|Safaricom staff, Kenya Defence Forces soldiers and locals combine efforts to erect part of the 50km fence around Eburu Forest. [PHOTO: ANTONY GITONGA/STANDARD]|
Naivasha, Kenya: The echo of a power saw reverberated from one valley to the other before the huge ageing trees crashed to the ground.
On the other end, smoke rose to the blue sky as charcoal burners conducted their illegal business. Hours later, donkeys ferrying huge sacks full of charcoal and logs from indigenous trees trooped out of the forest heading for a ready market.
On their way out, the donkeys and their masters passed through a dry riverbed as a bunch of frightened monkeys watched from the remaining trees.
Another section of the forest was under cultivation by local farmers as a herd of cattle grazed nearby.
For years, this was the norm in Eburu Forest, which is part of the 20 Mau Blocks and a water catchment for Lake Naivasha.
Fast-forward to today and the situation is vastly different as efforts to conserve the endangered forest gain momentum.
Slowly but surely, the humming of bees and chirping of birds are taking over the forest as it regains its former glory.
Clean water now flows through the once-dry riverbed and some of the donkeys once used to ferry charcoal supply plastic poles to help fence the forest.
The smoke that once covered a large section of the vast forest is no more; instead, fresh air wafts from the hills into the nearby homes.
A project to erect a fence around the forest is ongoing and is expected to be complete by the end of this year.
Eburu Forest is part of Mau Forest Complex, which is situated to the east, facing the Mau escarpment.
The forest ecosystem forms part of the watershed divide between lakes Nakuru and Elementaita on one side and Naivasha on the other.
These lakes have also been designated Ramsar sites (wetlands of international importance) and the complex extends over an area of about 470 square kilometres. It is believed that Eburu Forest forms the highest peak in the Rift Valley.
Some of the organisations involved in the fencing include Rhino Ark, Safaricom Foundation, Nakuru County, Finlay Flowers and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
According to the Executive Director of Rhino Ark, Christian Lambrechts, 28km of the 50km forest perimeter fence has already been done.
And just like the Aberdares, the project is using plastic poles, which are environment friendly, cheap and long lasting.
Lambrechts notes that the fencing project had seen cases of poaching, illegal logging and charcoal burning drastically reduce, adding that the forest will soon regain its past glory.
Safaricom Foundation Trustee Les Baille says a Sh6.5 million energiser house, which is one of three that will be built around the forest, is ready and KWS officers have taken over.