Category Archives: Forest Regeneration

Care of Creation Training.

Towards the end of May A Rocha Kenya conducted a training on Care of Creation in five villages in Dakatcha. Since moisture (water) plays a pivotal role in the wellbeing of the rest of the creation, the film  Water Running Dry was shown.
Looking at the  dire consequences of desertification as projected on the film, one villager  said,” I did not know that you actually should cry before felling a tree”. Deforestation is a real threat to fresh water sources. Some scientists anticipate international crises on fresh water due to waning global forest cover and general degradation of the environment.

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A group watching the film Running Dry.

A Rocha Kenya has taken the conservation message to Christian  communities, sharing the biblical basis of creation care with pastors. Pastors who attended the week-long training confessed that they have not incorporated conservation in their preaching. The event was a great insight for them as they agreed to spread the creation care message to their congregations.

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This church was among the venues during the training.

In the discussions the villagers acknowledged that Farming God`s Way (an on-going project) which upholds agroforestry as a principle is one of the solutions to the degradation of the woodlands. Deforestation (charcoal burning) coupled with shifting (slash and burn) cultivation is a major threat to the forest ecosystem. As a result the area receives rains at quite irregular times. Last year we were inspecting the Farming God`s Way plots (which had a luxuriant crop) and we saw a withered crop on the plots farmed the ordinary way. Early planting and mulching was the recipe for the success of the Farming God`s Way plots. The communities have started to establish tree nurseries and among the trees to be raised is the acacia Faidherbia albida. Seeds were issued during the training. The beneficiaries were excited to be issued with  seeds of such a useful tree. It is ideal for agroforestry as it shields plants from excessive sunlight during the dry season since it sheds its leaves during the wet season. The leaves readily decompose due to the presence of moisture and enhances soil fertility. In fact, it is claimed to fix ten times more the amount of Nitrogen fixed by legumes. Livestock such as goats and cows feed on it and it is also home to insects including pollinators.

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A group gathering tree nursery materials.

Restoring Dakatcha Woodlands.

A Rocha Kenya continues to empower Dakatcha farmers with farming God`s Way; a form of conservation agriculture whose principles; agroforestry, mulching, zero tillage and crop rotation, boost soil fertility and yield hence discouraging farmers from clearing the forest for new fertile plots. The rich yield, especially cereals, on Farming God`s Way plots has helped relent the rate at which the woodlands were being cleared for charcoal burning and to pave way for pineapple plantations. A Rocha Kenya`s presence in Dakatcha is achieving two important goals simultaneously: transforming the villagers into food secure communities, and conserving the Cynometra forest.

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A farmer on his Farming God`s Way plot.

A Rocha Kenya is also training farmers to make compost manure which can be used on vegetable and maize plots. Farmers  also make biopesticides using neem and Lantana camara which are readily available in the area.

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Farmers standing next to a compost heap.

Dakatcha Woodland is globally recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA). It is also a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) by the international criteria developed by Birdlife International and Nature Kenya. Conservation International recognises Dakatcha as part of Coastal Forests Global Hotspot. A Rocha Kenya acquired 218 acres of Cynometra forestland (Kirosa Scott Reserve) in Dakatcha for conservation and research projects that we wish to use to create awareness to the local community. We not only seek to forge alternative ways of making ends meet but also demonstrate value and direct benefits of biodiversity conservation to livelihoods security.

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Kirosa Scott Reserve.

The Dakatcha Community Forest Association is one of  the groups that A Rocha Kenya is empowering with training on conservation of the forest ecosystems. The empowerment is evident as Dakatcha CFA has started collaborating with other Dakatcha conservation enthusiasts; Community Conserved Areas (CCA) members to strengthen their advocacy for the restoration of  the woodland.They own a plot of tree nurseries.

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Dakatcha CFA members on their plot.

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Some of the seedlings on the tree nursery plot.

We have just completed a regeneration study in Kirosa Scott Reserve which involved mapping and documenting various vegetation types, ranging from the easily penetrated woodland and forest to the impassable Cynometra thickets. Height and diameter of trunks and canopy competition index or class (the latter involves the percentage dominance of each tree in terms of crown level in relation to insolation reception) is part of the data that was documented.

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Taking measurements on trees ( above and below).

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The Science and conservation team during the study.

Mwamba Nature Trail Monitoring Project

Take a minute and imagine the earth without trees…trees are superficial living things that have the capacity to provide shelter, oxygen and food for countless organisms.

It is for this reason that we at A Rocha Kenya value the trees in our trails and are carrying out a monitoring project on them.857424_733708943316893_8021754802469940044_o
Mwamba nature trail monitoring project, is a long term fruiting, leafing and flowering project that involves walking through the nature trail while looking for new leaves, flowers and fruits of selected tree species. The survey is usually conducted on a weekly basis normally after the staff meeting on Mondays.

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Bourreria petiolaris tree and fruits
The total number of the tree species is 12, all coastal indigenous trees. Surprisingly, the number of the monitored trees is 93.The maximum number for each species is 10 and the minimum is 2. Most of the tree species are flowering and fruiting but a few are continuing to leaf. However, some few species are neither flowering nor fruiting.

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Afzelia quanzensis flowers
Data collection is essential in understanding the variation patterns of the different species when it comes to these tree parameters. For realistic conservation strategies, scientific knowledge is of utmost importance. Thus this is intended to produce useful information to be used by A Rocha Kenya’s Environmental Education and Community Conservation departments.

