Sacred Trees: South Aberdare Forest

Project Location: Kangema, Kenya

Project Partner: Kangema Youth Group

Start Date: February 2015

Est. completion Date: November 2015

Sacred Trees: South Aberdare Forest

75% of the Southern Aberdare Forest in Kenya has been lost since the 1970’s which now covers less than 1,000 hectares. Conflict between people and wildlife has grown as human settlements encroach further and further into the forest. Wild animal numbers have declined along with many indigenous tree species like the sycamore fig, which is considered sacred to the Kikuyu community.

However, a local youth group has come forward to change those statistics.  Through the SCF programme, the Kangema Youth Group has received a grant to change the way the forest is managed and to plant 65,000 trees in the forest and on neighbouring farms.

Re-forestation will focus on planting indigenous tree species as part of the plan to restore wildlife habitat and improve the ecology of the area.

Actions to be taken

To alleviate human and wildlife conflict and to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources, the youth group will be working with the community on a series of activities to create a more secure source of food and timber.

As Jemimah Njoroge, Programme Director of the youth group told us “The community members have participated in the designing of the project by identifying the kind of trees to be planted, areas to be reforested, the beneficiaries, and the kind of activities to be carried out”.

Those activities include establishing Community Natural Resource Management Committees (CNRMC) in 10 locations with an outreach programme to develop regulations for tree logging.  Environmental clubs will be set up in local schools and 500 farmers will be engaged in agroforestry and fruit tree cultivation to improve their livelihoods.

Tree Focus: Ficus sycmorus

The sycamore fig is a native tree of Africa and a scared to the Kikuyu community.

The name sycomorus came from the Greek Syca-morus or Mulberry fig because of the similarity of the leaves. This fig also holds medicinal qualities; the bark can be used in treatments for throat and coughs while the leaves can be used as an antidote for snakebites.

The fig fruits exude a strong scent and taste very sweet. Pollination relies on the symbiotic relationship with fig wasps (Ceratosolen arabicus) during the peak flowering season from July-December,  while bats carry out the role of seed disperses.  The fruit can be eaten fresh or cooked, while the leaves are often used as food for livestock.

Often used to secure against river bank erosion, the planting of 10,000 of these trees in the Southern Aberdare Forest will enhance the structure of the forest, and improve the quality of the soil.

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