Changes in the state of conservation of Mt Kenya forests 1999 to 2002
Public scrutiny and outcry over forest destruction, in particular on Mt. Kenya, called for a comprehensive assessment of the status of Mt. Kenya forests. The need was highlighted by a number of concerned parties, including institutions, NGOs, conservationists and community groups. Consequently Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), with support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), responded to the call for a comprehensive assessment by undertaking an aerial survey of the entire forest belt of Mt. Kenya in 1999. The survey was to provide factual information on the type, extent and location of destructive activities in the forests.
The result of the 1999 survey established that the whole of Mt. Kenya forests were heavily impacted by extensive illegal activities leading to serious destruction below the bamboo/bamboo-podocarpus belt. Over 6,700 Camphor (Ocotea usambarensis) trees had been destroyed through logging out of a total of 14,662 indigenous trees that had been cut, most of them recent. Over 75 percent of clear-felled plantations had not been replanted with tree seedlings, although all these areas were under the ‘shamba system’ (non-residential cultivation). Encroachment into the fringes of indigenous forests were recorded, emanating from shamba-system cultivated areas. Most of the natural forest in the Lower Imenti had been destroyed and was under crop cultivation. In the lower part of the Upper Imenti, extensive charcoal production was observed throughout the area, leading to significant destruction of the indigenous forest. Marijuana (bhangi, Cannabis sativa) cultivation was quite extensive, totalling 200 hectares, and was being grown in the indigenous forest from the edges to deep inside the forest. The Ngare Ndare forest was impacted by illegal logging of Cedar (Juniperus procera), livestock grazing and fires. However, pressure on that forest had not led to the same level of destruction as in many parts of Mt. Kenya and Imenti forests (Gathaara, 1999).
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