Environment Conservation

STRETCHING A CANOPY OVER NGARE NDARE

Battling desertification at the foot of Mt Kenya

For many years, Ngare Ndare Forest was the ideal destination for livestock – especially goats – because they could feed under the cool shade of the forest cover and quench their thirst in the azure pools of fresh spring water.

As a result, the itinerant pastoralists gave it the Maasai name Ngare Ndare which in the local language means “water for the goats”. But due to heavy, uncontrolled grazing and tree felling, the forest cover started diminishing, and the grounds that were the romping grounds for wild animals started showing signs of desertification. It was time for drastic action. Safaricom Foundation stepped in to fill in the gap.

“In a bid to restore the ecosystem, we started an initiative dubbed 1-for-1 in the area; if you bought seedlings, the Foundation provided an equal number of seedlings,” said Joseph Kinyua, Ngare Ndare’s Forest Trust Manager.

The result was a return of the ecosystem of the lush indigenous trees. This 5,300 hectare indigenous forest reserve is located on the northern foot of Mt Kenya and encompasses indigenous trees (some up to 200 years old) and a rich variety of bird species and animals including the “Big Five”. The forest boasts of a 450-metre canopy walk, the first and longest in East and Central Africa. It is also the only forest in Kenya with an expanding canopy.

The glistening azure pools of spring water attracts a horde of tourists while the fresh water flows in through underground channels from Mt Kenya. This forest is also unique for accommodating the colubus monkeys, an endangered species as a result of uncontrolled habitat destruction.

Ngare Ndare Forest Trust is fully committed to restoring and protecting the forest.

“Through the planting of these trees, they benefit the communities through provision of wood for fuel, building houses, fencing among other uses.”

“There are six main Community Based Organisations (CBOs) in Ngare Ndare Forest Trust – Ngare Ndare, Ethi, Subuiga, Kisima, Manyangalo and Mbuju.” Kinyua explains.

“In every community, there are two to four tree nurseries. Through planting of these trees, the communities in return benefit from the availability of wood for fuel, building and fencing materials among other benefits,” he says, adding that the community initiatives have seen more than one million trees planted.

Safaricom Foundation also funds the community’s equipment purchases necessary for the development of the nurseries.

A resident as well as the secretary of the Mbuju Community, Elizabeth Wambui, attests to the significant increase of the forest cover as a result of the initiative. She manages one of the active tree nurseries called Kauronthe located south of Ngare Ndare forest. The 46-year-old mother of two is a beneficiary of this initiative with a passion for the wellbeing of the environment.

“Before Safaricom Foundation came on board, we were unable to develop these nurseries. This area resembled a desert with barely any trees. We used to buy seedlings in Meru or Nanyuki town which was very costly for us at the time in a bid to save the situation. Additionally, the transportation cost was financially draining us as a community,” says Wambui.

“Thanks to Safaricom Foundation, we are now able to purchase seedlings at a subsidised rate and plant them around this area. We have managed to provide trees to institutions such as Mbuju Primary, Ndurumuru Primary, the African Independent Pentecostal Church and the local Catholic Church. Having seen the benefits of this initiative, the local people living within the area have also began planting trees in their backyards” she adds.

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