Through the Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes (ISLA Kenya), IDH aims to restore and conserve 60,000 hectares of the forest by 2030.
We build on the interest of tea and other companies to conserve the South West Mau Forest for its microclimate services and of the Kenyan government to improve livelihoods of communities. Together we work towards a holistic landscape management as well as forest conservation, water, sustainable energy and community livelihoods.
The Mau Forest Complex in western Kenya covers an area of over 400,000 ha and is ecologically and economically critical for Kenya and parts of East Africa. More than 10 million people depend on its rivers. The forest also influences the region’s microclimate such as rainfall patterns, creating ideal conditions to produce crops such as tea. Furthermore, the area is one of Kenya’s main water towers and a significant percentage of its hydroelectric power is generated here.
In recent decades, more than 25% of the forest has either been cut down or degraded, putting tea production, other sectors and community livelihoods at risk. This is caused by growing populations, unsustainable livestock grazing, charcoal burning and timber extraction from the forest.
Addressing these issues has been challenging due to limited coordination between stakeholders. Meanwhile, past sustainability initiatives focused on individual organizations or value chains, with limited impact for the wider region.
In response, IDH built a strong coalition of the Nakuru, Kericho and Bomet national government agencies, tea, energy, telecommunications and timber companies; and civil society made up of NGOs and community groups, implementing partners and knowledge institutions to work together across the landscape.
In close collaboration with the coalition, we developed an integrated action plan based on four areas:
- Forest conservation
- Improvement of water flow and access
- Sustainable energy
- Alternative livelihoods for communities
Because of the coalition, the private sector has shifted to investing in larger sustainability projects which go beyond farm level.
- Developing sustainable business models for livestock intensification, or training farmers to rear cattle more productively at home, rather than grazing them in the forest. This will help reduce deforestation, while supporting communities to increase their incomes.
- Installing and maintaining a forest buffer with regulated access to the forest for communities and livestock.
- Replanting degraded forest area.
- Addressing illegal commercial activities including through aerial surveillance flights, and training community forest associations, law enforcers.
- Developing an integrated management plan and a REDD+ strategy for the region.
- Developing sustainable business models for alternative/green energy for communities, companies and institutions.
- Developing a sustainable water management system.
National government agencies: Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Water Resource Authority (WRA), Nyayo Tea Zones Development Cooperation, Kenya Water Towers Agency
County governments: Nakuru, Kericho and Bomet Counties
National government: Min of Environment and Natural Resources, Min Water and Irrigation
Community: Community Forest Associations, Water Resource Users Associations, Ogiek Council of Elders
Private sector: Unilever Tea Kenya, James Finlay Tea Kenya, Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), KENGEN, Safaricom Foundation, Timber Manufacturers Association
Other partners: IDH, Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Netherlands, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), UK Department for International Development (DfID) through Partnerships for Forests
Key implementing partners: SNV, Rhino Ark, the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ)
IDH has put in place a multi-stakeholder coalition that governs the ISLA Kenya activities, made up of ISLA Kenya partners. We also established the Stawisha Mau Charitable Trust – a governance system to ensure the long-term financial viability of the coalition.