Mau is one of the largest water catchment areas in Kenya. The vast forest is the source to many rivers in Kenya which feed lakes. Despite the importance, Mau has also been on the unfortunate end of encroachment, targeted by various groups of people who want to make income out of burning the trees for charcoal. It is estimated that over 107,000 hectares, which is 25% of Mau forest, has been lost in the last 15 years.
It is due to this that an initiative to jointly conserve and restore the South West Mau Forest by 2030 was launched. The Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes (ISLA) launched the Stawisha Mau Charitable Trust on 26th of January 2018. This is a partnership that included the county governments of Kericho, Nakuru and Bomet, national government agencies like the Kenya Forest Service, KTDA and other private agencies.
The launch that took place at the Embassy of Netherlands in Nairobi was attended by a hoard of stakeholders. Speaking to the press, KTDA CEO Lerionka Tiampati, who is also a trustee, affirmed that they were dedicated to seeing that they not only did conserve the South West Mau Forest but also work with the neighbouring communities to seek alternative sources of income that will dissuade them from encroaching the Mau. The same was also echoed by IDH’s Program Director for African Landscapes Jordy Van Honk who said, “We cannot achieve any of our goals without actively involving and partnering with the communities that live around the forest. This will allow both the forest to restore and offer viable alternatives for the community and others that depend on the forest for their livelihoods.”
Apart from the county governments of Kericho, Bomet and Nakuru, Stawisha Mau Charitable Trust also has the support of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and Ministry of Water and Irrigation. Community groups also, such as the Ogiek Council of Elders, Water Resource Users Association and Community Forest associations are also part of this great initiative.
ISLA isn’t new as it’s been in existence since 2015 when it was established by The Sustainable Trade Initiative, IDH. The entry of the trust has brought together the government, the community and the industry. Often, the partners collaborate with the communities surrounding the South West Mau to plant trees in the degraded areas.
The communities around this place are mainly into cow rearing and charcoal burning, something that Mr. Tiampati says they are working with them to do it differently and abscond. ISLA Kenya provides business opportunities for the locals, giving them training on honey harvesting, sustainable and efficient cattle rearing and has rejuvenated springs for continuous water supply of water.
Other private sectors that are also in this initiative include Unilever Tea Kenya, James Finlay, KTDA, Safaricom Foundation, KenGen and Timber Manufacturers Association. Internationally the partners are GIZ, Rhino Ark, CIFOR and Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The presence of Netherlands in this project is a plus, owing to the expertise and dedication that the Dutch have always had when it comes to recovering and rehabilitating land and the environment in particular.