, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 6 – A government financial appeal to save the vital Mau forest complex has received a boost of more than Sh777 million ($10million) from development partners.
The international community made the pledge at a forum convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Kenyan government in Nairobi.
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “I would like to commend the Kenyan Government for the sensitive way it is handling the complex issue of resettlement and the involvement of forest dependent people in the process.”
The United States pledged Sh544 million ($7million) to finance a Watershed Conservation pilot project in the upper catchment of the Mara River which aims to help restore forest ecosystems as well as create more secure land titles.
The European Union promised to contribute more than Sh233 million (Euros 2.3million) to be disbursed over a period of 36 months to restore the Mau Forest Ecosystem and create a sustainable basis for its conservation and management.
The EU project aims to strengthen key capacities and develop innovative approaches in support of governance, livelihood development and ecosystem rehabilitation.
“I would also like to commend donors for having risen to the request for assistance. Together we have gone from the science, spotlighting the degradation of the Mau, through the economics in terms of what this large close canopy forest means to key sectors and the Kenyan economy as a whole to beginning the implementation of restoration and rehabilitation,” Mr Steiner said.
The appeal, launched in September last year, aims to mobilise resources for the rehabilitation of the Mau, the largest water tower in Kenya covering over 400,000 hectares and has in the recent years lost 25 percent cover.
The government estimates that the project requires about Sh7.6 billion to restore the entire Mau ecosystem.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Kenyans had accepted that the restoration of the Mau and other water towers was critical for sustainable development.
“Consensus has now emerged that the very existence of many communities and the welfare of the country depend on how we live with our forests and our ecosystems, and indeed how we address the key environmental challenges of our time,” Mr Odinga said.
The Prime Minister said illegal activities had so far been reduced by about 70 percent in Southern Mau.
“As we move forward to rehabilitate the Mau Forest, we are conscious of the fact that we have a duty to be sensitive to the human and social needs of those who must leave the forest. This is essential, because the sustainability of any rehabilitation efforts will depend on these very people as friends of the forest,” he said.
The Government is undertaking the rehabilitation of the Mau Forest Complex in five phases, and the first two phases have been completed.
The Premier said that during phase one, 4,530 hectares of unoccupied forest land were repossessed while an additional 19,000 hectares were repossessed from illegal squatters by December 2009 in the second phase.
He said over 1,400 hectares of forest had been replanted and plans were underway to rehabilitate an additional 5,000 hectares during the current long rain season.