By the UN Environment
Once upon a time, there was a tropical forest that stretched all the way from Somalia to Mozambique. Today, there isn’t much left. In Kenya, all that’s left of the forest is 42,000 hectares on the coast called the Arabuko Sokoke Forest.
“Arabuko Sokoke has a very rich biodiversity with more than 600 different tree species, 250 bird species such as Clarke’s weaver, 230 species of mammals and different insects species, including more than 230 different butterflies,” says Elvis Katana Fondo, assistant ecosystem conservator for the Kenya Forest Service in Kilifi. “In addition to a rich terrestrial ecosystem, it also boasts a unique marine ecosystem, with more than 8,000 hectares of mangroves. That is part of what makes this forest so special and why it is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage site.”
In order to preserve this unique forest, the Kenya Forest Service decided to work with local communities in line with the 2005 Forest Act which states that communities whose livelihood depends on the forest around them should be included in all decisions about the forest. The UN-REDD Programme, through the United Nations Development Programme, introduced rules for free, prior and informed consent that lay out a series of guidelines on how to make this happen.
In practice, this means that people living up to 5 kilometres from the forest have to organize themselves into Community Forest Associations, allowing the Kenya Forest Service to work with them and give them rights to collect firewood, water and herbal medicines within 1 kilometre of the forest periphery. This forest was one of the first places in Kenya where participatory forest management was piloted.
Charo Ngumbao, chairman for one of three Community Forest Associations in Arabuko, has 1500 members, of whom 85 per cent are women. “Examples of the various user groups that we have in my group are people working on eco-tourism such as bird watching. Other groups are involved with beekeeping, tree planting and tree nurseries; others act as community scouts to assist the forest guides and last but not least, there is a group of women involved in butterfly farming.” Read more…