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A Rocha Kenya’s staff recording data during a weekly survey
Communication is ongoing on the possibility of using data generated from this project to help write and publish a Mwamba tree guide book especially in regards to flowering, fruiting and dispersal agents among various non-floral elements. Currently, a Germany botanist has offered to help in developing the book and we hope for the best.

Muvera wa ASSETS-True Environmental Ambassadors!

Coordinating a project as great as ASSETS can get a little scary sometime going by the amount of hope laid on us by the thirsty young minds yearning for school apart from nature itself that we view to conserve in the long run!
I must however thank the different stakeholders involved since things would be impossible were it not for them. Muvera wa ASSETS categorically, has been pivotal in effecting fruitful conservation initiatives at the local level.

Recently I visited the association members from Malanga and the site of their beautiful casuarinas seedlings; healthily dancing to the rhythm of the wind truly moved me.
In this part of the world, this is certainly the driest period of the year and it must have taken them immense efforts to accomplish this. It got me thinking how transformed their attitude towards the environment should be; truly encouraging…! In less time than it takes to tell undoubtedly, we will have a completely ‘green community’ bordering the ‘greenest’ forest in the whole of Eastern Africa.

I leave Malanga headed towards the southern end of the Arabuko sokoke forest, a village called Nyari.A peculiar site welcomes me though; a very clear path into the forest despite the electric fence! Maybe or maybe not, someone uses this opening to smuggle timber out of the forest.
Normally, I would be extremely disturbed by such a site, having had to get hold of the Kenya Forest Service guards and report this , but then on second thought…! I stop my relatively old but responsive Yamaha DT motorcycle to call the chairman Muvera wa ASSETS Nyari branch, I explain what I had seen and speed off to my office in Gede to attend to other office matters; am all glad though because undoubtedly my laments are in the right hands.

Gede Ruins Forest Regeneration Study is Under Way

In April of this year we at A Rocha Kenya have had the opportunity to resume/restart an exciting project in the Gede Ruins, a thirteenth-seventeenth century stone city, which is surrounded by a 44 hectare patch of forest (Robertson et al 2002). In the 1980’s the Gede village, surrounding the ruins, was expanding, and the forest surrounding the ruins was being cleared for cultivation, poles, and firewood (Robertson et al 2002), which stopped in 1991 once the Museum constructed a fence around the forest to protect it. A botanist living in Malinidi, Ann Robertson, worked with a curator at the museum, Mathias Ngonyo to replant a 5 hectare patch of the heavily degraded land with indigenous trees, with the end goal of restoring the land back to a healthy tropical dry forest.

After planting, the heights of the trees and the diameter at breast height of trees where d > 1 cm, were measured with the idea of obtaining valuable growth rate data, as nobody had previously studied growth rates of indigenous tropical dry forest tree species. These measurements were gathered annually each year after planting, starting in 1992  up through 1997.

Enter A Rocha Kenya….The project we are now involved in is a continuation of the project started by Ann and Mathias 20 years ago. The location of each planted tree was mapped, and with Mathias’ help a team from ARK has been able to go back through and re-label all of the trees, and thanks to Professor David MacFarlane (Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University 2001, and current Associate Professor of Foresty at Michigan State University) take tree height and DBH measurements for all of the surviving trees which were planted.  With support from the National Museums of Kenya, partnering with KEFRI (Kenya Forestry Research Institute), a team of entomologists led by Professor John Banks Ph.D. (Director of international programs and Director, Office of Undergraduate Education) and Professor David MacFarlane, we are hoping to gain a valuable data set on tropical dry forest growth rates, regrowth, and recruitment success of the trees, as well as examining the insect and bird species richness and biodiversity. It is an exciting project to be involved in, as nothing like his has been been done in tropical dry forests at least in Kenya, possibly all of East Africa. In the immediate are we have traditional slash and burn farms, we have our plot of regenerated forest, and we have the 400 year old forest surrounding the ruins to compare with each other.

Currently, Phase I of the project has been completed, basically re-labeling, recording, and measuring the status, height, and DBH of all the planted trees. The next phase, Phase II is going to be going back through the plot and measuring the recruits which have come in naturally, as well as assigning a competition index to each tree, both planted and recruit, to gain a better understanding of what could potentially be affecting growth rates across the study site.

 

It is true that when you plant a tree, you are blessing generations to come. Thanks to Ann and Mathias and their hard work we regularly encounter Suni, Fischer’s Turaco, Hadada Ibis, African Goshawks, Little Sparrowhawks, the occasional Bush-buck, and the endangered Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew while doing field work in the regenerated plot. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now…

Ann and her husband, Ian, came and visited the plot last month for the first time in close to 15 years. It was incredibly special to see her eyes light up, and listen to her tell stories about how the plot used to be, and to see her stand next to trees she planted years ago, enjoying their shade and relaxing out of the hot sun. Their way of saying “Thank You” to a woman with vision and conviction.

 

 

Robertson, A. Hankamer, C. Ngonyo, M. “Restoration of a Small Tropical Coastal Forest in Kenya: Gede National Monument Forest Restoration Project.” in: Plant Conservation in the Tropics: perspectives and practice. The Royal Botanical Gardens. 2002.