Climate Change Mitigation through Participatory Forest Management
Rumuruti Forest Reserve in Laikipia county along Kenya’s Rift Valley is one of the country’s important water catchment areas. The 15,378 acres of indigenous high altitude forest is also home of at least 250 elephants, antelopes, Columbus monkeys, buffalos, several bird species and the primary source of livelihood of over 5,000 households. The forest however faces the constant danger of encroachment, deforestation and poaching of wildlife. Residents in the area, therefore, began a deliberate effort to protect the forest in 1994 and established Rumuruti Forest Association.
Through the initiatives of the group, the Kenya Forest Service and members of the Association signed a forest management agreement to enable them conserve the forest and co-manage its resources. Most of the communities rely on the forest for herbs, water and wood and wanted to ensure that they do not deplete the resources, The group began undertaking other activities such as bee keeping, production of green charcoal through renewable plant waste and eco-tourism that would add value to them, be sustainable without depleting the forest.
Following successful implementation of the projects, the Small Grants Program (SGP) under UNDP Kenya’s Energy, Environment and climate change unit that is funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF) Awarded the Rumuruti Forest Association US$ 38,060 to enhance their project and promote their conservation initiatives.
Through the green charcoal production, residents stopped cutting down trees for firewood and instead turned to renewable plant waste and farm biomass to form briquettes which are used as fuel just like wood charcoal. The association distributed at least 36 complete set of the charcoal burning kilns in the six sub-locations around Rumuruti forest, community members fetching fuel wood were trained on the use of the kilns and started turning farm biomass into charcoal. This initiative contributes to conservation of Rumuruti forest through reduction of illegal charcoal burning and also cut the budget used by households and schools on energy (charcoal) therefore providing a source of clean energy that forms part of the natural carbon cycle.
With better equipment and expertise, the members of the association were also able to benefit from bee keeping and honey production. The honey processing using centrifuge machine has enabled them increase their honey output and increase household income for families undertaking beekeeping activities. The honey production initiative also promotes tree planting and increases women participation in environment conservation efforts whereby the seedlings from the nurseries are sold to local communities and the Kenya Forest service and other stakeholders to help restore the Forest Ecosystem and enhance social-economic empowerment. These residents were also trained in Record Keeping, resource mobilization and marketing to help them cultivate entrepreneurial skill thus acting as income generation activities.
Promotion of ecotourism in Rumuruti forest for community has considerably increased their income sources and inculcated behavior change on forest and wildlife conservation. The establishment got approval and a license to develop the camp site in the forest. They also developed an agreement plan with terms and conditions for development and operation of the tourism enterprise in the forest. The projects serve residents adjacent to Rumuruti forest directly and indirectly, directly through creation of employments in the tourism enterprise- as guides, scouts, other supportive staffs and curio sellers since the enterprise is situated along the corridor between the Northern and the Southern tourism destinations in Kenya there will be hundreds of tourists every month.
Through the generation of profits from Ecotourism, Green Charcoal Production, Bee Keeping and the tree nursery enterprise the Association will have a steady source of income of at least Kshs. 200,000 (US $ 2,500) per year; the income will be used to expand the program to many household around the forest. The project is sustained through regular monitoring and repair of degraded facilities to ensure that all the equipment and facilities are in good condition. The association is also expand its network of supporters for technical support from service providers on behalf of the group to ensure that the project is successful in the long term. With this, they are able to contribute to climate change initiatives, conserve biodiversity, and provide sustainable livelihoods. The projects also promote active participation of women in environmental conservation towards their social-economic development