeholders, local communities and lead partners, notably, Forest Department, National Museums of Kenya, KEFRI IUCN and BirdLife International.
In a strategy to secure conservation of critically threatened forests, the government gave KWS added responsibility to manage Mt. Kenya Forest. In this regard, Mt. Kenya was gazetted as a National Reserve to provide KWS with a legal mandate to manage the forest. Among the notable benefits and outcome from this action so far are:
- Reduced tree poaching
- Increased community interest to be allowed to rehabilitate degraded sections of the forest,
- Community goodwill with anticipated benefit sharing
- Broadened stakeholder interest to support conservation
Advances in Participatory Forest Management
A major step has been undertaken to promote implementation of participatory forest management. This concept seeks to increasingly involve stakeholders and forest adjacent communities in forest management. In the Arabuko Sokoke case, authority was granted by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and KWS. Three villages in Dida have been identified, to serve as pilot areas for the concept.
In Ragati,, KWS and UNESCO's People and plants Programme and members of the local community have developed signed a lease agreement for the restoration without applying conventional shamba system. Communities have planted 40 hectares of this section of Mt. Kenya forest.
There is an increased collaboration with Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary Trust where KWS is one of the trustees. The purpose of the Sanctuary is to conserve the existing Ngong Road Forest from further destruction and, through restoration of damaged areas and sustainable development of visitor facilities and infrastructure, to encourage the general public and tourists to use the Sanctuary for educational and recreational activities. One of the key developments was the finalization of a business Plan for Ngong Forest Sanctuary.
Proposals for new projects completed
Several proposals were developed and some funding secured or in the process. Funds for the management Planning for Mt. Kenya was secured from UNESCO.
The proposal for the "Seeds for Life" project was developed by four Kenyan institutions, to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK. KWS, Forest Department, NMK, KEFRI and KARI seek to work in Kenya's ASAL areas to conserve germplasm of threatened plant species. A survey of the use of indigenous trees by local communities will also be undertaken. The project was launched in September 2000 and is ongoing.