Supporting Reforestation Through The Center for Ecosystem Restoration – Kenya
As a team, we are passionate about people, education, and our environment. One particular project that is very close to our hearts is the reforestation and management of Brackenhurst Forest in Limuru, Kenya. Read more about this amazing story and how joining our programs contributes to its continuous success.
Deforestation and its Impact
Deforestation occurs when trees are depleted and the land on which they once stood begins to be used for other things. Over the past 300 years, deforestation has contributed to the reduction of the earth’s forest coverage from about 40% to 31%. It is estimated that about 2400 trees are cut down per minute, while between 15 to 18 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Some factors that are recognized as causes of deforestation are the expansion of agricultural practices, population growth, forest fires, cattle herding, fuelwood gathering, development of roads into remote areas, logging for building materials, and the lack of viable economic opportunities in non-forested areas. Deforestation leads to land degradation which contributes to agricultural stagnation. This lowers productivity and causes further exploitation of the forests. A vicious cycle of destruction results from this pattern.
The History of Limuru Forest
Limuru forest once had high biodiversity and was even inhabited by animals such as forest elephants. The area was one continuous block of indigenous forest stretching to Nairobi. Local people lived in harmony with the forest, deriving food and fuelwood from the forest without degrading it. However, the onset of colonization marked the occupation of the Kenyan highlands by European settlers. They found them very suitable for tea growing because of the area’s deep, red volcanic soil and high rainfall. Therefore, the stretch of indigenous forest was replaced by tea monocultures and exotic tree plantations, leading to a drastic decline in the amount of biodiversity in the region.
Why We Need to Combat Deforestation
Deforestation negatively impacts biodiversity. Forests are the habitat of several animal species, a source of medicinal plants that benefit human life, and suppliers of oxygen for respiration (oxygen is a by-product of photosynthesis). They prevent soil erosion and provide employment within the conservation field. When burning trees, the carbon dioxide stored within them is emitted into the atmosphere and contributes to global carbon emissions. This in turn causes global warming and climate change. Maintaining forests helps to mitigate the above-mentioned negative effects while promoting the positive reasons for keeping them.
Reforestation of The Brackenhurst Indigenous Forest
The Brackenhurst Indigenous Forest (BIF), a moist upland forest located in Tigoni, Limuru, was established in the year 2000 through a partnership between Brackenhurst and Plants for Life International (PLI). Hundreds of Afro-montane species of trees and shrubs and a myriad of associated non-plant biodiversity now populate the forest.
The first step in establishing the BIF was to clear all the exotic species and replace them with indigenous ones. Dr. Mark Nicholson, the driver of the initiative, was conscious of the role played by species diversity in ecosystem functionality and resilience. He ensured that a wide range of species was selected for the forest.
Over the last 20 years, about 40 hectares of indigenous forest have been restored. The forest now has 650 species of indigenous trees and shrubs. These include rare species like Vitex kenyensis (Meru Oak) and Khaya anthotheca (African Mahogany), which are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list as endangered and vulnerable, respectively. The forest also features some species from other East African countries, such as the Ugandan Carapa grandiflora.
The forest restoration has also seen the return of some non-plant biodiversity, such as the Colobus Monkey, whose food is the leaves of indigenous trees. Other small mammals that can be found in the forest include bush babies, Syke’s monkeys, white-tailed mongooses, tree hyraces, Genet cats, and civets. The forest also boasts 170 recorded species of birds, including the Silvery-cheeked hornbill, Hartlaub’s turaco, and Kikuyu white-eye.
The Center for Ecosystem Restoration – Kenya
The Center for Ecosystem Restoration – Kenya was born out of Friends of Brackenhurst Forest (FBF), a community-based organization formed in 2019 to improve the quality and accessibility of the Brackenhurst Indigenous Forest. The goal of FBF was to establish the forest as a center for education and research and to share the potential for indigenous ecological restoration in the hopes of inspiring individuals and organizations to actively engage in ecological restoration.
With the founding of the new Center for Ecosystem Restoration (CER-K), the organization has been able to grow the vision beyond just the forest and Brackenhurst to ecological restoration throughout Kenya.
CER-K’s purpose is to support the process of halting and reversing degradation, resulting in improved ecosystem services and recovered biodiversity across Kenya. They currently run from two sites and in two ecosystems; Brackenhurst Botanic Garden and Forest (highland forest) and Maa Trust (savannah). CER-K is in the process of trialing different restoration-focused interventions and monitoring their impact on biodiversity, soil, water and vegetation.
CER-K has secured a SeedBank which enables them to store up to 5 million seeds. This SeedBank addresses Kenya’s lack of diverse native plant material and is an opportunity for CER-K to mentor restoration projects across the country while supplying them with the plant material necessary to deliver high-quality restoration projects.
EDU Africa’s Involvement
We encourage all our participants to develop Global Citizenship, one of our Transformative Learning Goals. We believe that inspiring them to be involved in positive social and environmental activities while on a program (whether virtually or in-country) enhances their potential to become change agents in their spheres of influence and the world at large. When visiting our Brackenhurst campus, participants will surely get a chance to learn about, appreciate, and get involved in projects connected to the forest and ecosystem restoration in Kenya. Furthermore, a donation is made towards the ecosystem restoration projects at CER-K on behalf of each of our program participants. Through their donations, participants play an integral part in reversing ecosystem degradation on the African continent and ensuring that communities will enjoy the benefits of natural indigenous ecosystem for generations to come. Through continuously educating ourselves and others, we can inspire action and continue to transform lives locally and globally.
If you are interested in exploring research and program opportunities with The Center for Ecosystem Restoration – Kenya, contact us here.
Jane Naitareu Soit, The Center for Ecosystem Restoration – Kenya Intern