Footsteps for Forests – The identity

While Anne is busy planning the Footsteps for Forests walk..I have been busy visualising the footsteps in the forests! As usual, I have been seeing things in pictures and here is what I thought would be a great identity for this campaign.
Footsteps for forests logo
Anne says the feet look a little flat. They might be a reflection of my own – I am a little flat footed. Apparently flat footed people don’t get selected to join the army because they cannot stand for long periods of time or walk very far…..well, I guess I will just have to burst their bubble because I can walk for miles. I bet I could even walk from here to Timbuktu!

Anyway, here it is, the face of Footsteps for Forests. Hope you all like it as much as we do!

Footsteps for Forests – The plan

Footsteps for Forests will hold its very first walk to raise funds for the fencing of Rumuruti Forest. The walk will take place in January (dates will be set very soon) through the Rumuruti Forest and will follow Uaso Narok river, which depends on the forest and provides surrounding communities with water all year round, until it joins up with the Uaso Nyiru its tributary.

We are inviting a member of each community who depend on the Uaso Narok and Uaso Nyiru rivers for their survival to walk with us. By including people from as far away as Samburu reserve it makes us realise how many people actually rely on what happens upstream and that making this connection might shift us into a more urgent mode of thinking, acting and doing! We will give a profile of each person and their connection to the forests. We hope that you will adopt one of these forest champions and sponsor them to do this two-week walk.

We will walk with camels that will carry all the kit, following the Ewaso Narok as it flows down a very dramatic and rocky gorge into the low country where it widens and meanders its way towards Samburu reserve across some of Kenya’s most arid and devastated country.

The walk will be a really exciting and fascinating safari following the journey of two vital life-giving rivers that connect Laikipia with Samburu.

We will keep you in touch!

Uaso Nyiru
Not much left of the Uaso Nyiru river in June 2009

Dry river bed - Uaso Nyiru
The dried up bed of Uaso Nyiru river

Footsteps for forests

Thank you Ethel for launching into the concept of walking for forests! This now makes this walk a commitment that I cannot escape from and if you care to join me on this quest please make contact now it should be a really fun walk! Rumuruti to Samburu down the rivers all the way.

Welcome to Footsteps for Forests! If you love to walk you will understand the madness of this ambitious idea.

We would like to get serious in action for forest conservation there is little time to waste, the rains have sort of come in some places the dust is still far too close to the surface in others and very soon people will forget the drought the lack of water the food shortages dry springs and massive loss of livestock.

Our dying forests
Destruction of forests goes on unabated
Stealing Podo from forests
Podo blatantly being taken out of the forest

Can we afford to keep forgetting? To keep ignoring why we must protect what is left of our forests? Sorry but we simply cannot keep up with this collective trend of pretending that there is nothing wrong, believe me our livelihoods depend entirely on the health of what is left of our natural resources particularly our forests.
Scouts arrest loggers
L – Forest scouts arrest donkey cart full of cedar being ferried under cover of darkness; R – Scouts holding podo logs recovered from illegal loggers

Rumuruti Forest is all but gone BUT there are still seeds in the ground there are saplings up to ten feet tall and the community do care they want a healthy forest for their future and for those downstream. The forest must be fenced to make restoration possible and we have to raise funds to make this happen.

This is how the idea of the walk evolved, the challenge of how does one begin to raise what will probably end up costing up to Kshs 30,000,000!(approx USD 390,000). The prospect just made me want to walk…………………

Saving the World –one tree at a time!

It is with utter horror that I continue to watch the destruction of our forests while we debate on whose fault it was originally and who is going to pay for what, eventually. All our forests in Kenya, or rather, what is left of them, is burning!

Intact Forest

We honestly have to put a stop to this madness! The selfish desires of a few individuals are threatening the very existence of a whole nation and we, for the most part, are passive. We might have a few heated debates while the news is still hot but those will die off soon enough when we stop seeing the horrific pictures. We will complain every now and then when our taps run dry. The more valiant of us will write letters of protest to some authority or other that we feel is responsible. And then what?

There is nothing as paralyzing as being faced with a crisis of such magnitude, knowing you have to do something, yet not having the foggiest idea what you ought to do. So when Anne said she would do what she knows best how to do – walk, I begun to think very differently about the whole situation.

Among the objectives of the Rumuruti Forest Association, a partner of Suyian Trust, is the erection of a perimeter fence around the forest to allow re-forestation and prevent further logging in the forest. The Fence is meant to keep out people and larger wildlife which often destroy tree seedlings before they have a chance to mature.

