Ngare Ndare is a lush indigenous forest at the foothills of Mt. Kenya. Azure pools glisten at the bottom of waterfalls and 200 year old trees stretch into the canopy supporting a rich variety of bird and animal life. The forest is a vital corridor that links the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to Mount Kenya, and one which elephants have been using for centuries. In the 1980’s farmland became more developed on the southern side of the forest, and farmers came into regular clashes with elephants. In an attempt to alleviate fatal human/ wildlife conflict, the forest was fenced off from southern farmland in 1992. Yet the Ngare Ndare Forest Trust wasn’t registered until 2004, and a concession management agreement was finalised with the Kenya Forest Service only as recently as 2009.
The communities that surround Ngare Ndare have been grazing their cattle in the forest for decades. However, as populations increase, so has the pressure on the natural resources, and there are several initiatives now in place to provide sustainable alternatives for the Ngare Ndare community.
To alleviate pressure on the forest for firewood, the Trust have provided small farms in the area with gum trees for firewood and building materials. Over 1.5 million gum trees have been planted in the farms, and have made a huge difference in the incidents of illegal tree felling. Plans are also underway to develop a biogas project. To help diversify incomes and reduce reliance on livestock, the Trust has also given bee hives to some community members to set up within the forest, who sell the honey and keep the profits.
14 community members have found employment in becoming NRT rangers. They were trained with funding from NRT and generous support from the Kenya Wildlife service, at the Manyani Training School in the famous Tsavo National Park. Passing with flying colours, the team emerged with knowledge in discipline, field craft, wildlife law and wildlife monitoring. They play a critical role in raising conservation awareness, gathering intelligence, managing conflict and collecting basic wildlife data.
Ngare Ndare is the only indigenous forest in Kenya with an expanding canopy cover, and some of the ancient African Olive and Red Cedar trees within it are thought to be around 200 years old. Elephant and buffalo are frequently seen here, as they make their way from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to the rich grazing on the hills of Mt. Kenya. The Ngare Ndare River originates from a spring in the forest, and creates paradisiacal blue pools that go on to provide water for the wildlife along its banks and the surrounding communities. The tree nursery set up by the Trust grows 100,000 indigenous seedlings a year, 50,000 of which get re-planted in degraded areas of the forest in an annual tree planting ceremony attended by many of the community members.
Ngare Ndare boasts the only canopy walk in East Africa. The one kilometer long boardwalk provides visitors with a monkeys-eye-view of the flora and fauna below, and often black rhino, elephant and buffalo can be sighted from up there too.
There is a number of walking and mountain bike trails that snake through the forest, and guides are available to accompany visitors who wish to explore them. For those who are brave enough to face the chill, the river pools provide a refreshing swim. Two campsites with basic facilities mean visitors can stay overnight, and all camping fees going to the Trust to help with running costs.
For more information visit the Ngare Ndare website.
With assistance from NRT and partner organizations, Ngare Ndare aims to achieve the following in the coming years:
- To convene, along with all other NRT community conservancies, in annual general meetings to share plans and progress
- To take part in a livelihood baseline survey, commissioned by NRT, with a view of determining the status and priority of education, health, water, jobs, food security, infrastructure and current availability of government services
- To continue the strengthening of wildlife security and monitoring within the conservancy
- To sign a partnership memorandum of understanding, along with all other community conservancies, between themselves and NRT
- To continue forest rehabilitation through planting and protecting indigenous trees