It was with great marvel that I watched a news segment entitled “Forest Converts” that was aired in one of the local TV news, Citizen News. It covered how a community surrounding Geta forest, in Kenya turned from being radical loggers to passionate and dedicated forest conservationists. Geta Forest covers 18,807 HA and is situated in Nyandarua County, in the central Kenya highlands and is part of the larger Aberdare Forest ecosystem. The community members were involved in the illegal logging in the forest and they were always clash with the government and engage in the running battles with the forest rangers. However, the then leader, Jamleck Gichuki indicates that they realized the more they used to cut down trees the more they got poor.
The government approached approached them through the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and they entered into a mutual agreement to be conserving the Geta forest ecosystem and this changed everything. They turned from being loggers to conservationists it has transformed their lives for the better. They are involved in the planting of trees in the forest after harvesting trees and they are also allowed to practice farming in the forest as well. One of the highlights that caught my attention was that on a good harvest, Jamleck Gichuki is able to make up to Ksh. 800,000. These returns have enabled the community to empower themselves, where they now own land and have been able to put up modern decent houses for their families. They have managed to invest and educate their children without challenges. Some now own multiple motorcycles, which continue to boost their income.
Any environmentalist watching the news segment can see a functional plan of the community participation in the conservation of forests. One of the major threats to our natural forests is illegal logging mainly by the locals. The government should replicate the Geta plan around all natural forests in the country. It is a fact that the government is not in a position to hire enough forest rangers to protect the trees from the illegal loggers. The community surrounding these forests stands as the biggest asset and tool towards the realization of the country’s conservation goals. As evidenced in the segment, the community highlighted that they cannot allow any person within or without to come and cut a single tree from the forest. This is the best guarding mechanism that is free from compromise from the mighty and greedy officials in the government. It is my hope that the government will be able to replicate this idea to all major forests including those of Mt. Kenya and the Mau Forest, that are among the country’s main water towers.