Mount Kenya’s forests suffered considerably in the past decades, when large areas were cleared to provide timber and land for rapid population growth and urbanisation. Over the past decade, MKT have successfully planted over 1.5 million trees at several tree planting sites; Irangi (southeast), Ontulili (northwest MKNR), Imenti (northeast), Marania (north) and Ruthumbi (east) with new sites opening up each year. There are 6 major vegetation zones which have been classified according to altitude and floristic composition. They are: Montane forest 1,600-2,400 m; Bamboo thickets 2,400-2,850 m; Hagenia-Hypericum woodland 2,850-3,000 m; Erica bushland/shrubland 3,000-3,300 m; Alpine zone 3,300-4,350 m and Nival zone 4,350-5,199 m.
Fires on Mount Kenya are becoming a more regular threat, with the size, number, and severity varies from year-to-year depending on weather conditions. Some years, very little of the mountain burns, while other years there are large fires. Weather is a huge factor affecting risk. Under dry, windy conditions a small fire can easily spread and become difficult to extinguish, catching the forest canopy.
We support the ‘Trees Establishment Livelihood Improvement Scheme’ in collaboration with the Kenya Forest Service and local Community Forest Associations. This allows people to grow crops such as potatoes between the young trees during the first 4-5 years of forest establishment. While managing their crops, they protect the trees from livestock and wildlife.
In sites too steep for cultivation, along rivers or inside the National Park, we contract community members to dig holes and plant trees to restore the natural forest.
COMMUNITY TREE NURSERIES
We source most of our seedlings from nurseries run by women or self-help groups. They use the income to set up small shops, buy pedigree livestock, pay school fees or acquire farm equipment.
We set up our own tree nursery in 2016 to grow indigenous seedlings for out-planting on the mountain and as a ‘best practice’ demonstration site for school children and community group visits.
If smoke is seen on the mountain, teams and equipment (with aerial support) are mobilised within hours to identify the location of the fire and to get fire-fighting teams on site. Fires are fought with a combination of manpower, fire breaks and water doused from helicopters or spray planes.
ELITE MOUNTAIN FIRE TEAM
MKT are training an elite team of 50 firefighters to be ready and well equipped to deal with the dangerous fires on Mt Kenya (and our neighbouring mountain range – the Aberdares).
These teams of 10 will be on standby whenever a fire is identified, and will not only be provided with advanced training in fire-fighting techniques but will be given the appropriate safety equipment required.