Synergizing Community-Led Monitoring and Remote Sensing of Threatened and High Value Trees in Ramogi Hill Forest
This project aims at empowering the local community in Ramogi forest with forest monitoring skills while also incorporating the indigenous knowledge so as to build an efficient and cost effecting community led natural resource management system. We will carry out detailed biophysical mapping, ethno-ecological survey and assessment, indigenous tree establishment and training for the community. Through these activities we also hope to establish local and regional networks on forest management systems and promote climate change initiatives such as REDD+. Local communities, as users of natural resources, are usually familiar with the state of the forest, and should be actively engaged in forest management. With the large human resource in the villages, more data from the forest can be collected across different scales not otherwise feasible and at regular intervals. The engagement of communities on monitoring may also strengthen their rights and stakes in owning the data which may legitimize more strongly their claim to REDD+ incentives and rewards in future.
Ramogi hill forest provides multiple environmental, economic, social and cultural benefits to the community. Although the biological diversity of Kenya remains mostly protected, there are many unprotected areas such as Ramogi, whose biodiversity is declining fast and is also receiving little attention. The major threats to biological diversity in Ramogi hill forest include: human population pressure, escalating poverty situation, poor land use practices, lack of awareness leading to inadequate involvement of community in conservation. In the past there have been political pronouncements on conservation of indigenous forests including presidential decree on total ban in logging of indigenous timber, however, wanton destruction of Ramogi forest continues unabated. Currently the rate of logging in Ramogi forest is far much above planting, resulting in degraded forests with large open areas and dwindling biodiversity. Other problems include commercial poaching of high value timber species for example Ocotea usambarensis (Camphor) and Juniperus procera, (African cedar). In addition, charcoal making is quite prominent in most of the forest area. Furthermore, lack of physical and biological inventory from Ramogi forest has derailed any efforts for conservation.
Initiating and improving monitoring and assessment of Ramogi forest by the local community is very important conservation initiative that will empower locals with valuable forest monitoring skills. The 15 local members will have skills to collect and record data on Ramogi forest which will inform the national stakeholders on the status and trend of the forest and thus assist in conservation and formulation of policies. Training and education on REDD+ strategies will provide the community with a broader goal of implementing environmentally and socially sustainable land-use and forest activities and policies. The REDD+ strategies that the community will be trained on are geared towards:
1) Reducing pressures to clear forest for agriculture and other uses;
2) Promoting sustainable utilization of forests
3) Improving forest law enforcement and governance
4) Enhancement of carbon stocks. These will eventually lead to increase of tree cover especially for Milicia excelsa, Brachylaena huillensis and Juniperus procera which are near threatened.
The forest is also habitat for some forest specific animals like forest pouched rat, Mountain climbing mouse, Ross’s Turaco, Pygmy Kingfisher amongst others. Furthermore generalists animals especially avifauna are found in Ramogi.