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«1 A preliminary ecological survey of Kirisia Forest Reserve, Samburu District For Conservation Enterprise Development Program, 2009 By Anne Powys, ...»

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By Anne Powys, Ethno-botanical Consultant


A preliminary ecological survey of Kirisia Forest Reserve, Samburu District


Conservation Enterprise Development Program, 2009


Anne Powys, Ethno botanical consultant

Executive Summary

Anne Powys carried out a ground survey of Kirisia Forest Reserve as well as the

following group ranches: Mbaringon, Nkiloriti, Angata Nanyokie From July to December 2009.

The objectives of this brief survey were as follows:

 To determine the current state of the Forest Reserve focusing on all illegal activities including the extraction of timber etc.

 To confirm the present status of the Forest Reserve  A brief report on the biodiversity of fauna and flora either by site records or spoor.

 Record any indigenous species of plants that have potential for the purpose of domestication for the Bio-enterprise program.

The survey revealed enough evidence of forest destruction to warrant extreme caution in plans going forward with Bio-enterprise. The main threats to the Forest are tree cutting for cattle fodder in the dry season, charcoal burning, illegal timber extraction and honey collecting of wild hives where whole trees are felled the most affected species are Juniperus procera (cedar) and Olea europaea ssp. cuspidatus.

(Wild olive), Olea capensis ssp.macrocarpa the trees are often left burning causing extreme and lasting damage to the forest, the fires are more frequent due to the dry periods lasting longer than normal. If the destruction is allowed to continue at the current rate, it will lead to the disappearance of the Kirisia Forest within the next ten to fifteen years, with the effects of climate change predicted as irreversible it is not unrealistic to presume immense pressure on the Kirisia Forest Reserve.

Judging by the prevailing circumstances it does not seem desirable or effective to manage the forest resources through the enforcement of existing regulations. The Forest Bill welcomes community participation in the joint management of forests. The CFA initiatives are in their infancy but this is the last hope for any future management of the forests in Kenya.

The following general recommendations are made for the protection of the forest:

 Strengthen the developing Kirisia Forest Association in collaboration with KFS, 2 KFWG, KWS and active stakeholders.

 Assist with the development of a management plan for the forest.

 Assist with the development of the management agreement between KFS and  Kirisia CFA.

Help with suggestions of immediate zonation of Kirisia Forest into strictly  protected areas and multiple use areas as well as zones for different activities.

Formation of specialist user groups in the group ranches surrounding the forest.

 Recognition and official involvement of Community Forest Scouts.

 Encouragement of tree planting and involvement in the Bio-enterprise program  including the domestication of useful indigenous plants for commercial use. Any other pressure reducing activities outside the reserve must be encouraged with particular emphasis on beekeeping.

The Forest Reserve has considerable potential to attract naturalists and  adventure tourists.

Introduction Leroghi Forest Reserve spans 91,452 hectares and lies on the northern end of the Laikipia plateau in Northern Kenya. The reserve boundary encompasses 70,000 hectares of dry cedar/olive forest on the Kirisia hills and approximately 20,000 hectares of semi arid and arid bush land with an altitudinal range of 1,273m – 2,625m. Due to the wide altitudinal range the flora the reserve exhibits a high degree of diversity. The forest is an important habitat for wildlife including: Elephant, buffalo, bushbuck, bush pig, giant forest hog, warthog, suni, lion, leopard, and wild dog. The birds and insects are well represented including Hartlaubs touraco possibly the most dominant species in the forest as well as tambourine dove, which only occurs in forests, martial eagle, sunbirds etc. A preliminary plant list is being compiled based on site records only and is expected to include some rare and threatened species considering the location and the varying altitudes that make up the forest reserve as well as the surrounding vegetation.

At the moment Kenya has only 1.7% of its land area covered in forest. This is serious considering that the minimum forest cover that a developing country needs is at least 10% for sustainable water and farming. Kirisia Forest accounts for over 6% of the remaining indigenous forest cover. (Rona Birnie – Wilderness Foundation) In 2005 the Wilderness Foundation UK commissioned an aerial survey of Leroghi Forest in response to an alert of increased logging.

