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How building relationships is key to protecting Kenya’s incredible coastal forests

 

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that we’re working hard to protect Kenya’s beautiful forests and make sure that they’re managed in a sustainable way – but we can’t do it alone.

Mijikenda sacred Kaya forestsThe Mijikenda sacred Kaya forests are a great example of how culture and nature can work together to protect each other – and some of them are even globally-recognised as Unesco World Heritage Sites! © Elias Kimaru / WWF-Kenya

In 2010, Kenya adopted a new Constitution which moved a lot of the responsibility for managing our rich and wonderful natural resources from the centralised national government to 47 newly-established county governments.

Since then, the county governments have become really important partners in working to make sure that natural resources are managed sustainably, and that development in Kenya is done in an environmentally- and socially-sensitive way.

For that reason, having a strong relationship with the county government is an absolute must! That’s why we’ve been working tirelessly in our priority areas, which include Kwale, to build those links.

Our aim is that we are able to sustainably manage our natural resources, so our work with our county government has revolved around that. Probably best known are our efforts to improve the management and conservation of the Mijikenda sacred Kaya forests. They are a great example of how culture and nature can work together to protect each other – and some of them are even globally-recognised as Unesco World Heritage Sites!

Tree planting in KwaleOur strong links with the county government much better protection against forest degradation and the unsustainable use of forest products. It also means more support for forest restoration efforts through tree planting, research, and training programmes. © Elias Kimaru/WWF-Kenya

Having that strong link to Kwale’s county government, and working with local communities too, has meant that we’ve been able to influence the role that they all play in how Kaya forests are conserved. As a result there’s been a huge increase in direct investment into the management of the Kaya forests. This means much better protection against forest degradation and the unsustainable use of forest products. It also means more support for forest restoration efforts through tree planting, research, and training programmes.

We’ve also worked closely with the county government to promote access to clean and renewable energy for rural households. By working together, we’ve now been able to supply over 600 solar lanterns and 100 energy saving cook stoves which has benefited more than 3,000 people. We’re now providing the county government with technical support to fast-track the process of rolling out this initiative even more widely.

And we’ve recently started working with the Kwale county government on a really exciting piece of work to develop a county-level spatial plan, which maps out different types of land and how they get used. This plan will help to guide development in the county for the next 10-15 years and it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to ensure that sustainable development is top of the agenda.

Until recently, our relationship with the county government has been pretty ad hoc – convenience bringing us together rather than there being any clearly worked-out plan. Fortunately, this is now a thing of the past!

WWF-Kenya and Kwale county government Memorandum of Understanding signingHere we are signing our Memorandum of Understanding with the Kwale county government, which sets out what we’re going to do together to improve access to clean and renewable energy, environmentally and socially sensitive large-scale investments, and best practice spatial planning. © Elias Kimaru/WWF-Kenya

Earlier this month we signed an agreement known as a Memorandum of Understanding to cement our flourishing relationship with the county government. It gives us a proper plan for how we’re going to work together. It covers how we’ll work together on natural resource management in forestry, wildlife, water, and fisheries. And it sets out what we’re going to do together to improve access to clean and renewable energy, environmentally and socially sensitive large-scale investments, and best practice spatial planning.

We’re in a much stronger position now. Our relationship with the county government is more focused and it’s guided by action that we’ve planned together. It will allow us to take huge strides forward for some of Kenya’s beautiful forests at a much larger scale, and I can’t wait to see the results!

Want to follow what else we’re doing to help protect Kenya’s beautiful coastal forests? Take a look at my other blogs and keep up with our latest news here.

WWF’s work in Kwale-Kilifi is part of WWF’s Coastal Kenya Programme which is gratefully supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Size of Wales and the UK Government through the Department for International Development.

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