Community-based interventions for sustainable management of the Mount Kenya ecosystem: A case study of Hombe forest area, Nyeri District, Kenya
Barake, Lukas Moenga
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Apart from being an important wildlife conservation area in the country, the Mt. Kenya ecosystem is one of Kenya's leading water catchment areas with millions of people depending on it for their livelihood. Despite all these, the sustainability of this crucial ecosystem is currently faced with serious threats ranging from enchroachment for human settlement and agriculture to illegal activities like logging, bhang growing, grazing, charcoal burning and removal of forest produce. This study, therefore, sought to establish the prevailing forest resource and management patterns within the Mt. Kenya ecosystem, their underlying factors and implications to the sustainanble conservation and managemnt of the Mt. Kenya National Reserve. This forms a basis for developing realistic and workable interventions for sustaining management of the area. The study was undertaken within Hombe Forest area, Nyeri District. It specifically targeted the communities living adjacent to the forest comprising of four sub-locations in Ruguru-Location and part of Ngorano Location. In total 150 respondents were selected for household interviews using systematic random sampling. Purposive sampling was also employed while conducting institutional surveys. Data were generated through field interviews that were conducted using both structured and semi-structured questionnaires, focus group discussions, information market surveys and field observations. These data were then analyzed using the statistical packages for social sciences (SPSS) and Microsoft excel for data analysis. It emerged from the study that dependency levels on the forest are high with over 62% of the forest adjacent communities relying on the forest for grazing, 49% for firewood collection, 58% on food production through non resident forest cultivation and 17% on water abstraction both for small-scale irrigation and domestic use. It was evident from the study also that demand for wood products from the forest especially timber and firewood from indigenous trees is very high due to the perceived high quality of indigenous tree products. This was manifested further during informal market survey, which revealed very high prices for timber from indigenous trees as opposed to exotic tree species, many of which are soft woods. On-farm availability of trees, unfortunately, is not sufficient to meet the multiple tree requirements for the households. It emerged, for instance, that over 70% of households cannot meet all their firewood requirements from their own farms and are hence forced to obtain these needs from either the adjacent forest or buy them locally. Contrary to the commonly held view of communities as destroyers of forest resources, it was evident from the study that the forest adjacent communities has played a very significant role in the conservation of Hombe forest especially through their in put in the reafforestation efforts. This in essence clearly indicates that there is a lot of potential to transform forest adjacent communities into projectors and partners in the conservation and management of the existing forest resources. It is, therefore, recommended that more effort be made to reduce the gap between the community and administrators/managers of the reserve with increased attempts to improve collaborations among various stakeholders in the conservation and management of the Mt. Kenya National Reserve. There is also an urgent need to develop mechanisms for benefit-sharing with the local communities as an incentive for the conservation of forest resources. More effort needs also to be put in place to enhance self sufficiency in terms of wood and non-wood forest products for the forest adjacent communities through on-farm tree planting thereby reducing dependency on the forest in the long term.