Anne is going to walk for 2 weeks through the forest and water catchment areas to help raise funds to put up this fence and I think she may be holding the key to the tackling of our forest problem – doing the little she can, using what she does best. I think if we all just do our bit we may save our forests yet.

So “you go girl, Anne!” I’m rooting for you. Well, actually, I am writing for you, since that is what I am able to do. I am going to write and tell you all about her idea, her plans and the actual walk for the forests and you are all going to contribute in your own little ways. Perhaps you might even join her?

Our forests, Our survival – booklet on forest conservation

Misitu yetu Uhai wetu

After almost a year of anxiety, hard work and faltering, the MISITU YETU, UHAI WETU booklet is finally here! I am so excited, I could almost do cartwheels, but instead, let me introduce the book.

The booklet whose title translates to “OUR FORESTS, OUR SURVIVAL” is meant as an educational insight into agro-forestry using useful indigenous trees and the importance of guarding our forests for our future.

The 28 page booklet – written by Anne Powys and designed by me – is colourful, rich in pictorial content and simple in style. It has a Swahili translation and it is our intention that the information in it be accessible to people with middle to low literacy levels. It will be distributed amongst the communities living around the forests in Laikipia whom we work with.

What excites me most about the booklet is its potential for influencing and transforming attitudes, particularly of people who live around forests, towards the protection of forests, use of forest products and the regeneration of destroyed forest areas. I always give myself as an example of someone whose attitude towards conservation was completely transformed by just a little knowledge about plants and their importance, through one such book.

Very soon, after it is officially launched, I will share more about “MISITU YETU, UHAI WETU” and even give you a peek into it. So watch this space closely!

People and plants – Nature Kenya

Anne at the Nature Kenya FairAnne Powys at the Suyian Trust stall during the Nature Fair, Sept 2009

In September I took part in the Nature Kenya Fair at the Nairobi National Museums. There were many participants from across Kenya all with amazing stories and ongoing projects in conservation from birds to craters, bees, reptiles, vultures, forests and more.

I chose to talk about People and plants. This often brings us closer to our environment, if we can relate to the plants we need and use in our daily lives – herbal teas, creams, food and of course all the local medicinal herbs too.

Herbal medicines and perfumes

Plant informationDisplay and information about forests, plants and their importance

I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, it was inspirational meeting many like-minded people, some of whom had travelled miles to learn more and join up with ‘nature’ fun!

We had a few things for sale: Elephant dung paper made by a women’s group in Laikipia, baskets from Rumuruti Forest, books, Suyian honey and some homemade cookies and chilli sauce!

Forest Products
Forest plant products for and books for sale

I had pledged that any money from sales no matter how little must go to Rumuruti and Kirisia forest. We managed to come away with $90 which went straight to the Kirisia youth group (by mpesa) who spent the next week pulling dead cattle out of all the seasonal rivers in their area (which are dry) ready for the next rains. Whilst they did this work they explained why they were doing it to the cattle herders.

Thank you Nature Kenya for a great weekend!

Anne Powys

Clinging to life at Suyian Trust base camp

Buffalo bulls wonder through Suyian Ranch
The drought has taken its toll on all life at Suyian Trust base camp as evidenced by these thin Buffalo bulls

The dust, the heat, the promise of rain, alas we still wait! As you can imagine, it is challenging taking care of our own livestock with these dry conditions and still find the time and the energy to work with forests in need.

We are proud to say that Suyian Ranch still has quite good cover on the ground despite carrying over 350 head of Samburu and Pokot cattle as well as Suyian livestock! The wildlife still looks okay, though older animals look as though they might go down very soon. The few family groups of elephant that seem to be resident are thin but the calves still look all right. Lions in the Suyian sanctuary took one elephant calf – perhaps the adult elephants were too weak to protect it?

Elephants on Suyian Ranch during 2009 drought
A thin adult ‘resident’ elephant with it’s calf in tow

Our river the Uaso Narok is only just trickling down. But even this trickle is a miracle since most rivers in Laikipia have dried up. The flow of the Narok I would say is mainly due to a big Cyperus papyrus swamp further upstream which really ought to be treated like a forest and guarded jealously since it acts like an enormous sponge and is vital to the protection of this river.

Battling with drought in Kirisia Forest

We do apologize for the lack of updates! We are all suffering the crippling effects of the very dry conditions since the long rains in April failed over most of Kenya.

