UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Mount Kenya: Sustainable Forest Management
Meru Forest used the funding from the German Commission for UNESCO to rehabilitate the Upper Imenti Forest ecosystem through tree nurseries and reforestation. New beehives and stoves strengthen the sustainable livelihood of community members.
The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.
Mount Kenya, located on the equator about 180km north of Nairobi, is a lonely mountain of volcanic origin. A belt of humid Afromontane forest merges into a zone of tree-like heather at about 3.200 metres and further up to moorland and grassland. Mount Kenya is an important water reservoir for its foothills and the surrounding areas. Increasing conflicts over water resources influence the complex ecological and socio-economic dynamics of the highland-lowland system of Mount Kenya and the adjacent upper Euaso Ng'iro northern basin. Mount Kenya National Park was established in 1949 and declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1978. In 1997, Mount Kenya National Park and the adjacent forest reserves were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Restrictions due to the pandemic
The COVID-19 crisis, in conjunction with the Kenyan economic crisis, has increased deforestation rates in the Upper Imenti Forest, thus hampering international efforts to achieve emission targets. Smallholders are becoming increasingly dependent on forests and forest products for their own use, including medicinal plants and wildlife, leading to an over-harvesting of natural resources. With the outbreak of COVID-19, the search for wild plants and other plant-based medicines in forests will increase. The pandemic and the migration of population from urban to rural areas due to lack of employment is increasing the pressure on forest resources. Legal livelihoods are being lost, while illegal charcoal production, encroachments, and other unplanned activities are increasing. Local fears of the virus spreading to villagers and wildlife are also growing.
Remedy through reforestation and improved forest management
The project, funded by the German Commission for UNESCO, supported the communities around the Upper Imenti Forest in making the management of the forest ecosystem more sustainable. First, the NGO Meru Forest identified, digitized and mapped the particularly degraded parts of the forest on an area of 20 hectares. It then reforested these areas with 20.000 native tree seedlings. A tree nursery for additional seedlings was established. The progress and success of the rehabilitation programme was monitored by local foresters, who conducted over 720 patrols throughout the project.
In order to improve the livelihoods of the local population, Meru Forest also provided 25 beehives and 30 energy-saving stoves in the communities. The latter are also expected to reduce timber extraction from the forests. Training of 30 community members in forest management as well as COVID-19 hygiene measures also promotes a more sustainable use of the forest.
Equipping the biosphere reserve management with digital infrastructure such as WLAN or computer equipment also helped to strengthen a more independent and sustainable organizational structure while also opening up new opportunities for active stakeholder participation.
On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the COVID-19-Pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.
- Site: Mount Kenia
- Country: Kenia
- Type of Site: UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage (natural heritage)
- Year of inscription Biosphere Reserve: 1978
- Year of inscription World Natural Heritage: 1997