Sh378 million Kakamega forest fence to kick off in April

Rhino Ark Executive Director Christian Lambrects. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]

The fencing of the country’s only tropical forest is expected to kick off next month.

Some Sh230 million has been raised to start a 117-kilometre fence around Kakamega Forest.

The project, which is expected to run for two years, is projected to cost Sh378 million and is a partnership between Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Kakamega and Vihiga counties.

Of the Sh230 million raised so far, Kakamega contributed Sh100 million while Vihiga gave Sh30 million.

Rhino charge

Rhino Ark donated Sh100 million raised in the 2019 Rhino charge.

“We have had stakeholder meetings with KFS, Vihiga and Kakamega counties a few days ago and a draft partnership is in place. We are only waiting for a licence from the National Environment Management Authority in the course of this month,” said Christian Lambrechts, Rhino Ark Charitable Trust executive director 

The fencing is expected to secure the forest that is home to a variety of rare animal and plant species, such as the black and white colobus monkeys, from encroachment and illegal logging.

It is also expected to tame human-wildlife conflicts and boost tourism activities within the scenic forest.

Speaking during the 2019 Rhino Charge in Isiolo that helped raise money for the fencing project, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said the forest was under threat. “Kakamega Forest is a lifeline of many rivers across the country. However, it faces immense challenges as a result of encroachment,” Governor Oparanya said.

Rhino Ark Charitable Trust has been involved in the fencing of Mt Kenya, Aberdare and Eburru forests.

Last year, the Sh156 million raised during Rhino Charge was budgeted for completion of the 450-kilometre electric fence around Mt Kenya Forest and starting off the Kakamega Forest fence project.

Part of the money will also be used to maintain and upgrade the 400-kilometre Aberdare fence and maintenance of 43.3km Eburru fence.

According to KFS Chief Conservator of Forests Julius Kamau, cooperation between the private and public sectors plays a critical role in conservation.

He praised Rhino Ark’s forest conservation efforts.

“Rhino Ark has for the past 31 years been able to complement our efforts towards boosting forest cover in the country. This has been one of the major private-public partnerships. We would not have done this alone,” said Mr Kamau.

Rhino Charge, one of the world’s toughest off-road motorsport event, has for the past 30 years raised Sh1.5 billion to construct electric fences around major forests in Kenya and conservation of Mau Forest complex.

In 2018, the event raised Sh183 million, up from the Sh250,000 raised in the first Rhino Charge in 1989, which went to the construction of the first 38km fence around Aberdare Forest.

The fence, meant to protect rhinos in the Aberdare Forest (hence the name Rhino Charge), was later expanded to 400km which was completed in 2009.

Focus then shifted to fencing of Mt Kenya Forest.