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3.PART IB: Baseline Course of Action

3.1Threats to Kenya Biodiversity, especially Montane Forests

3.1.1Threats to Kenya’s Biodiversity

  1. The Government of Kenya National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan identifies the following key challenges to successful biodiversity conservation in the country:

  • Adverse impacts of poverty and the rapidly increasing population has led to encroachment into wild habitats;

  • Habitat conversion due to indiscriminate felling of trees for wood products and energy needs and drainage of wetlands for agriculture;

  • Insecurity in some parts of the country which are rich in biodiversity; and

  • Lack of integration of gender concerns in planning and management of biodiversity resources.

  1. In the past two decades, Kenya’s forests have experienced severe destruction as a result 0f several factors which have in turn affected the hydrological cycles in the water towers and resulted in water shortages across the country. The National Environment Action Plan (NEAP) (1994) describes the challenges facing forest management, summarised as follows:53

  • An average of 5000 ha of forest reserve land is being lost annually through excision,

  • Forest degradation through overexploitation has led to a 40-60% loss of standing wood volume from forest in the last 30 years,

  • Overexploitation and illegal cutting of indigenous forests is a matter of great concern,

  • Over 80% of all households in the rural areas use wood for fuel for their domestic needs, and

  • Many forest areas have been cleared for cultivation and animal husbandry, human settlement and infrastructure development.

  1. Similarly, the draft Environmental Policy (2008) identifies the following key issues affecting the management of protected areas: loss of forest cover; loss of habitat and biodiversity; excisions; Illegal logging and charcoal burning; forest fires; encroachment into forest areas; Overgrazing in forest land; landslides; Catchment degradation and unsustainable commercial forestry.

  2. It is clear that Kenya’s biodiversity faces significant threats. Much of its significant biodiversity lies outside existing protected areas and has minimal formal protection, while the opportunities to create new state-owned and managed protected areas on land which is already being occupied and used are minimal.

  3. The main threats to biodiversity are well documented and were confirmed during the PPG preparatory phase through national and site-based consultative processes. They include: alteration of habitat and unsustainable wild harvesting of natural resources; rapid clearance of small habitat patches of high biodiversity value; conversion of land to agriculture; fragmentation of habitats; unsustainable utilization of timber from forests; and burning and draining of wetlands. Secondary threats include mineral exploration and mining and visitor impacts in fragile ecosystems.

  4. These threats stem from a combination of many factors, including an inadequate and disharmonized legislative framework, absence/inadequacy of management plans and bio-regional scale conservation strategies, uncoordinated land development planning and a financial and human resource deficit for effective mitigation activities on the part of different parties including central and local governments and communities.

3.1.2Threats to the Cherangani Hills Landscape

  1. The Cherangani hills forest is threatened by several anthropogenic pressures as a result of rapid population growth and the increasing incidence of poverty, which has triggered encroachment into the forests for settlements, farming, timber, charcoal, firewood and grazing. The area has witnessed conflicts between downstream and upstream communities over the dwindling water resources because of watershed degradation by upstream communities. The forest has also faced serious challenges with encroachment. In addition, a declining natural resource base especially pastures and water has seen pastoralist communities venture into crop farming to diversify their livelihoods. As a result the fertile but steep forest land has suffered serious degradation.

  2. Forest encroachment and occasional fires are a threat to the Cherangani Hills. Grazing is a major concern. Cattle are routinely left to roam in the forest during the dry season, causing considerable damage. As the population outside the forest increases, the availability of good pasture land is decreasing. Pressures on the forests are increasing. Currently the small-scale farmers graze their cattle in pasture land outside the forest, and the large herds in the forests apparently belong to wealthy individuals who are influential locally.54 Embotut Forest has a long-standing squatter problem, with around 5,000 people living within the forest boundaries.55

  3. It was established during the PPG participatory process that forest management is affected by changing lifestyles among local communities, notably adoption of crop farming by pastoral communities. Against high incidences of livestock loss because of persistent drought and cattle rustling, pastoralists have turned to crop farming including farming in the forests. Forests have similarly suffered from serious overgrazing because of increasing livestock numbers. Livestock grazing in the forests has intensified due to loss of pasture because of increased recurrence of drought and increased population.

3.1.3Threats to the Kakamega Forest landscape

  1. The Kakamega forest is threatened by rapid population growth, high incidence of poverty and dwindling land sizes in the face of weak enforcement of existing legislation. As a result, encroachment of forests for timber, charcoal, firewood and grazing persist. Local people are estimated to derive products worth KES 100 million (approximately USD 1.7 million) from the forest each year.56

  2. Agricultural encroachment has led to large-scale degradation in recent years, and illegal tree-felling and charcoal burning are considerable threats57. Forest and glade grazing of livestock, allowed by Presidential decree in 1994, prevents tree regeneration and causes policing problems. Hunting for bush-meat, debarking of certain trees for traditional medicine, and firewood collection are also serious problems.

  3. Continuing forest fragmentation and destruction in Kakamega threatens the status of avifauna. Some forest species, such as Yellow-mantled Weaver, have not been recorded for many years. A number of montane forest birds that formerly occurred in the area, such as Hartlaub’s Turaco and Fine-banded Woodpecker, appear to have disappeared since the severing of forest connections with the nearby, higher altitude, North Nandi Forest.58

3.1.4Threats to the North and South Nandi Landscape

  1. North Nandi forest is threatened by anthropogenic pressures driven by rapid population growth, increasing incidence of poverty and dwindling farmlands. These anthropogenic pressures have led to encroachment and alienation of forest land for settlements, farming, timber, charcoal, firewood and grazing. Population increase has resulted in people encroaching on river banks and on wetlands causing soil erosion, siltation and river pollution. In some places landslides have been reported. These activities have endangered the wetland wildlife such as the Sitatunga, Crowned Crane among others which have been subjected to poaching.

  2. South Nandi forest faces a number of conservation challenges. In addition to weak enforcement of existing policies and legislation, the forest is under anthropogenic pressures emanating from the surrounding settlements. The forest is situated within an agriculturally rich area characterised by fertile soil and high rainfall. These factors have exposed the forest to increasing threat of alienation and encroachment for settlements, farming, grazing, timber, charcoal and firewood. Increasing demand for forestry resources has exposed the forests to unsustainable exploitation.

  3. South Nandi has been heavily logged in the past, which has severely affected the vegetation structure – some parts have reverted to a thicket formation. Many of the other problems faced by Nandi South are common to indigenous forests all over Kenya (Waiyaki 1998).59 Tree-poaching and platform sawing are rampant in the Kaimosi area, and near other major settlements. Forest antelope are hunted heavily in the eastern sector where the surrounding human population is lowest; the lack of hunting elsewhere may reflect a lack of wildlife to hunt.

  4. Birds are also trapped seasonally, particularly Harlequin Quail in the grasslands. Honey gathering, seemingly a sustainable activity, also constitutes a conservation threat. Honey collectors here frequently fell an entire tree in order to reach one bee nest. These trees are often large and old, with natural cavities that provide essential nesting sites for a large array of hole-nesting forest birds. Livestock grazing inside the forest occurs, and some areas cleared for the development of tea plantations but not planted with tea are heavily grazed, preventing forest regeneration.
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