In October 2022, KCWCG Board Chair Dr Beatrice Khamati Njenga and CEO Maurice Wanjala travelled to Nairobi for the formal handover of the management of a forest block near the organisation’s headquarters in Kitale, western Kenya. We look here at how the Adopt a Forest Scheme has been developed by the Kenyan government and why this is such an important step for KCWCG’s strategy to developing agroforesty to benefit people, wildlife and the environment.
What Is The Adopt a Forest Programme?
Kenya Vision 2030 is Kenya’s national strategy for the country to become a newly industrializing, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a clean and secure environment.
In this, the environmental sector is a priority social pillar, with a strong emphasis on the need to conserve natural resources to support economic growth.
Within this national strategy, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has developed the Adopt a Forest programme for community-led conservation groups to expand national tree cover and to conserve ecosystems that are central to the economic growth of the country.
The goal is to plant and grow 20 Million indigenous trees on 25,000 acres of public forests that are up for adoption aiming for 10 percent national tree coverage in the next five years.
Reviving Indigenous Ecosytems with Native Planting
In wetland areas, like the Saiwa National Park where KCWCG is based, native forest cover has been replaced in many locations by fast-growing non-native trees. Often this has bene driven by good intentions – to plant more trees – but as a result many essential wetland ecosystems are drying up endangering wildlife, such as the iconic aquatic antelope, the sitatunga.
Kenya is recognized as a country already suffering from extreme water scarcity and this year’s droughts have brought home the interconnections between trees, wetlands and the impacts on people and wildlife.
The Adopt-a-Forest scheme recognizes this with its focus on indigenous trees providing wetland cover as a key response to climate change – AND the need to provide communities bordering the forests and wetlands with meaningful work.
How to achieve the balance between ecosystems and livelihoods?
KCWCG has pioneered the production and planting of indigenous trees at scale since 1991, providing employment and opportunities for the local communities in the National Park. This has made them a nature choice to take over the management of a forest block in Kitale.
“Poverty is the main driver of some of the illegalities, people are driven by poverty and there is a need to broaden their livelihoods to reduce dependency on forest resources, if not checked, the continued reliance on forest resources could threaten strides made so far.”KFS Chief Conservator Julius Kamau.
The KFS now works with over 104 partners – and KCWCG is now one of these.
The KFS recognizes that forests – even without environmental services – contribute 3.6% to the country’s GDP. By entrusting organisations like KCWCG with their management, they can go further to conserve precious water supplies, be sites for sustainable agriculture, and responsible tourism as well as making vital contributions to clean air through carbon sequestration.
What next for KCWG’s Adopted Forest?
Building on the success of our partnership with Ecosia (LINK to related blog), KCWCG will now take on one – and potentially up to 4 – blocks. This will enable us to take annual production of trees to over 1 million then grow rapidly to at least 6 million, and to create seed banks supplying other organisations with indigenous trees and the knowledge of how to nurture them.
This will be a major contribution to campaigns such as the Green Belt Movement.
A particular challenge is the reliance on charcoal burning for energy and also the use of word to fire bricks for building. KCWCG is working with partners to bring solar cookers and sustainable building techniques to limit this demand and ensure that the indigenous trees planted can become established.
CEO and Disney World Conservation Hero Maurice Wanjala welcomes the opportunity to take his vision of halting wetlands degradation through indigenous tree planting for the benefit of community.
“We will be able to protect the water catchment area from further degradation and support the sustainable livelihoods of thousands of communities. Native trees – which we will now be able to seed and grow at scale – will promote rain fall, the rivers will fill, the community and wildlife will gain from fresh water, and we will create more jobs through our new social enterprise focusing on agroforestry.”
The adopted forest block will kickstart this vision – and create a blueprint for forests for water and life across Kenya and globally.