Mau reforestation drive gets boost

Destruction of Mau forest. Among rivers that
Destruction of Mau forest. Among rivers that depend on the forest are Mara, Sondu, Nzoia, and Yala.  

Local organisations have set up a kitty to boost the Mau forest rehabilitation bid.

East African Breweries Limited (EABL), Nation Media Group (NMG), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Green Belt Movement, and Equity Bank have commissioned an initiative to raise Sh300 million over the next three years, which will be used in the restoration of Mau forest.

The Save the Mau Fund aims at planting one million seedlings in the catchment area as well as mooting campaigns to raise awareness on reforestation.

NMG chief executive, Mr Linus Gitahi, said that because Mau is home to millions of indigenous trees and a source of 12 rivers which sustain five lakes, the forest is an important natural resource that needs to be restored.

“Our involvement in Save the Mau is timely considering that Kenya is currently facing water shortages. Saving the Mau is not only about forest and water, but also about the relationship between communities and their environment,” said Mr Gitahi.

He announced that NMG would make a yearly contribution of Sh5 million towards the initiative over the next three years.

The company will also be involved in educating the public, through its multi-media platforms, on the Mau scenario and the importance of restoring natural resources.

EABL made a commitment of Sh10 million yearly for the next three years. Equity Bank opened an account where customers can contribute to the initiative. The bank donated Sh5 million seed capital to activate the account.

Members of the public can also contribute to the initiative by sending SMSes to 5254 through Safaricom and Zain networks. Each SMS will cost Sh100.

While speaking during a Press briefing held at a Nairobi hotel, KWS director, Julius Kipng’etich, said Mau forest measures approximately 320,000 hectares and is home to over 300 species of trees.

Among the rivers that depend on the forest for survival are the Mara, which flows through the Mara and Serengeti parks, Sondu, Nzoia, and Yala.

“If we fail to restore Mau forest it will mean that Mara river, which animals highly depend on, will dry up forcing the animals to move hence affecting tourism in the region,” said Mr Kipng’etich, adding that already certain species of wildlife had disappeared from the forest as a result of illegal settlements.

Arsonists set the forest on fire in March. Government estimates put the losses incurred at more than Sh65 million.

The area affected was equivalent to the entire Nairobi’s Eastlands area. Estimates by UNEP indicate that about Sh20 billion is lost annually through the destruction of the forest.