Kenya, September 17, 2012 - During the past week, the GEF CEO Dr. Naoko Ishii, was in Kenya for a day and a half - on her way to Tanzania to attend the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).
During her stay Dr. Ishii visited the "Awareness campaign and capacity building for community participation in conservation and sustainable use of the Kikuyu Escarpment Forests" project".
The Kikuyu Escarpment Forest is an important bird area and home to a variety of animal and plants that have been threaten by years of illegal activities such as timber harvesting, commercial fuel wood harvesting, charcoaling (especially Kinale forest block), encroachment, destruction of catchment sites, overgrazing and poor resource management. Due to high poverty levels and the lack of opportunities to involve the local community in the participatory management of the forest, have put additional pressure on the ecosystem.
For this reason, the Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO – a group established for and by the youth), with the support of the GEF Small Grants Programme, embarked on a project aimed to conserve the Kikuyu Escarpment forest by empowering the Peri-communities in using a Participatory Forest Management approach.
Other project objectives include raising community awareness on key environmental issues through participatory programmes around the Kikuyu Escarpment Forest; facilitating information sharing among local communities and groups that are engaged in forest conservation; developing and strengthening a school, youth and women environmental programme within the Kikuyu Escarpment landscape; and promoting ecotourism and bee keeping as alternative sources of income for the peri-forest communities to reduce the pressure on the ecosystem.
The main results of the project are the following:
- Over 20,000 trees planted to rehabilitate degraded areas;
- Conducted an institutional survey to assess existing and active community conservation groups around Kinale Forest to develop a community action plan to protect and conserve the forest; and created monitoring and policing activities around Kinale Forest to curb illegal activities.
- Held 10 community workshops to carry out an intensive awareness campaign on the importance of the Forests and ways to conserve it. Reached over 2000 people directly
- Supported the Community Forest Association at Kereita forest to finalize a Forest Management Plan and to develop a Forest Management Agreement, both of which have been signed and launched.
- Established an environmental network of religious leaders in the district. Religious leaders have great influence in rural areas.
- Supported environmental activities in schools through the environmental clubs. Matathia Primary School is a model school with several environmental activities. It has won several awards, the most recent being the winner of the schools category of the Prestigious Green Award in July 2012.
- Construction of a six-person cottage. The cottage is part of the Osutua camp (osutua means peace/friendship in Kimaasai) that plays a critical role of promoting peace among two ethnic groups, the Maasai and the Kikuyu, who in the past have had conflicts over natural resources. The camp brings the upstream and downstream communities to dialogue not only about camp management, but the wider issues affecting both communities. It's run by a board of directors comprised of members of both communities, and benefits are shared equally.
KENVO has received several awards for their outstanding work in the conservation of the important Aberdares water tower. Among those received are the Equator Initiative finalist in 2009. In addition, Ms. Leah Mwangi, a Programme officer at KENVO was nominated the UN Person of the Year Runner-up in 2011.