August 22, 2018 3 min read

In our new project spotlight series, we're sharing more details about upcoming tree-planting initiatives to give you a sense of the diversity of impacts that reforestation can have on people and the planet. We've shared what we're up to with agroforestry in Rwanda, and today we'll tell you about Kenya.

This is another project that comes to us by way of the World Resources Institute, a global research organization working to create a sustainable future.


Goal – 10,000 trees

The focus of this reforestation effort in Kenya will be clean water and conservation, as well as a social benefit for the local population through employment and sustainable practices, and habitat enrichment/expansion for local wildlife.

We will be working with the Kijabe Forest Trust (KFT), an organization that specifically focuses on the Kijabe Forest in central Kenya. The need for restoration arose as the Kijabe forest has experienced growing encroachment by neighboring human populations, which has led to illegal logging, deforestation, and intensive over-extraction of water resources, ultimately reducing the landscape, and greatly affecting clean water access for the community. These pressures are further exacerbated by climate change, which has served to increase pressure for land, forest, and water resources.

The KFT works directly with communities to conserve and restore the area, while advocating for pro-environment policies in government, providing education on sustainability, and encouraging ecotourism. The KFT also employs rangers to ensure that no illegal activity takes place on conserved land.

The ultimate goal is to restore 5,000 hectares of primary forests in Kijabe.

We will focus on enrichment planting  with 10,000 high value indigenous seedlings, including Juniperus procera, Olea europaea africana, Croton megalocarpus, Dombeya angustifolia, Dombeya rotundifolia, Sesbania sesban, Markhamia lutea, Warburgia ugandensis, and others, as well as expanding the Kijabe forest nursery in order to produce and monitor the viability of 20,000 seedlings for the year. Through thoughtful seedling management and good planting practices, we anticipate a 90% survival rate.

A quick overview of the forest is that it is a remnant example of the forest type that used to cover much of the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. It is a highland mosaic forest, known as Afro-alpine and was once dominated by trees such as East African pencil-cedar (Juniperus procera) and African olive (Olea europea africana and Olea capensis hochstetterii). The forest is only about 50km2 but almost 200,000 people depend on it for water, and many other ecosystem goods and services such as fuelwood, and grazing. This includes several institutions, three hospitals, and thousands of small scale farmers. It is also home to a variety of local wildlife, including wild dogs, leopard (a mother and two cubs were recently seen!), dik-dik, bush buck, monkeys, suni, forest hogs, and buffalo.

Here are a few shots of the local wildlife in the Kijabe forest. A suni (top), male bush buck, and leopard print track.

The forest used to represent a fairly contiguous extension of the more mesic forests of the Aberdares watershed and the Kikuyu Escarpment Forest Reserve, which forms the headwaters of Kenya’s largest river, the Tana. However, in more recent times, due to pressures for land, fuelwood, and grazing, the forest has become somewhat fragmented, and the Kijabe forest ’strip’ as it is sometimes called, has become almost entirely distinct from the larger Kikuyu Escarpment forest reserve. Illegal activities such as the extraction of high-value timber (cedar and olive) and the production of illegal charcoal have left many areas degraded, and in some areas completely deforested, even within the boundaries of the gazetted forest reserve.

The KFT was set up to help coordinate and catalyze responses to the loss of forests, including by actively patrolling and enforcing the forest laws, replanting trees and other vegetation, leading restoration efforts and education campaigns, and by fostering access to livelihood options such as seed collection. They also provide access to markets for products such as ecotourism, seeds for oil production, honey, and juniper berries. This creates opportunities for social benefit that preserves the forest. Payment for ecosystem services is another initiative in the works, as part of an exploration of ways that funds can be generated continuously in order to continue sustainable practices beyond reforestation.