Protecting Biodiversity

Raising awareness for a sustainable use of the eco-system to raise incomes

The protected forests in the regions of Kakamega and Shimba Hills (Kenya) and the Usambara Mountains (Tanzania) are major water catchment areas. They are also home to many unique animal and plant species and serve as CO2 sinks. However the ongoing rise in the population is putting forests under enormous pressure. Local people lack alternative sources of income and so feel compelled to clear the forests for new farmland or to use the timber for fuel and building. This uncontrolled tree clearance is threatening the existence of these unique and vital eco-systems. The project supports the protection of forests by creating alternative sources of income. Local people are made aware of the importance of the forests and are trained in the systematic monitoring of the natural environment.

Small farmers grow medicinal and aromatic plants on their land, which they then sell at a fair price to small businesses established as part of the project. The latter process the raw materials and produce a range of medicinal products such as balms and oils, which are then sold locally and nationally.

The Kakamega rainforest is the only remaining tropical rainforest in Kenya. It is home to many rare plant and bird species and is the basis of the livelihood of local farming families.

Objectives

Strengthen and support the small businesses that process medicinal and aromatic plants and in so doing improve the living conditions of people living near the forests in Kakamega, the Shimba Hills and the Usambara Mountains. In addition, provide targeted information and raise the awareness of local people of the importance of using the eco-system sustainably in order to protect biodiversity.

Relevance

The forests in Kinango (Shimba Hills in Kenya) and Maranga (Usambara Mountains in Tanzania) are two of the 25 most important biodiversity areas in the world. Kakamega is the last remaining rain forest in Kenya and is under increasing strain from population growth. In 1900, the forest covered some 240,000 hectares whereas only some 10% now remains.

Beneficiaries

Some 1,300 local people will benefit directly from the Project through extensive training in biodiversity and environmental protection. This includes school children who will be taught how to monitor their environment using biological indicators and observing pollinating insects. A further 30 people will receive training in the management of small businesses and some 450 farmers will increase their income by selling medicinal and aromatic plants. A further 20,000 young people and others from rural communities will participate in various events that raise awareness of the need to protect the environment.

Farming families grow medicinal plants (in photo ocimum kilimandscharicum) on their land. The plants are then processed and sold. This significantly improves their living conditions and reduces the pressure on the surrounding forests.
Video and audio material on environmental protection are used at village events in order to raise the awareness of children and young people of the need to protect the environment.

Activities 2015 to 2017

  • Promote income generation and reduce pressure on the forests as a natural resource by developing small, sustainable businesses for the processing of medicinal and aromatic plants
  • Train local people in the sustainable use of forests and demonstrate how they can monitor their environment using biological indicators and observing pollinators
  • Raise awareness amongst young people and other members of the local community of the need to maintain biodiversity and protect the environment

Achievements

In 2015, more than 12,000 local people in the project regions, including 7,000 school children, visited information events or participated in campaigns to protect the environment. In Kakamega, more than 173 residents were given intensive training in bio-monitoring, beekeeping, ecological agriculture and environmental education. Through a series of field trips, a further 1,500 people were made aware of the importance of these issues.

The Muliru Farmers Conservation Group (MFCG) earned more than US$ 8,000 by selling their products; this included the sale of 73 litres of the medicinal plant ocimum kilimandscharicum (Kilimanjaro basil) to icipe. The insect research centre has agreed to buy a further 1,000 litres in 2016.

Handover Strategy

In the current phase, the project is supporting local members of the community to improve further the efficiency of their small businesses (organisation, profitability and management), to diversify their product range and steadily increase their turnover. In addition, local people are playing a greater role in the environmental activities. The additional income from entry charges to the pollinator gardens and the profit earned by the small businesses themselves should facilitate new investment in project activities in future. This will guarantee that the current activities continue even after the project partners end their involvement.