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07/02/2014

Our Africa: an analysis

It was a great adventure. After the article published in December about our work in the Baringo area (Kenya), we have not spoken anymore because we started a hard work and we literally disappeared inside Mau forest. 

 

MAU FOREST: BEAUTIFUL AND THREATENED

Mau Forest is a mythical place, which echoes of symbolic names and sounds (the Mau Mau  who, during Kenya independence war, fought against the colonialists and hid themselves inside the caves), where nature is still beautiful, but under strong attack. The research we carried out was aimed at assessing the integrity of natural resources in order to preserve them and implementing a responsible tourism project supported by Manitese (an Italian NGO), NECOFA Kenya and WWF Italy.

First, we asked people for information about the forest state-of-the-art by mapping the biodiversity through a participatory approach.  What we discovered was that the traditional hunting areas, where local communities still produce honey like in the old days and gather food and natural medicines, are less and less, under attack, threatened by illegal logging and, most importantly, by legal one. Acres and acres of exotic trees are grown only to be cut and invade the native forest, causing habitat fragmentation and loss of biodiversity. 

Then, we evaluated the local biodiversity. As biological indicators we used birds and mammals. We designed a method of research to make measurable local people perception, with a cross-checking mechanism to assess the veracity of information. The results we collected showed a fragmented forest, but still beautiful where preserved. Rich, full of water, light, animals, where not logged. But threatened both on its borders and internally by small logging and large timber plantations, which do not host biological communities and menace the ecological connectivity of the entire forest.

The collected data have been verified by a direct sampling, using our photo-traps. The evidences confirmed what we had learnt from local communities; where the forest is healthy, species like the bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus, a forest antelope linked to a good environment) can still be found, while where native forest is surrounded by plantations and human settlements only livestock and hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) can be spot. Hyena is a carnivore living nearby humans and livestock, which causes frequent conflicts and is not an indicator of ecosystem quality. 

 

HOMEWORKS

The work of Eliante did not end in Africa. Given the situation, we implemented a GIS analysis that allowed us to clearly see how small the native forest area is, lower than previously thought. Moreover, only a few ecological bridges remain to connect the different patches of native forest.

We suggested solutions and delivered the results to those who will have to support local people in a process of self-determination that should lead to the creation of a forest management plan. People can and should speak, according to the new constitution of Kenya. Eliante tried to provide them with scientific sound information and a training that will put the basis of this management plan.

 

A POSITIVE EVALUATION, AN EXCITING EXPERIENCE

This is what we did in Mau and Baringo. We tried to bring information and tools that can help people to manage sustainably their natural resources. It was an exciting experience, which we hope to repeat soon. It was exciting to see local community interest and participation, to see its great knowledge, make it ours, to mix participatory tools with objective scientific techniques and to see how all the approaches led, from different paths, to the confirmation of a result, which is the need for the people to preserve this corner of the world, still intact, but under heavy attack.