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Forest Restoration Ecology

Faculty-LedFaculty-Led | Ecology & Conservation Kenya

Module Overview

As human populations in East Africa grow and more land is needed for food production, indigenous vegetation is often cleared without clear legislature or incentive to protect it.  Diverse indigenous vegetation is often replaced with a monoculture of Eucalyptus, Wattle and Cypress timber plantations or food-based cash crops, leading to a steep decline in biodiversity and viable ecosystem services.  The Brackenhurst Botanic Garden and indigenous forest is a fascinating example of how quickly that biodiversity and ecosystem services can be restored on a relatively small piece of land. Combining a high diversity of indigenous plants with a relentless effort to keep invasive species at bay without using chemical herbicides, this indigenous forest has contributed to a sharp, measurable increase in biodiversity and cleaner river water for downstream communities.

In 2011, an alliance of botanic gardens was formed between six large botanic gardens (New York, Missouri, Chicago, RBG Kew, Edinburgh and Perth) and 100 smaller botanic gardens worldwide to embark on carrying out ecological restoration of natural ecosystems. BBG was one of the founder members of this Ecological Restoration Alliance, which was launched in May 2012.

This module sets out to provide an understanding of some of the historical and current threats to indigenous vegetation (and biodiversity) in East Africa, a practical guide on how to restore degraded land and an introduction to field-based skills and data collection.



Approximately forty kilometers north of Nairobi extend the fertile rolling hills of Limuru, most famous for vast tea fields and farmland. Here lies Brackenhurst Learning Center, a conference center and educational campus known for the beauty of its grounds, its refreshingly cool climate and first-class hospitality toward guests. Rooms are comfortable with en-suite bathrooms and hot showers, and Brackenhurst provides tasty, nutritious food ranging from traditional Kenyan to international cuisine. The conference center is equipped with an LED projector, TV multi-system, CD/DVD player and excellent Wi-Fi Internet access, creating an extremely conducive learning environment for students. Brackenhurst is proud to be home to one of the largest collections of indigenous plants in Africa with over a thousand tree and shrub species, making it a unique destination for inspiration, exploration, and learning.

Educational Outcomes

Practical: Plant identification in the field, basic knowledge of Afro-montane forest species, invasive species removal, field-based data collection, and tree nursery care and maintenance.

Theory: Introduction to local plant taxonomy, understanding of ecosystem service in a practical setting, plant and biodiversity conservation, understanding of ecological restoration and methods used, and historical and current threats to African tropical forest ecosystems.

Module Length

The minimum duration for this module is 2 days.  The maximum length is 14 days (longer modules will incorporate additional study locations).


Dr. Mark Nicholson

Mark has worked in 17 African countries on environmental and agricultural issues, living permanently in Africa since 1969. He has three science degrees and a PhD in Physiology from the University of Cambridge. His main interests are ecological restoration, biodiversity conservation and environmental education.  

He specialises in historical and environmental trips to Ethiopia, particularly on the endemic plants and over 80 bird species in the Horn of Africa. He is currently running a thirty-year forest restoration project at Brackenhurst.

Customize Your Program

Thank you for your interest in this module and developing a faculty-led program with EDU Africa. We pride ourselves in our ability to customize a program that will meet your requirements, exceed your expectations and make your vision come to life.

Featured Experiences

Kiambethu Tea Farm

Touring the Kiambethu Tea Farm gives insight into the colonial history and economics of Kenya, as well as the process undergone to transform the leaves of a tea bush into one of the most well known beverages of all time. The tour includes a walk through indigenous forests rich with medicinal trees, as well as a delicious colonial luncheon on the lawn.

River Rafting Rapids Camp

River Tana is the perfect place for white river rafting, with rapids ranging from grades three to five. It is also the only place in for white river rafting in Kenya. Upstream and downstream currents, including waterfalls, provide different technicalities that challenge beginners as well as more experienced rafters. Rafting River Tana is a worthy adrenaline rush!

Big Cat Monitoring

Incredible wildlife is one of Africa’s most appealing icons, and is desperately in need of protection through conservation and educational projects. Many conservation efforts give rise to amazing volunteering programs, such as the opportunity to research and monitor big cats. Taking part in this project gives students a chance to deeply experience and engage with some of Africa’s most powerful and breathtaking wildlife.

Brackenhurst Botanic Gardens

Brackenhurst Botanic Gardens is a vibrant gateway into the world of pre-colonial climate diversity. Rising out of misty, rolling hills of emerald-green tea, these gardens stand as a testament to the power of environmental restoration and protection. The project began in the year 2000 and includes an arboretum of rare tree species that are critically endangered across the continent. 

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