Communities take action for the environment in Dakatcha Woodland

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Dakatcha Woodland is one of the five Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Kilifi County. Its forests of Brachystegia trees shelter globally endangered birds such as Clarke’s Weaver and Sokoke Pipit. In the past, there were also dense thickets of Cynometra trees, home to the endangered Sokoke Scops Owl.

For a long time now, Dakatcha Woodland has been facing high forest degradation levels through unsustainable charcoal production and illegal logging of trees for poles and timber production. It can be argued that this situation has been largely fueled by the lack of alternative income generating activities (IGAs). When sustainable nature-based enterprises are established, community livelihoods improve, and the community is less dependent on forest resources.

In a bid to curb the increasing footprint on our biodiversity, Nature Kenya started a community sensitization program at Dakatcha Woodland, targeted at community-based organizations (CBOs) engaged in charcoal production for livelihood sustenance. The initiative, started in September last year, sought to encourage these CBOs to establish commercial tree nurseries as an alternative income generating activity.

Among the sensitization program’s objectives were:

  1. To shift community focus from dependence on charcoal production as a source of livelihood and adopt tree nurseries as a potential income generating activity
  2. Promote tree planting and rehabilitation programs in Dakatcha woodland.
  3. Protect biodiversity from degradation as a result of unsustainable charcoal production
  4. Assist in the establishment of reforestation plans among charcoal producers as required by the Charcoal Regulations Act 2009
  5. Establish farm woodlots and farm forestry to ensure a future supply of tree products from exotic tree species as opposed to indigenous tree species, a long-term measure to protect Dakatcha Woodland’s forests and Community Conserved Areas.

Contributions from the community were relied upon, from purchase of equipment to management of tree seedlings. The Kilifi County government’s environment department helped to provide a market for the seedlings. Subsequently, planning and launching of the Kilifi County tree-planting program took place in Dakatcha, bringing on board stakeholders to fully support the program. The tree-planting launch took place on May 8th 2014.

To date, over 60,000 seedlings have been grown by at least 11 trained CBOs in Dakatcha Woodland, with over 23,000 being planted at community sites and 48,000 being sold, generating over Ksh. 500,000. A large percentage of the sold seedlings were planted at government institutions and public schools. Nature Kenya and Action Aid supported to a great extent planting of the seedlings at the community sites.

Increased tree cover through massive tree planting at community sites, establishment of farm forestry and woodlots and full support for ‘greening’ programs in schools are some of the outcomes of the community sensitization program.