MONITORING PROGRESS ON FOREST CONSERVATION MECHANISMS IN THE UPPER MARA BASIN.

Involvement of communities around water catchment areas is a critical starting point towards improving river basins in the upper Mara River basin. The mode and level of engagement of these communities by stakeholders be it conservation organizations, the government or the private sector, determines the expected results on whether they take up conservation or not. The Mau Mara Serengeti Sustainable Water initiative (MaMaSe)aims at improving water safety and security in the Mara River Basin  from the upper catchment, and all the way to the middle Mara River Basin. To fast track forest conservation efforts we are working in collaboration with The Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) to sensitize communities on the importance of forest conservation, pilot innovative economic development activities aimed at improving conserving forests  and facilitating adoption of improved agronomic practices. This has materialized through Community Forest Associations commonly referred to as CFA's.

Deforestation 

Effects of deforestation in the upper Mau catchment area due to increased human agricultural activity.

Nyangores Community Forest Association is one of the CFA's which has been at the forefront in protecting the Mau forest. Its approach is to introduce income generating activities to the communities bordering the forest to reduce destructive economic exploitation of the forest for timber and firewood. The income generating activities are introduced via community sensitization and training session undertaken by the CFA.

Agroforestry is one conservation mechanism promoted by the Nyangores CFA. It has been challenging to get communities that border the forest to plant trees on their farms. Farmers often complain of trees reducing space available to grow seasonal crops like maize and potato; they are however receptive to the idea of growing fruit trees with are considered a source of income in diversifying from the predominantly grown tea. MaMaSe supported the CFA to leverage the interest of farmers in fruit trees, mainly avocado, to promote growing trees for wood fuel, timber and indigenous trees for increased farm biodiversity and conservation of the forests. To motivate farmers to plant more trees, for every Avocado seedling a farmer buys, a Grevillea and indigenous tree seedling is provided to the farmer at no cost. Since farmers are more willing to pay for avocado tree seedlings, the costs of other environmentally friendly seedlings are included in the cost of the avocado seedling.

MaMaSe through SNV and Wageningen UR provided capacity building in to the CFA as organisations in modelling sustainable businesses with agroforestry; and provided a grant to develop a tree nursery to supply trees for farmers with interest in adopting agroforestry. 1000 seedlings were provided by the grant, with the CFA contributing a matching number of Grevillea seedlings. And unlike previous trends where such seedlings would be given to farmers for free, the CFA sold the seedlings from the grant to 40 farmers through community sensitization forums raising revenue of Ksh.70,000 for development of its tree nursery. Every farmer who bought avocado seedlings took home a matching number of Grevillea seedlings. Revelation of this possible combination with potential to generate income from sale of avocado and provide firewood from coppicing Grevillea trees saw the CFA register demand for 6000 avocado seedlings from over 300 farmers. This demand matches request from Songoroi Ltd, a private company in the basin that exports avocado, from linkages brokered by MaMaSe to have 250 farmers with at least 40 avocado trees as out-grower farmers supplying the company.

At Nyangores CFA, 200 avocado seedlings have since been developed at the nursery and sold to 7 farmers in the first two of a series of sensitization exercises aimed at meeting the high demand received. This has further motivated the CFA to utilise the proceeds to undergo further training on grafting. 1000 grafted avocado seedlings, 1500 Grevillea and 2000 seedlings were under establishment at the CFAs nursery. This initiative by the CFA to graft seedlings instead of buying, will help reach out the targeted 75 farmers in 2016 and more in 2017. The CFA will also generate income and facilitate training of the community in the long run.

Grafting

Training Farmers on grafting avocado seedlings.

To increase the uptake of agro forestry across the basin, SNV is working with Water Resource User Associations (WRUAS) which assist in implementation and monitoring progress of the conservation mechanisms. Some of these WRUA's include Amala and Nyangores WRUA's and Nyangores CFA. They develop work plans detailing series of sensitizations meetings to be held promoting conservation mechanisms. Each WRUA focuses on specific conservation mechanisms; Amala WRUA seeks to address agroforestry using fruit trees, Nyangores CFA implements agroforestry using fruit trees while Nyangores WRUA focuses on introduction of firewood efficient cook stoves and woodlots for fuel. 

grafting avocados

Training farmers how to plant and manage avocado seedlings

As the MaMaSe project enters its final year of implementation along the Mara River Basin, the project is confident that these conservation interventions are sustainable and will lead to better environmental conservation and sustenance of the Mara Ecosystem which is depended upon as a socia- economic and transnational boundary resource for generations to come.