WF-UK 2005 Leroghi Forest Aerial Survey Aerial Survey In response to logging alerts, WF-UK organized and funded an aerial survey of Leroghi Forest. Bongo Woodley of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Christian Lambrechts of UNEP and Michael Gachanja of Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG) carried out the survey on 14 and 15 March 2005.

Method Set transects were followed from the air, with the position of the aircraft recorded on a GPS every 10 seconds. Each observation of forest disturbance was recorded and supported by photography.

Findings  No external, large-scale commercial drivers of forest destruction evident.

3 Logging is at present scattered and selective Three factors - logging, manyatta (farm) settlement and fire - are causing the  most damage, as evident from the air. All driven by local factors 620 manyattas present in the forest  96 burnt areas / fires recorded, 27 burnt trees / small fires recorded  Evidence of 318 indigenous trees logged  Response In response to the findings, Rona Birnie and WF-UK Vice-Chair Toby Aykroyd then attended follow-up meetings with Kenya Forest Working Group, Kenya Wildlife Service, the Green Belt Movement, UNEP, WWF and Leroghi communities.

Manyattas KFWG agreed to address manyatta settlement in the forest, as it is a very sensitive issue.

Threat Posed by Wild Honey Collection The 2005 aerial survey revealed 96 fires in the forest over 2 days, many started by honey collectors’ smoking devices. These findings supported the 2004 WF-UK ground survey results. Such fires spread and can destroy large tracts of habitat. Moreover, mature Afrocarpus gracilior (podo) trees and Juniperus procera trees are felled to collect one small harvest of honey. These methods are unsustainable and damaging to the forest and communities.

(Rona Birnie) See Rona’s report.

A biotic features around Kirisia Forest The Abiotic features (concerning the non-living environment) of Kirisia Forest Reserve comprise location, topography and drainage, geology and soils and finally climate.

Location The Kirisia Forest Reserve lays some 50kms just North of the Laikipia plateau.

Topography and drainage The topography of the hills is made up of metamorphic rock in the form of granitoid gneiss at an altitude of 1,273 to 2,625metres.

The North facing side of the hills form steep slopes with several sheer granitic bare rock faces and deep seasonal river valleys these form important water channels to underground water catchments in the seasonal lugga’s in the areas between Kirisia and the Mathews range. The North/West section of the forest reserve ends close to the sheer drop, which makes up the East wall of the Great Rift Valley. The South/East side of the hills slope gradually down to meet the shallow soil flats of the Leroghi, which extend well into Laikipia District.

Geology and soils Granitoid gneiss makes up most of the Kirisia hills with only part of the hills consisting of an overlay of phenolites towards Losiolo (Losiolo phenolites).

The grasslands of Northern Laikipia and onto the Leroghi plains are formed of a great series of lava sheets, which flooded out from the Rift Valley Region, towards which the whole series thickens. Soils in the hills are of a gravelly granitic make up whereas on the lowlands to the South there is a mixture of black cotton and lateritic soil types. (Report no.11, Mining and Geological Department, by R.M. Shackleton,

1942) and (Anne Powys, based on field observation) 4 Climate Annual rainfall in Kirisia is approximately 600 – 800mm. The long rains are in April/May with the short rains in November. The driest months are January and February, which concur with the period of highest fire risk from honey hunters.

Biotic features around the Kirisia Forest Reserve The biotic features are those concerning people, plants and animals in Samburu District and specifically around Kirisia Forest Reserve.

Population Samburu District has always been pastoral land, with the Kirisia Forest Reserve forming an important dry season refuge for livestock.

With the growing population in Maralal town and the surrounding group ranches that border the reserve, there is a noticeable increase in the use of forest products;

charcoal production is on the increase. The hills are surrounded by two main groups of people the Samburu make up the majority ethnic group whilst there are small populations of hunter gatherers (Ndorobo) who are undoubtedly the oldest inhabitants of the Kirisia Forest.

Land use There has been permanent settlement around the forest close to Maralal town for some years now. Maralal was chosen as a replacement administration centre in 1934 after Barsaloi was closed down in 1929 (Nigel Pavitt). The Forest Reserve has been traditionally used for dry season grazing, honey collecting, herbal medicine, firewood, building material.

