KIJABE ENVIRONMENT VOLUNTEERS PROJECT (KENVO)
Kijabe Environment Volunteers:Is a voluntary community-based organization engaged in developing sustainable nature conservation programs in the Kikuyu Escarpment Forest. KENVO was formed in 1994 and officially registered in 1996. The major goal of KENVO is to promote conservation of the Kikuyu Escarpment ecosystems, while at the same time supporting community livelihoods. KENVO works in a number of key areas including capacity building, forest restoration, youth empowerment, promoting ecotourism, and research.
KENVO has helped improve the livelihood of communities, reduce threats on biodiversity and develop youth leadership. It collaborates with key stakeholders such as government departments, research institutions, private sector, and other development agencies to inform, educate and build the capacity of communities to embrace appropriate conservation practices in a sustainable way. The organization has evolved beyond this initial focus, however, into a flexible delivery mechanism for donor-funded interventions and a powerful vehicle for holistic local development.
Main programs of focus are:
YOUTH EMPOWERMENT: Owing to the large number of young people in the district, KENVO has developed various activities involving youth. KENVO offers mentorship programs as well as national and international exchange programs. KENVO has encouraged environmental education in Lari and Matathia Districts, through supporting the development of schools’ Environment Clubs. At Matathia Primary School, for instance, students have participated in organised clean-ups, field trips, birdwatching programs, education about indigenous and exotic tree species, and KENVO’s annual World Environment Day activities. Students have also learned about water and soil conservation, as well as the importance of waste management, through recycling programs. Community outreach is continued through workshops, and KENVO’s monthly bird-watching monitoring exercise in Kereita Forest, mostly with Kikuyu village populations along the escarpment. Giving training and financial support to grassroots community organisations for livelihood improvement projects such as bee-keeping and fish farming has helped to provide alternative sources of income for local people.
ALTERNATIVE LIVELIHOODS Apiculture is an eco-friendly livelihood activity supported by KENVO, although the socioeconomic returns in terms of income generation are still being realized. This began in 2005 and since then 150 beehives have been distributed to 10 local youth & women’s groups. KENVO has also given training and donated protective harvesting gear to the groups, while on their part, the group members are expected to create the hives area, and ensure its security. The ten groups meet for joint discussions each month. One of these examples, Esibonia Youth Group, began their work in June 2009, and expect to harvest their first batch of honey by October 2010. After using a portion of the honey for their own consumption, the group intends to market and sell the product. Another group has been able to expand their activities to manage 40 hives. Fish-farming is another area in which KENVO has given support to local groups through access to micro-loans. Kaharlu Women’s Group, a women’s agricultural co-operative that has worked on Kikuyu Escarpment since 1985, was given funding by KENVO to dig out a fish pond. KENVO then supplied the plastic lining and 400 tilapia fish. The women harvested 900 specimens in July 2010, and have been assisted in marketing them by KENVO. Mariculture and apiculture are being encouraged in order to further reduce pressure on the escarpment forests for livelihoods.
FOREST REHABILITATION: This has been a key program for KENVO and is the impetus behind its formation. KENVO works to rehabilitate the degraded parts of the Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, emphasizing community involvement. They have been using this initiative to inform and educate members of the community on the importance of a healthy environment. The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has divided Kereita Forest into two blocks: 4,700 hectares are reserved for indigenous trees, which are protected against felling by law, while 2,600 hectares are for commercial use. This includes cyprus, pine, and blue gum trees. The nursery itself is divided into three sections, for use by KFS, KENVO, and communities. The communities are given initial capital by KENVO, in the form of seeds and pods, and they develop their own cooperative nurseries, taking cuttings from the mother trees in the forest, before selling the seedlings at planting height to KENVO. Local schools also fundraise for the cost of seedlings and volunteer at the nursery. Through these schemes, KENVO has been successful in creating incentives for reducing local practices of deforestation and charcoal burning, which had put huge pressures on the forest.