Importance of Kakamega Forest
Kakamega Forest is a tropical rainforest situated in the Kakamega and Nandi Counties of Kenya. Located 411 km northwest of the capital Nairobi, it is Kenya’s only tropical rainforest and last remnant of the ancient Guineo-Congolian rainforest that once spanned the continent. The forest including reserves encompasses about 238 square kilometres, a little less than half of which currently remains as indigenous forest. In the north of the forest is the 4,468 hectares of Kakamega National Reserve, given national forest reserve status in 1985.
Flora found in the park include some of Africa’s greatest hard and soft woods: Elgon teak (Olea welwitschii), red stinkwood (Prunus africana), white stinkwood, several varieties of croton, and Pouteria altissima. There are 380-recorded species of plants. The forest is famous for its birds – 367 bird species including the West African great blue turaco, and black-and-white casqued hornbill.
Mammals that occur in the park include bush pig, duikers, bushbuck, African clawless otter, mongoose, giant African water shrew, squirrels, tree pangolin, porcupine, bats and a variety of primates including the blue monkey, redtail monkey, De Brazza’s monkey, baboon, potto and the occasional vervet monkey. Insects are abundant and some are quite spectacular, such as Goliath beetles, pink and green flower mantis, and numerous colourful butterflies (489 species). A number of species, especially invertebrates – are endemic of Kakamega forest including venomous snakes; 36 species being recorded.
The majority of these snakes are from West Africa including the forest cobra, the black-lipped cobra, Jameson’s mamba, the bush viper, the rhinoceros-horned viper and the Gaboon viper. The Gold’s cobra and Kaimosi blind snake are endemic to the Kakamega forest and are believed to be in danger of extinction. Species characteristics of West African forests and reaching their eastern limit in Kakamega or the Kakamega forest’s Gold’s tree cobra (Pseudohaje goldii) and the forest night adder (Causus lichtensteini).
Most local inhabitants rely on the forest to supply important resources, such as firewood, building poles and traditional medicines. Cattle grazing occurs in some of the glades. The region is one of the most densely populated rural areas in the world, and pressure on the forest resources is considerable. The Kakamega forest has been intensively exploited by local communities, predominantly for firewood and timber, as well as through industrial logging operations, resulting in a reduction of forest area.
This exploitation has consisted mainly of illegal logging and timber extraction by a variety of groups, without any specific techniques being used to reduce damage to surrounding vegetation and has persisted despite varying levels of protection since the 1930s. All parts of the forest have been either historically logged or have been selectively logged in recent years.
The campaign to start fencing 117- kilometres around Kakamega forest has started. The project aims to protect the biodiversity and curb any form of illegal activity in the forest. The fencing is expected to secure the forest that is home to a variety of rare animal and plant species, such as the black and white colobus monkey. It will protect the ecosystem from encroachment and illegal logging and it is also expected to reduce human-wildlife conflict and boost tourism activities within the scenic forest.
A partnership framework has been established, bringing together Rhino Ark Kenya, The National Environmental Trust Fund (NetFund), United Nations Development Programme -(UNDP) Kenya Forest Service (KFS), and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) -who are all partnering with the Kakamega and Vihiga County Governments to build the game electrified fence.
The project, which is expected to run for four years, is projected to cost over KES 378 million. So far, funding has been secured from UNDP for KES 72 million and KES 10 million from NetFUND in support of the fencing and conservation of Kakamega Forest. In addition, the County Governments of Kakamega and Vihiga made commitments of KES 100M and KES 30M respectively, towards the project.
The partnership for this project includes: Rhino Ark Kenya Charitable Trust, The National Environmental Trust Fund (NetFund), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Kakamega County Government, Vihiga County Government, Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service.