In this arid region in northern Kenya, it is even said that elephants make sure they leave the forest during the rainy season to allow it to regenerate. However, the dependence of local communities on firewood, grazing land for cattle and water has led to a serious degradation of the ecosystem. The tree regeneration cycle, which is disrupted by urbanization, sedentary agriculture and climate change, has led to the loss of 1.6 hectares of vegetation a year. The primary forest, which attracts the mist in the air every morning to supply its water reserves, is consequently gradually disappearing.
To protect this valuable resource, since 2012, AFD has been financing an integrated project to improve the management of the forest’s ecosystem led by Kenya Wildlife Service, in consultation with local communities. This project involves, for example, proposing alternative water access points for residents and their livestock, outside the forest. The same goes for wild animals and nomad pastoral societies along the migration corridors, which are essential to the survival of the ecosystem. Once the forest has been relieved of this pressure, it will be able to regenerate and continue to fulfil its function as the region’s water tower.
Wild animals are a crucial part of the forest ecosystem. When water resources are scarce, elephants, but also hyenas, can invade farms looking for water points. The project has identified these points of tension with communities living around the forest. 7.2 km of an electric fence designed to keep elephants away have been rehabilitated and 10 km built, making a total of 42 km.
However, if animals do not migrate, it means that the forest will be overexploited and die. It was consequently necessary to respect the migration corridors followed by wildlife every year and not obstruct them. To help the animals, sand dams are placed along these migration corridors, towards other areas where animals live. This system retains water at the bottom of riverbeds, which tends to flow away too quickly as drought has made the soil so hard. Nomad populations from the surrounding desert also use these points to water their livestock.
100 tanks have been distributed around the forest, some of which are combined with the construction of a gutter system to harvest rainwater. The objective: allow residents who have permanently settled to develop their own nurseries and plant their trees outside the forest, so that they are no longer dependent on it. A total of 200 tanks with a capacity of 5,000 liters will be installed and 4 community nurseries have already been created, producing 29,000 seedlings.
Women from the Borana Kubi Dibayu community have created a group to preserve their traditional culture. Here, houses, furniture, ornaments, everything comes from wood. They have been involved in the project and have received one of the tanks distributed to grow their own trees. In their culture, it is essential to preserve the forest… But the project also provides an opportunity which they intend to seize by contributing to running the cultural museum, another project component which is currently under construction and will be managed by Kenya Wildlife Service.
Working with the communities for a sustainable result
The project also comprises the distribution of 3,000 jikos with low wood consumption. These traditional cookers are widely used in households and reduce pressure on the wood needs of communities.
500 latest-generation hives have also been distributed and 500 others will be distributed, as the residents, who have always been honey consumers, are seeking to develop production to market it. These hives replace the traditional use of dead wood, which involved a rudimentary harvest and the destruction of the hives after the harvest. Honey production is well on its way and communities, aware of the fact that honey depends on the forest, are all the more keen to help conserve it.
Finally, Kenya Wildlife Service is working with the Water Resource Users Association, a multi-community association involved in the implementation of a comprehensive basin management plan and the collection of data useful for maintaining the local ecosystem.