ABOUT THE FOREST CHALLENGE
The Forest Challenge envisions to restore lost forest cover in key water catchments areas in Kenya that are essential to supporting livelihoods and the survival of wildlife ecosystems.
In 2014, East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) in partnership with Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) pioneered an annual forest event dubbed ‘‘The Forest Challenge’’. The event gives participants an excellent and unique opportunity to interact with nature by taking part in competitive yet fun activities in Kereita-Aberdare forest. The key objective of The Forest Challenge (FC) event is to raise funds for the rehabilitation and restoration of key water catchment forests in Kenya.
The event was inspired by the need to recover lost forest coverage which is as a result of massive deforestation, that has led to devastating state of reduced water quantity and quality that is essential for life and sustenance of biodiversity and livelihoods.
The event is designed to rally support and participation from government, private sector institutions, civil societies, communities and individuals to collaboratively and innovatively contribute towards forest restoration activities in an attempt to achieve the constitutional target of at least 10% forest cover in the Kenya.
Forests are of great importance as they hold more than three-quarters of the world’s terrestrial plants and animals. It is estimated that more than one quarter of modern medicines are derived from forest plants and over 40% of global oxygen is produced from forests. After oceans, forests are the world’s largest storehouses of carbon which is essential in keeping our air clean.
According to the FAO Forest Resource Assessment 2015, deforestation accounts for about 20% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation through illegal logging, charcoal burning and the encroachment of forests for human settlement and agriculture threatens not only the loss our forests but also livelihoods of people and variety of life on our planet. It also leads to loss of valuable habitats, land degradation, soil erosion and a decrease in clean water.
In Kenya, the forest cover is estimated at 7% of the total landmass which is below the recommended global minimum of 10%. Out of this, Kenya’s closed canopy forests which are mainly montane forests (water towers) only cover 2% compared to the African average of 9.3% and a world average of 21.4%. In recent years, Kenya’s forests have been depleting at an alarming rate of about 5,000 hectares per annum which is estimated to lead to an annual reduction in water availability of approximately 62 million cubic metres. These problems are compounded by illiteracy, poverty and rapid human population growth. With inadequate forest cover and recent witnessing of drying rivers and climate change, there is urgent need to focus efforts on reforestation to curb and reverse the current situation.
In light of the above challenges, this initiative of the Forest Challenge provides a unique opportunity for corporates, government institutions, civil societies, communities and individuals to collectively address deforestation through forest rehabilitation activities including tree growing and tree nursery establishments; creating public awareness on the importance of forests and empowering local communities living in the forests. This aligns well with Kenya’s Vision 2030 and supports the government’s directive to attain 10% forest cover by 2022 and further helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% as per the National Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement.
WHAT THE FOREST CHALLENGE AIMS TO ACHIEVE
The overall objective of the Forest Challenge is to contribute to the conservation and restoration of at least 600 hectares of key water towers in Kenya within ten years while promoting and supporting local communities through:
- Tree growing activities for forest restoration of key water towers
- Establishment of tree seedling nurseries and management of forests through Community Forest Associations (CFAs) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS)
- Enhancing public awareness on the importance of forests and encouraging a sense of responsibility on the management and sustainable use of forests.
- Fostering partnerships among stakeholders in forest conservation
WHY SUPPORT THE EVENT
The health of our water towers is essential to the good health of our nation and all industries directly or indirectly depend on sustainable supply of fresh water emanating from forest water catchments. When the quantity and quality supply of this water is threatened, as is the case, then our businesses and well-being is also threatened. For example, we are witnessing today that deforestation in the upstream Maasai Mau Forest water catchment has greatly affected the supply of water feeding into the Mara and Ewaso Ngiro rivers which are drying up, hence threatening the survival of wildlife ecosystems in the Mara that have for years been an attraction to tourists who contribute immensely to our GDP and provide livelihood support to thousands of Kenyans.
By supporting this event, you will not only be indirectly supporting sustainability of our economy, but will also be demonstrating your commitment towards achieving environmental sustainability and forest stewardship which guarantees a clean and healthy environment for current and future generations. Furthermore, you will be demonstrating Corporate Social Responsibility/Investment, leadership and forest community charitable giving.
Additionally, sponsoring the event as an organization will give you bonus opportunity to select participating teams from your organization to take part in the challenge. The challenge is designed to help strengthen team leadership, organizational and teamwork skills through highly motivated team building exercises, while providing them with the opportunity to learn about and participate in forest conservation in an adventurous, exciting and challenging way.
WHY PARTICIPATE IN THE CHALLENGE
As a participant, The Forest Challenge is designed to offer you an excellent and unique opportunity of being deep into the forest and completely separating you from civilization and providing you with a sense of tranquillity. The event also allows you to learn, experience and participate in forest conservation in an engaging, adventurous, exciting and yet challenging way in the woods. Participating in the competition is a healthy and fun sport that will connect you with nature and give you the opportunity to emerge as a forest conservation champion and ambassador.
WHERE DO THE PROCEEDS GO?
- The Forest Challenge 2017, 2018 & 2019 have so far contributed to 20000 trees through which we have been able to rehabilitated of 25 acres of degraded forest in the Aberdare and Mau Forests. We shall be planting the rest of 10000 in November 2020 and by June 2021.
- Installed a 10,000-litre water tank at Munyaka Primary School adjacent to Kereita Forest that supplies 267 pupils and 10 teachers with clean and safe water.
- Empowered 2 Community Forest Associations (Eburru Rafiki and KENVO) through purchase of tree seedlings from their indigenous tree nurseries and engaging them in aftercare programs to ensure high success rates
This year’s Forest Challenge Event aims to raise funds to continue the restoration of Eburru forest which is the water catchment for Lake Naivasha and Lake Elementaita and support reforestation/livelihood project in the Aberdare forest.
We sustain the projects financed by the Forest Challenge by working closely with local Community Forest Associations (CFAs) who nurture the seedlings by providing proper aftercare programs that ensure high success and maturity rates of the tree seedlings. Thereafter, the reforested area is left under the care of Kenya Forest Service. We further ensure sustainable supply of indigenous tree seedlings by supporting locally established tree nurseries.