Drought stricken animals

Remains of a Burchells Zebra (l) and an Elephant (r).
Victims of the current drought

The pressure on all our forests in Laikipia district is very severe right now. In Kirisia forest to our North, the tree cutting for cattle fodder is serious. In years gone by the people only cut branches so that there was fodder for the next year but now whole trees are being felled! The most targeted tree is Olea capensis ssp. macrocarpa.

Olea capensis

Felled Olea capensis ssp.macrocarpa trees in Kirisia forest

Kirisia Forest August 2009

Wilting foliage and dried up stream in Kirisia forest

There is even more destruction by fires lit by the nomadic families when they are moving ‘bomas’. The fires are left to burn on their own and inevitably spread causing massive damage. Huge trees are cut down to harvest a spoonful of honey – the violation of the forests has reached such immense proportions!

We have encouraged the youth groups in the Baawa area of Kirisia forest to talk to the young moranis who herd the cattle in and around the forests, to encourage better practice in the forest. The talks have gone very well so far, young people sharing their concerns for their forest and discussing the way forward on how best to protect this vital livelihood resource without which the people would not be able to survive. What has come out most clearly through these talks is the lack of awareness on the part of this particular group of people. They would like to preserve the forest but lack knowledge on good forest practices.

It is really encouraging to hear that people living around the forests would like to learn how to take care of them. It does give one hope when people are willing!

Paying the Price for caring – Forest scout’s house burnt by arsonists

In an earlier post we mentioned the Rumuruti Forest Association (RFA) who are trying their best to  prevent further destruction of  the Rumuruti Forest. One of the initiatives of this association is the deployment of forest scouts to work alongside the Kenya Forest Service scouts in preventing further logging. The RFA scouts who work on a voluntary basis do a great job, but unfortunately, not everyone is impressed by their zeal.

We recently had a tragic incident where one of the scouts had his house destroyed by arsonists. Below is an account by the scout, who despite his losses, is determined to continue protecting what remains of the Rumuruti Forest:

My name is Patrick Mwangi I am a forest scout for the Rumuruti Forest Association in between taking care of my family. I have been doing this work because I care about the forest, I am interested in herbal medicine and I have been taught how to treat others. I know the value of our trees and how important this forest is for our survival.

Some weeks ago, on a Sunday while my family and I were away from home, some unknown people came and set our house on fire. Everything was burnt to the ground, and we lost all our belongings, including my bicycle. This was a big shock to us!

Patrick Mwangi and family

 Patrick Mwangi and his family stand among the ruins of what was once their home

Although we do not know exactly who was responsible, we do know that there are people in our community who do not like the work that I do.  They would like to clear this forest to grow crops and do not care about the destruction of the forest.

I was asked by worried friends of Rumuruti if I would give up now since I have no home and this kind of life is quite dangerous. But my answer is this, I care about the forest too much and no matter what happens I will never give up. I would like to continue as a scout doing the work that I  enjoy and believe in most.

If Patrick doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will! The Suyian Trust and the RFA have decided to raise funds to help him and his family build a new house and get their lives back on track. Let’s all rally behind Patrick and keep his passion burning!

Let’s not forget Rumuruti forest!

While all eyes are currently on the Mau forest in Kenya we thought we could turn your attention, for just a bit, to the forest that is close to our hearts and which needs attention before it is too late – The Rumuruti Forest Reserve.

Ewaso Narok River

Uaso Narok River flowing through Rumuruti forest

The Rumuruti forest a dry, upland forest, located North-East of Nyahururu town in Laikipia West District is a critical catchment for the Uaso Narok River which hundreds of people depend on for their water. The Narok is the main tributary for the Uaso Nyiru river which flows all the way to Samburu National Park and beyond to Haberswein. The last part of the Uaso Nyiru flows through miles of very arid land occupied by pastoral people who depend entirely on this river for their survival.

Watering camels in Laisamis

Watering camels at Laisamis

The forest which was once intact with a closed canopy comprising the Juniperus procera (cedar) , Olea europea ssp cuspidatus (olive), Podocarpus latifolius, Podocarpus afrocarpus (podo) and many other indigenous trees, is currently under threat by wanton felling of trees, serious charcoal burning and extraction of wood for furniture making! The species under the greatest threat are the cedar and the podo.

However, this forest still does have a chance. If the destruction can be stopped immediately and reforestation begun the forest can be regenerated.

In coming posts, we will tell you more about the forest, its beautiful flora, its unique fauna and about the efforts to save it by the people that live around and depend on it, so keep your sights trained on this blog….