Importance of South Western Mau
The South Western Mau Forest is the largest of the 22 blocks of the Mau Forest Complex and is of critical importance. Covering parts of Nakuru, Bomet and Kericho counties, it is one of the gazetted reserves. It was declared Crown Land in the 1930s and became a national reserve in 1945. It was officially gazetted in 1954 as a forest reserve under the Forest Act.
The expansive South Western Mau Forest Reserve, which covers approximately 60,000 hectares of prime indigenous montane forest is a highly significant ecosystem managed by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). Among its important ecological values is its place as the source of the Sondu Miriu river, whose waters feed into Lake Victoria and onwards, through the Nile River, into the Mediterranean Sea.
The forest is economically and ecologically vital for this country. Its conservation is of benefit to local farmers and communities, companies and the government. The impact of the forest and the resources that it provides, is felt by millions of people, locally, regionally and beyond.
The forest has long faced a host of challenges including formal excision of forest land for human settlement, and illegal activities ranging from encroachment, livestock overgrazing, deforestation, logging, charcoal burning, poaching and bushmeat hunting. These myriad threats have adversely impacted biodiversity in the form of loss of forest cover, loss of wildlife and reduced habitat for wildlife.
The eastern part of the forest has been among the most heavily exploited zones of the forest, and is informally referred to as the ‘cut line’. This area spans approximately 45 km, from the Timbili River in the north to Kiptagich in the south, traversing a number of major rivers including Itare, Kipsonoi and Nyangores. The vast forest area coupled with the relatively small number of forest rangers available to carry out forest protection work – has made it vulnerable to continuing illegal activity.
A key goal of the South Western Mau landscape conservation project is to fence the eastern boundary of the South Western Mau Forest Reserve. The proposed construction of a game proof electrified fence will help to address human-wildlife conflict challenges faced by the forest-adjacent local communities, as well as provide Kenya Forest Service with a management tool to better control human access into the forest.
A preliminary technical review of the forest cut was undertaken in anticipation of this project. The work involved taking detailed measurements of the cut line, noting all relevant features, including rivers, streams, spring points, significant features and access points into the forest.
The ESIA team undertook a preliminary reconnaissance visit to the project. The field visit was highly effective in providing the ESIA team with a clear understanding of the project area. All five outposts along the cut line were visited and the team was able to walk sections of the cut line in Arorwet and Kapkembo. A detailed ESIA plan has now been developed in preparation for implementation.
Rhino Ark, through its Executive Director, has been advising the Netherlands-based IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative in the formulation and early implementation of their project “Initiative for Sustainable Landscape (ISLA)’’ aimed at conserving the South Western Mau Forest Reserve and bringing sustainability to the broader South Western Mau landscape. Since the year 2016, Rhino Ark has engaged with other stakeholders, both in the Government, i.e. Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service, and in the private sector, towards supporting conserving this important ecosystem.