By Maina Waruru, BRACED
NAROK, Kenya – When raising his children on the edge of the Maasai Mau forest in the highlights west of the Rift Valley, Wilson Memusi and his family never lacked food. There was plenty of honey, small mammals, birds and edible roots.
Now, however, 25 years later, overgrazing, logging and clearing of the forest for farming and charcoal has eliminated some of the forest and left much of the rest of it damaged. And as the forest declines, rainfall is becoming more erratic, causing water supplies to dry up.
“Everything nowadays has changed and what we have is lots of problems – and people are very poor,” Memusi, 69.
But efforts to restore the forest and the lives of people living near it are underway. They include working with people to alter their ways of earning money, help them practice more sustainable use of the forest and cope with emerging challenges from climate change.
The project – the Sogoo Community Forest and Nature Association (SOCOFONA) – was launched by the Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG) and focuses on climate change adaptation and building resilience to the effects of climate change, reduced rainfall and more frequent droughts.
|Ogiek elder Elijah Memusi stands outside his hut. Photo:KFWG|
Its goals include restoring sections of the forest – though land titles issued on some parcels mean there is no real hope the forest can be entirely restored, experts say – and helping people find new sustainable ways to earn a living from activities such as bee keeping, fish farming and making clay pots.
Source of water
The 46,000-hectare (113,000-acre) Maasai Mau forest is part of the larger Mau forest reserve. It is East Africa’s largest water source – home to the origins of 12 rivers, including the Mara River, which sustains millions of wildlife species in the world famous Mara-Serengeti ecosystem which includes Kenya and Tanzania, according to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund).
Since 1985, about 35 percent of the Maasai Mau forest has been lost to logging and conversion to farmland, human settlements and tea estates, according to Kenya Forestry Sevices (KFS).
“Things started changing when people started farming in the forest, felling trees. … Animals fled and now there’s no more honey, springs no longer appear even when rains are heavy, and land is no longer productive” said Memusi, who was among the first people to support and join the SOCOFONA forest conservation and resilience project.
That is now beginning to change as a result of the project, which is trying to teach a range of new money-making activities to people living near the forest.
“We have successfully taught women and youth new skills including modern beekeeping, ceramic making, and fish farming,” said John Bambo, coordinator of the Kenya Forests Working Group.
Read the full story at Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED).