South West Mau, ISLA moves towards implementation

Key public and private sector stakeholders in the ISLA South West Mau Forest landscape gathered in Nairobi early March to develop an action plan that aims to conserve the forest while improving livelihoods.

The action plan, which details ISLA stakeholders’ activities in the next three years, is now being finalized and signed off.

Since its launch in mid-2015, the Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes (ISLA) in Kenya has engaged in extensive research to identify the main sustainability issues and their drivers and identified solutions that are socioeconomically and environmentally favorable.

Deforestation, water flow and access, sustainable energy and (alternative) livelihoods were identified as the most important issues that ISLA Kenya will address.

What will ISLA do?

Take the example of deforestation. Wood extraction and encroachment are among its main drivers in South West Mau Forest. To curb this, the stakeholders involved will rehabilitate the forests (through what is called ‘adopt a forest approach’), develop combined forest buffer zones as well as develop alternative value chains for communities surrounding the forest.

Preventing deforestation is crucial as the Mau Forest, which provides vital ecological services such as regulating the microclimate and water flow in the region. Due to this, economic activities such as growing tea, generating hydropower energy and grazing livestock are possible.  The economic value of the South West Mau Forest is estimated to be worth 150 million euros per year.

Other activities were proposed to ensure sustainable energy production and continued water flow and access to water for everyone.  All activities have the aim to have a positive impact on smallholder livelihoods.

Once finalized, the action plan will be approved by the ISLA board at the end of April and implementation will begin thereafter.

The ISLA board is multi-stakeholder and represents all relevant parties in the landscape. It is made up of county governments, tea, energy and timber industry representatives, national government agencies and civil society organizations.