The essential problem facing the Arabuko-Sokoke forest is the ongoing degradation of the forest biodiversity by the forest adjacent communities. As long as the demand for forest and wildlife-related products exists, the forest biodiversity will be under constant threat. We must continually adapt to this evolving threat of illegal logging, charcoal production or poaching in order to protect the Arabuko-Sokoke forest biodiversity. The main cause of forest exploitation is due to poverty and limited livelihood options. Pressure due to population growth and inadequate government service provision is the greatest threat to the forest and species within it. If the forest is to become sustainable for the long-term, its security is a prerequisite for poverty alleviation, economic development, and for providing safety for all wildlife and their habitats.
As a natural resource, the forest has attracted a lot of interest, some regrettably deleterious, and as a result, Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest have come up to aid in its protection. We currently operate our law enforcement teams in partnership with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Our law enforcement provides the much-needed protection for the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest ecosystem which is threatened by chronic habitat destruction and bushmeat poaching.
Foot patrols: We employ team of dedicated community scouts to patrol the forest day and night to keep the forest safe. They employ various techniques to investigate and follow-up on potential threats and liaise with Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service to achieve maximum results.
Snare removal: Together with community forest associations we organise de-snaring actions with objective to remove maximum number of snares from one area. Snaring is a cheap and indiscriminate method of poaching threatening several wildlife species in the forest.
Data collection: Our teams collect data using CyberTracker and SMART interface to provide clear visuals of the illegal activities hotspots and these are used to target areas for foot patrols and investigative actions.
Training and equipment: All our scouts underwent thorough training on field operations and related skills and additional refresher training is provided when needed. Proper and frequent training is one of the most important elements of creating an able and well-disciplined law enforcement team to counter illegal activities.
Support to our government partners: Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service are our main partners in the forest, and we work together every day! Our scouts’ teams are usually accompanied by their rangers, they handle suspects and transport confiscated material. We support their field operations by providing fuel and sometimes maintenance for their vehicles.
WORKING WITH COMMUNITIES
The population around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest consists mostly of small-scale subsistence farmers for whom agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Rural livelihood poses a great challenge as families are often in a state of poverty where they lack the basic necessities for survival. A rural household with diverse sources of income earning activities has better chances of survival financially than a household which has only one source. Household income from forest related works improves their resilience and promote forest conservation related benefits. The forest can easily become the economic heart from where people are employed who are then able to buy goods and services. This all feeds into creating a conservation-led economy that is dependent on the forest.
Employment of community scouts: We employ community scouts that are protecting the forest on daily basis.
Roads maintenance: The forest has about 200 km of forest roads and trails, that are used for its protection and by visitors. We are working with community members to open these trails and make them available during whole year.
Improving knowledge about communities: We engage young men and women to help us collect socioeconomic data about communities and monitor our impact. We provide them also with necessary training that improves their future ability for employment.
Nature-based enterprise/livelihoods: Based on information about livelihoods needs and sustainable opportunities we implement sustainable livelihoods projects for communities living around the forest. We work with women groups and local associations to implement projects as cassava farming and processing and beekeeping.
11 community scouts full-time employed, 24 community scouts on temporary employment contracts, 15 women participated in our cassava planting programme, 5 youth trained and engaged to collect socio-economic and monitoring data.
The most important resource around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest are people. The challenges of poverty, natural resource exploitation or climate change will not be resolved in a few years. It will take generations. Today’s children – and theirs – will need to be able to continue our race. For that, they will need a full understanding of why forests are so valuable, to understand the complexities of these ecological problems, and how they can be a part of the solution. It is our job to provide young, inquisitive minds with the tools and information needed to do better for the environment and wildlife.
Forest conservation education programme: We work with schools bordering Arabuko-Sokoke Forest to reach out to the school-going children and help the learners to understand the importance of the forest and environmental conservation. This programme aims to bring up a generation conservation conscience generation.
Visit KWS education centre: In 2019, Friends of Arabuko Sokoke Forest renovated the Kenya Wildlife Service education centre to create an engaging and modern exhibition and learning space to the forest visitors to gain information and insight into the form and content of the forest ahead of a walk or drive.
Environmental Clubs in Schools: Friends of Arabuko Sokoke Forest is working with the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya to form environmental clubs in schools bordering the forest, this is to develop the interest in conservation amongst the leaners.
1300+ students from 37 schools bordering Arabuko-Sokoke Forest attended our environmental education programme
200+ accompany learners visited the forest
40 schools around the forest established environmental clubs to develop conservation interest amongst leaners through activities such as tree planting
Community Forest Associations
Participatory forestry refers to processes and mechanisms that enable people who have a direct stake in forest resources to be part of decision making in all aspects of forest management. The introduction of Participatory Forestry Management in Kenya provides for formation of Community Forest Associations, which shall enter into agreement with Kenya Forest Service and other partners.
Advising on making them sustainable, capacity building, One management plan, one ecosystem, Livelihoods outside of the forest rather then rely on forest natural resources, Effective and efficient management, Linking with other communities in similar situations
During the COVID-19, Friends of Arabuko Sokoke Forest took a leading role to increase safety of local communities and in collaboration with authorities and Community Forest associations produced and distributed over 1000 masks equipped local health centres with handwashing buckets and soap. We also supported farmers bordering the forest in with 800kgs of cereals seeds
Infrastructure Development and Maintenance
To deliver good management of protected area, tremendous infrastructure is required including roads, fence and outposts. Good roads in the forest are vital for both law enforcement and tourism and outposts serves as a base for all field operations. Our communities live on the periphery of the forest and are likely to feel the effects of living near wildlife. As many people rely on subsistence farming to survive, their crops were often raided by elephants and other animals, thus all our forest was fenced to mitigate elephant – human conflict.
Forest trails maintenance: We are working with the Kenya Forest Service and Community Forest Associations to maintain priority forest trails open and accessible. This is a never-ending work as trees, bushes and grass are growing very fast especially in rainy season.
Fallen trees clearance: We remove trees stumbled by elephants or wind blocking the roads to allow access to the forest.
Electric fence maintenance: We support the maintenance of the Arabuko-Sokoke electric fence which plays a vital role in reducing elephant-human conflict whilst protecting the forest boundary integrity.
Outposts reconstruction: Forest is managed from 3 forest stations and scouts and rangers use additional outpost for protection operations. In 2018 we reconstructed malanga and Kakuyuni outposts to allow scouts and rangers effectively patrol adjacent areas
110+km cleared in 2020, 10+ fallen trees cleared from the roads every month, 800+ pressure treated, metallic capped fencing posts donated to KWS for fence maintenance, 2 ranger outposts reconstructed
Tourism and other conservation-compatible enterprises with revenues going back to the parks and communities is aiding in economic development and poverty alleviation. Properly managed forest with inclusive tourism development plans implemented can make a direct contribution to local and national economy.
Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest advocate for the development of ecosystem tourism development plan to guide eco-tourist development in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. The rigorous demands of the industry today and the need to safeguard the biological diversity of the forest mean that a structured rational approach is acutely needed, including business model and benefit sharing mechanisms with communities.
Meanwhile, we support installation of forest information signage, clearing walking paths and connect guides with stakeholders to support donations of small equipment.