2022 highlights from “The People’s Forest” in Nairobi, Kenya

News from LT&C Example: Friends of Karura Community Forest Association

By Harvey Croze

The Friends of Karura Community Forest Association (FKF) held its 13th AGM last September in Nairobi. The members present – physically and virtually – unanimously confirmed their commitment to keeping Karura Forest safe and fully protected as one of the world’s most important urban forests within a capital city’s limits.

Numerous achievements were tabled by the FKF Board Chair, Dr. Winnie Kiiru, including an increase in indigenous tree cover in the 1,000-ha forest from 25% to over 50% through the strategic replacement of degraded exotic plantation areas.

Dr. Kiiru highlighted the striking recovery of biodiversity: some 230 bird species, including a top predator, the African crowned eagle, three species of antelopes, the elusive side-striped jackal, and a thriving population of a threatened-then-relocated subspecies of black-and-white guereza colobus monkey. In addition, several rare endemic trees were discovered.

black-and-white guereza colobus monkeys sitting in a tree
Members of a black-and-white Guereza Colobus monkey family in the Karura Forest canopy. 130 individuals were translocated from a totally alienated habitat to Karura in 2014-15. The Karura population is now 190 strong in some 20 family groups.

Other achievements included:
– An increase in monthly visits to the forest during the Covid-19 pandemic to nearly 60,000, with 80% of visits by Kenyan citizens
– The employment of over 100 persons from local communities to work as forest scouts, tree carers, and infrastructure personnel
– The impressive social media influence of FKF, with over 26,000 likes, 27,000 followers, and an occasional reach of nearly 1/4 million.

Many community forest associations in Kenya are hoping to emulate this participatory model of public-government forest management with the parastatal Kenya Forest Service. After more than a decade of “trial”, Karura Forest demonstrates the model works and that the LT&C Example can be replicated in other areas.

Tranquillity in the heart of the city

Ranked number three of 118 things to do in Nairobi, Karura Forest has received a TripAdvisor “Travellers’ Choice” award for nine years in a row.

460 secondary school bursaries have been awarded to promising students from surrounding communities since 2017 entirely from Karura Forest Gate-takings and bike rentals.

The urban forest offers walks, bike trails, and ecotours with trained guides so visitors can learn more about the flora and fauna, history and culture, ecology and geology, and bird watching and primate tracking.

Known as “The People’s Forest”, Karura Forest is “a place of tranquillity for all Kenyans.”

World Environment Day 2022: clean-up of one of the rivers running through Karura Forest from Nairobi peri-urban neighbourhoods.

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