Members of Gathiuru Community Forest Association (CFA) are quickly making a name for themselves as being the most proactive protectors of forests in Kenya. They have over the years successfully demonstrated what Participatory Forest Management is all about, and are often a point of reference during discussions with other CFA’s in Nyeri and surrounding counties.
With 4, 000 members and growing, Gathiuru CFA works closely with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to conserve and protect 14, 985 hectares of forest while benefitting from the Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Scheme (Pelis) which is a modified form of the shamba system that had greatly contributed to the destruction of forests. The Act also addresses the formation of CFA’s and how they interact with KFS through Participatory Forest Management, and allows for forest farming which has benefitted communities significantly. Protecting forests in Kenya is far from easy, and support from stakeholders has ensured that Gathiuru CFA can continue to implement various conservation activities.
Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF) has worked closely with Gathiuru CFA over the years, helping them develop and implement forest management plans. On 22nd October 2015, LWF, with the support from USAID, handed over 80 brand new scout uniforms that will see these protectors of the forest uniformed to carry out their duties. “Conservation knows no boundaries, as clearly seen in Gathiuru forest which is part of the larger Mt. Kenya ecosystem. The water towers here support many ecosystems and thus we must do all we can do to protect these catchment areas as well as forest areas. These uniforms handed over to the scouts will allow them to implement their duties in full recognition of the public and give them a better sense of authority “says LWF Programmes Officer Mr. Josephat Musyima.
Deforestation in Gathiuru forest has seen forest cover reduce significantly over the past decade and it has taken the intervention of local community members, local administration, KFS, various stakeholders and scouts to change the situation. Since 2012, LWF has been engaging with the Gathiuru scouts which has led to the increase of numbers within the CFA and allowing benefits gained from forest farming to flourish.
During the 22nd October function, KFS Deputy Commandant of the Central Highlands Conservancy, Mr. Wilson Lebo, urged members of the community to take pride in the natural resources available to them and encouraged them to assist the scouts in protecting the forest by being diligent in pin pointing those engaging in illegal forest activities in order to successfully protect Gathiuru forest.