Karura Forest, popularly known as Nairobi’s largest green space, has always been the target of unscrupulous individuals interested in grabbing large portions of the Forest for urban development.
Gazetted in 1932, the forest at 1041 ha. stood as Nairobi’s largest natural reserve. A number of controversies have been born out of illegal government practices of land grabbing and secret allocation of land parcels to private companies and individuals for the construction of luxury housing developments and office blocks. A bloody battle ensued in the late 90’s between the local government and founder of the Green Belt Movement, Prof. Wangari Maathai, resulting in reclamation and restoration of lost forest land by way of planting trees.
On Sunday 8th May 2016, the Nairobi Arm of the Who is Hussain Organization arranged a Tree Planting Initiative at the Karura Forest. The initiative extended to other communities who were present, undeterred by the wet and gloomy weather.
The event kicked off by 10am with participants, all clad in their event T-Shirts, making their way to the planting site. The short walk was lined with muddy pools of muck making the walk erratic as patrons tried to avoid slipping along the way.
We were met at the nursery with pre-dug holes and a forest ranger (forester). The Forester, a volunteer from the FKFCFA, demonstrated how the seedlings were to be planted taking care not to damage the roots when removing the seedlings from the plastic packets they were grown in. The Forester informed us that once the trees were slightly stronger, they would be moved to the nursery, where they would be sold to individuals or introduced back to the forest.
The Karura Forest is managed by the Kenya Forest Services (KFS) in conjunction with the Friends of Karura Association (FKFCFA). The FKFCFA is a group of Kenyan Individuals dedicated in participatory management of the Forest and to protect it for future generations.
Today, the Friends of Karura Forest volunteer to work towards restoration of the Forest’s flora and fauna to return it to its original state.
The reintroduction of Indigenous Tree Species and the Colobus Monkeys ensure the forest provides a healthy and thriving ecosystem service for all.
However, it relies heavily on donations and proceeds from visitors. The Forest generates income from the gate fees that it charges visitors. These proceeds go towards general maintenance of the paths and forest scouts. (Karura forest was known as a bandit’s lore and the scouts act as guards against any unwarranted attacks on visitors)
There are still, urgent needs that are to be met in order to strengthen the infrastructure and maintain the environment. Some of these include:
- Maintenance of Electric Security Fence Perimeter.
- VHF radios for scouts, enabling them to respond rapidly in case of any incidents, with other scouts, Field Managers and the KFS Ranger Force.
- To ensure safety of visitors though maintenance of tracks, trails, signage, bridges, safety railings, etc.
- Construction of Foot Bridges to link the main forest with the Sigiria Salient and enable safe crossing of visitors and Sykes Monkeys from one section of the Forest to the other.
- Construction of FKFCFA Headquarters building to provide adequate office, meeting and equipment storage space.
- Construction of KFS Rangers Accommodation and moving the “Ranger Village” from the middle of the Forest to the Headquarters.
- Provision of Motor vehicles to Security Personnel for rapid response deployment.
- Benches and Picnic Tables for Visitors.
- The Education Centre.
Prof. Wangari Maathai
In closing, this post would not be complete without paying homage to the Founder and Honorary Chairperson of FKF, and Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai, who passed away on on 25 September 2011 after losing her battle with cancer.
Wangari, spearheaded the GreenBelt Movement and UNEP’s Million Tree campaign, and defended Karura Forest with her blood.
It is no wonder then, that when one visits Karura Forest, one can only be so grateful for her efforts in conserving this space for recreation and future generations.
I have attached below a Poem dedicated to Prof. Wangari Maathai for her efforts.
Hope you will someday Visit this reserve and upon appreciation of its natural beauty, be encouraged to plant more trees.