Status, values and management of indigenous plants of upper Imenti forest reserve, Meru district Kenya
Mworia, Anne Gakii
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Communities living around Tropical Rain Forest are have been referred to as bio-mass communities' due to their dependence on nature for most of their material as well as spiritual needs. Indeed, the same communities have been reported to have high population densities in the world. This, plus ineffective government policies, have resulted into serious land degration and plant destruction. Due to this, many world governments, NGO's and researchers have raised concern on the sustainable utilization of indigenous plants. It is against this background that this study was undertaken to try and establish the current status, values and management of indigenous plants of upper Imenti forest reserve, Meru District, Kenya. Stratified random sampling was used in selecting the fourty small-scale indigenous plant users for interview. Structured interviews, questionnaire and case studies, direct observation and workshops were used to collect data. Data was analysed using lotus 123 and SPSS and presented in frequencies, percentages and graphs. The study revealed that the community living around the forest reserve harvest materials for economic, social and cultural values. As a result, there has been a considerable reduction in the cover status of indigenous plants. The results also indicate existing poor management of indigenous plants, mainly due to failure in the enforcement of the already set down regulations on management. The indigenous plants within the upper Imenti Forest Reserve have been highly degraded due to over-use and mis-management. It is unlikely that efforts at the national or local level can save the forest as the pressures behind it's accelerated reduction intensifies unless timely grass roots action of fully involved community can help preserve the indigenous forest for future generations while providing a model for community based forest conservation in other areas of Kenya. The study recommends for a well co-ordinated multi-use management strategy involving the participation of all stakeholders such as the community, government, Meru Municipal Council, Non- Governmental Organization, private sector and the Kenya Wildlife Services. There is also need to harmonise the different management strategies so as to avoid, conflicts and duplication of duties. Results of this study will be used by the community, policy makers, development agencies, conservationists, ethnobotanists and anthropologies in effective harvesting, use and management of indigenous plants. It will enhance knowledge on the use of indigenous plants by providing a baseline data for pharmaceutical biodiversity.