By Emma Malin
The completion of a 400km long electrified fence in the Aberdare Forest has drastically reduced the rampant cases of human-wildlife conflict, a new study has revealed.
The study, The Environmental, Social and Economic Assessment of the Fencing of the Aberdare Conservation Area, revealed that communities neighbouring the Aberdare National Park have enjoyed safer living conditions since the completion of the fence in 2009.
According to the findings, there has been remarkable improvement in the security of local people, including school-going children who now face fewer risks from animal attacks. Over the years, residents have suffered numerous elephant and baboon invasions that have resulted in crop and livestock loss.
Speaking during the launch of the report at the UN offices in Nairobi, chairman of the Rhino Ark Management Committee, Colin Church said the completion of the fence marked a milestone in conserving the Aberdare and noted that it had brought socio-economic benefits.
“Food security and household incomes have improved since wildlife are no longer a problem to crops and livestock,” said Church.
He pointed out that land value in the region had also improved, going up by as much as 300 per cent in some cases. He attributed this to the separation of humans and wildlife. Consequently, residents’ confidence in lands adjacent to the park has been restored. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner who was also present at the launch observed that instances where cattle rustlers used the forest as an escape route had ceased, and that disease transmission between wildlife and livestock was greatly reduced.
On water resources, the report showed that the volume of water in rivers emanating from the Aberdare was more stable than in rivers flowing from Mount Kenya, a fact it attributed to better land cover in the ecosystem. Forest cover in the Aberdare had increased by 20.6 per cent between 2005 and last year.
The installation of the fence took 20 years and cost an estimated Sh800 million.
The study was co-funded by UNEP, Rhino Ark and Kenya Forest Working Group, and supported by the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Greenbelt Movement.