Restoring the Jewel of Kakamega: Mission to UNDP Kenya FLARAK’s Fencing project in Kakamega Forest.
UNDP Kenya has been actively involved in forest ecosystem restoration activities by taking initiatives towards sustainable tree growing and ecosystem restoration. Through the Forestry and Land Restoration Action for Kenya’s NDC (FLaRAK) Project, funded by the Government of Japan, UNDP has been instrumental in implementing measures to combat biodiversity loss, illegal logging, and climate action.
During the recent United Nations Communications Director’s retreat in Kenya, we engaged our Director of Communications, Ms. Anjali Kwatra alongside UNDP Kenya Deputy Resident Representative Ms. Mandisa Mashologu and FLARAK Project Lead Ms. Yvonne Nyokabi for a mission to the ‘Jewel of Kakamega’ to witness firsthand the efforts made in line with ecosystem restoration. Through this immersive mission, the UNDP representatives would gain valuable insights into the challenges faced by the region, see the commendable efforts being undertaken to overcome them and recognize the vital role played by local communities actively participating in forest restoration activities.
Together, Anjali, Mandisa, Yvonne and I travelled to Kenya’s only tropical rainforest, the last remnant of the Guineo-Congolian rainforest that once spanned the entire African continent, where towering, buttressed trees, tangled vines, and a tapestry of vibrant flowers paint a picture of natural paradise.
Nestled in the western region of Kenya, Kakamega Forest, is indeed a remarkable oasis, hosting hundreds of species facing extinction in the next 25 years due to logging and agricultural expansion. This blog delves into re-afforestation efforts at scale, involving local communities in the conservation of this unique ecosystem.
Unveiling the Forest’s Wonders:
Our mission began with a warm welcome from Governor Fernandes Barasa at the Kakamega County offices, setting the tone for the exciting day ahead. The lush Kakamega Forest also known as ‘the jewel of Kakamega’ covers an expansive area and as we stepped into its embrace, we were greeted by a knowledgeable guide who led us on an enchanting walk through this magnificent ecosystem.
Protecting the Forest’s Heritage
One of the highlights of our visit was witnessing the ongoing forest fencing project, which serves as a vital protective barrier for the forest’s invaluable resources. The Kakamega Forest Fencing project plaque, served as a testament to the significant tree planting activities held at the KFS camp on Friday, February 24, 2023. This auspicious occasion recognized efforts made in the electric fencing of Kakamega Forest, a crucial step towards reforestation and rehabilitation efforts. The project aims to restore up to 220 hectares of land and establish indigenous tree nurseries to promote a culture of tree growing within our communities. Once completed, the electric fence, will serve as a safeguard, securing the forest and restoring it to its glory.
Diverse Flora and Fauna
The forest revealed its secrets as we encountered a mesmerizing array of indigenous trees, animals, and butterflies. The sight of rare and threatened species some of which were over 100 years, like the Elgon teak and Prunus Africana, left us in awe of the forest’s significance.
Did you know that Kakamega Forest is home to five out of the eight primate species found in Kenya?
It’s a haven for biodiversity, with 385 plant species found nowhere else and as an Important Bird Area, it shelters 16 bird species unique to Kenya.
Despite its ecological significance, Kakamega Forest faces numerous anthropogenic pressures that threaten its existence and ecosystem vitality. Unsustainable extraction practices, illegal logging, and encroachment pose significant challenges. With the collaborative efforts from UNDP, the local community, and government agencies, there is hope for the preservation and sustainable management of this precious natural resource.
Restoration Initiatives and Impact
The Forestry and Land Restoration Action for Kenya’s Nationally Determined Contribution (FLaRAK) project, funded by the Government of Japan and implemented by UNDP, has been instrumental in combating biodiversity loss, illegal logging, and climate change. Notable achievements include the fencing of 15 kilometres of Kakamega Forest, reforestation efforts covering 350 hectares of degraded land, and the establishment of tree nurseries in 20 learning institutions. These initiatives demonstrate the dedication of UNDP and its partners to restore and sustainably manage this precious natural resource.
Community Projects Driving Change
Our journey extended beyond the forest as we explored impactful community projects dedicated to environmental conservation and livelihood improvement. One such project that captured our attention was the Muliru Farmers Conservation Group, which promotes the cultivation and processing of indigenous medicinal plants like Ocimum kilimandscharicum. Their work showcases the positive impact communities can have on protecting the Kakamega Forest.
Preserving Nature’s Balance
Throughout our visit, we had the privilege of meeting the Muileshi Community Forest Association, a remarkable group working closely with the Kenya Forest Service and the local community to safeguard the forest from degradation. Their dedication and collaboration are essential in preserving the delicate balance of nature in Kakamega Forest.
Our journey through the Jewel of Kakamega left us with a renewed sense of purpose and an appreciation for the extraordinary efforts in ecosystem restoration and biodiversity conservation. UNDP FLARAK’s endeavors in Kakamega County exemplify the dedication and commitment towards forest ecosystem restoration and biodiversity conservation. The joint mission to Kakamega Forest showcased the unwavering commitment of UNDP and its partners in promoting ecosystem restoration and biodiversity conservation.
Together, let’s preserve our planet’s biodiversity and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.
About the author.
Sheila Kimani is UNDP Kenya’s Communications Associate. With a passion for impactful storytelling, strategic communication strategies, multimedia content creation and engaging social media management. Her commitment to sustainable development and effective communication amplifies UNDP’s initiatives and drives positive change.