Indigenous vegetation Kirisia Forest Reserve is an indigenous forest of a dry cedar/olive type

The most dominant trees and shrubs and lianas in the forest include:

 Afrocarpus gracilior (Lopiripiri, SAM)  Cassipourea malosana (Machakudu, SAM)  Diospyros abyssinica (Lekiri, SAM)  Dovyalis abyssinica (Lmoro, SAM)  Vepris simplicifolia (Lgilai, SAM)  Ekebergia capensis (Songoroi, SAM)  Juniperus procera (Ltarakwai, SAM - THREATENED)  Olea africana spp.cuspidatus (Lorien, SAM - THREATENED)  Olea capensis ssp macrocarpa (Loliontoi, SAM - THREATENED)  Toddalia asiatica (Lparamunyu, SAM) Forest plantations The earliest plantations of Eucalyptus sp. were planted in the Angata Nanyokie area in the 1940’s approximately Changes in forest cover The rate of population growth in the Maralal and Kirisia environs has significantly influenced the rate of forest cover change.

Changes in forest cover in Kirisia between 1986 and 2000 were assessed from aerial photographs (1:50,000, 1:10,000 and 1:12,000), spot imagery (1:250,000), and base maps of the study area (1:50,000).

–  –  –

Administrative and managerial features Being a gazetted forest, the Forest Department (FD) is responsible for the Management of the resource. KWS is also involved because of the wildlife found within and outside the forest, there is a KWS station in the Baawa valley and the warden is based in Maralal. In the early 1980s, logging of indigenous tree species was prohibited by presidential decree. In March 2000, a nation-wide general ban on logging and forest exploitation came into force.

There has not been any recent form of management in the Kirisia Forest Reserve.It is only now with the CFA awaiting registration that a proper management plan will be developed.

Today, there is a District Forest Officer based in Maralal at the old forest station above town, the DFO is responsible for: Kirisia Forest, Mt. Nyiru, Mt. Kulal and the Mathews range.

There are forest scouts who do not live near the forest no known patrols apart from the KWS.

As a rule, every activity concerning forest utilization requires permission from the District Forest Officer (DFO). The regulations for Kirisia Forest do not allow for the collection of firewood since it is an indigenous forest, any collecting of firewood therefore is illegal. The DFO also controls permits for the transport of charcoal, assuming that it is produced on private land since the production of charcoal is prohibited in forest reserves. Grazing in the forest is allowed during dry months of the year.

People and their perceptions of Kirisia Forest Land distribution Maralal town is fairly cosmopolitan made up of several ethnic groups who consist of the main traders in town the groups include: Kikuyu, Samburu, Somali and Turkana.

The Kirisia Forest is surrounded by pastoralists of the Samburu tribe who still move with their livestock to seek grazing although the people living adjacent to the forest in the south and around town to the west are beginning to become more sedentary and cordoning off ‘plots’ these plots are all fenced using dry cedar and saplings from the forest. There are no know title deeds for the majority of these plots it still remains communal land. The earliest inhabitants are the small groups of hunter-gatherer people (Ndorobo) who are now dominated by the Samburu and have therefore adopted Samburu culture and language. There are groups in Baawa, Tamiyoi, and Sanataa.

Methodology The main method used for the survey was multiple field visits to Kirisia and Maralal including informal interviews with the local people along the forest edges, administration officers, Forest Department personnel and KWS personnel as well.

To get a feeling of the local people on their perception of the forest resources, opportunities for development and problems facing the forest further 7 Information was also collected through group discussion held in and around the forest mainly with the youth group around Baawa, wazee in Lpartuk and Sanataa.

Plant data was collected using opportunistic sampling methods and Id’s made based on site records.

Sources of information included the following:

• Stakeholders and friends of Kirisia Forest Reserve

• Field visits and interviews with local people

• Maps and data from the WF-UK 2005 Leroghi Forest Aerial Survey www.wildernessfoundation.org.uk Local perceptions regarding the importance of the forest


Firewood was seen being collected by tractor on several occasions close to town using an old forest track above ‘Bhola’ this practice is illegal.

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