Archive 1999

Thursday, March 11, 1999

Mau forest hit by degradation

By NATION Correspondent

Mau Forest in Nakuru District is faced with serious environmental degradation problems, a report presented at a natural resources management workshop says.

The document, prepared by Forest Action Network (FAN), a local non-governmental organisation, cites increased agricultural activities as the main cause of degradation in the country's largest indigenous forest block.

The document arises from surveys carried out over the last two years in east and south-west Mau Forest by teams from FAN, East African Wildlife Society, Kenya Forest Working Group in consultation with the Forest Department.

The surveys are part of a project entitled "Advocacy for Sustainable Natural Resource Management" being undertaken in Mau Forest and other forests in the country. The project is sponsored by the Swedish International Development Authority and runs from July 1, 1998 to December 31, 1999.

Mau Forest, situated over 30 kilometres west of Nakuru, covers approximately 900 square kilometres and straddles four districts, namely, Kericho, Nakuru, Bomet and Narok.

The project document says that most of the plantation forest has been cleared to pave way for agricultural activities thereby opening up the core indigenous forest block to much exploitation.

The document was presented at a two- day workshop held at Egerton University's Crop Management and Research Training Centre, Njoro on Monday.

The participants at the workshop which was sponsored by SIDA and FAN, were drawn from all the communities living around the forest and who are being sensitised on the legal and policy aspects regarding natural resources management.

The report describes the forest as one rich in diversity with a large variety of wildlife and indigenous tree species. The communities living in and around the forest depend on it for their subsistence.

Following the clearing of vegetation for farming, the soil has been exposed to erosion. The fertile topsoil has subsequently been carried away leaving the land severely degraded.

This degradation, the report says, is progressively destroying Mau Forest which most importantly serves as the catchment area for the country's major Lakes that include Nakuru, Victoria, Bogoria and Baringo.

"The degradation of the forest is destroying this catchment area thus affecting the flow of water to these lakes. The reduced flow of water has an adverse effect on the people living along the rivers."

The destruction of the forest, the document says, directly affects the lives of the people who depend on it socially and economically. The saw millers who depend on it for their raw materials are also directly affected.

The report blames the destruction of the forest to lack of control by the local people over the management of the natural resource and insufficient influence over policy, administration and legislation pertaining to natural resources.

The report says most of the people living in and around the forest do not know the provisions of the Forest Act, especially the section touching on rights and responsibilities regarding forest conservation.

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