IDH highlights role of landscapes approach in conserving South West Mau Forest in Kenya

IDH and the Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes (ISLA) Kenya partners hosted a discussion forum and exhibition at the 2018 Global Landscapes Forum in Nairobi on 29-30 August, to highlight the role of landscape approaches in sustainable production, forest protection and social inclusion in the South West Mau Forest.

The discussion (which can be watched in full above) provided a platform for partners from the private sector, the national government, community members and civil society to share their experiences of working collectively to restore and conserve the forest.

Jordy van Honk, Program Director for Africa Landscapes and the Global Tea Program at IDH, explained that IDH’s work in Kenya began in 2010 by supporting Kenyan tea farmers to adopt good on-farm sustainable practices, leading to certification. However, this was not enough to end deforestation and land degradation, beyond the farm gate.

“IDH and its partners soon realized that certification without landscape level intervention cannot stop deforestation.”

Jordy van Honk, Program Director for Africa Landscapes and the Global Tea Program at IDH.

In response, IDH and its partners formed ISLA Kenya to jointly restore and preserve 60,000 hectares of the crucial South West Mau Forest Reserve by 2030. The program uses a holistic landscape approach to ensure that forest and water conservation, community livelihoods and economic production go hand in hand.

Christian Lambrechts, Executive Director of Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, shared an overview of forest conservation in the South West Mau and discussed innovative Public-Private Partnership (PPP) models, such as the one being developed under ISLA Kenya.

“The PPP approaches implemented in key forest areas [in the South West Mau Forest complex] have provided the framework to fully engage the neighboring communities in forest conservation and to provide lasting solutions to key challenges faced in these forests.”

Christian Lambrechts, Executive Director of Rhino Ark Charitable Trust.

From a private sector perspective, Simeon Hutchinson, Managing Director at James Finlay Kenya, explained that tea farming depends on the health of the South West Mau forest’s ecosystem for its microclimate, water for processing, and hydropower generation and a healthy biodiversity for supporting an integrated crop management for tea production.

“We appreciate the ISLA platform for bringing all partners with a stake in the South West Mau, to identify root causes of degradation and address them jointly.”

Simeon Hutchinson, Managing Director at James Finlay Kenya.

Cherotich Clara, Member of the County Assembly (MCA) from Bomet county, representing the Kimulot Ward, talked about her experience with ISLA and its Kipchobos spring water project, which is bringing clean water to communities and improving their livelihoods.

“The project has made my fellow women smile as it has brought clean water in the rivers and houses.”

Cherotich Clara, Member of the County Assembly (MCA) from Bomet county.

Beatah Nzove, Senior Advisor at SNV, the implementation team lead of the livestock intensification work, said:

“The project aims to develop and test an innovative model to work with forest-dependent communities along the north-eastern boundary of the South West Mau, to increase their income levels while at the same time reducing deforestation, based on a business case for livestock intensification for forest-dependent community members.”

Beatah Nzove, Senior Advisor at SNV

Daniel Langát, one of the farmers participating in the project, added:

“With training from SNV, we have changed our practices from grazing in the forest to keeping our cows at home, leading to increased milk production, more money from milk sales. My wife is healthier as she no longer has to walk long distances to and from the forest to graze our animals.”

Daniel Langát, Farmer

An exhibition of ISLA Kenya’s work complemented the discussion session, where more than 1,000 conference participants, including community and indigenous leaders, policy makers, civil society, finance and corporate sectors, youth and global media, and dozens of organizations, could learn about IDH and its landscape programs.

On the whole, discussions at the GLF stressed that certification without landscape-level intervention cannot stop deforestation. Public-Private Partnerships, such as the ISLA partnership, have been successful in integrated forest and landscape management in Kenya.

IDH will continue these discussions at the next Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn in December 2018.

Find out more about the work of ISLA Kenya here.