About the NRFA
NGONG ROAD FOREST
In the past, different parts of the Ngong Road Forest have been managed by different community associations; the most active of which has been the Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary Trust which established a set of popular nature trails and the highly respected, Imre Loefler Education Centre.
In response to the 2005 Forest Act, a Community Forest Association (CFA) was established called the Ngong Road Forest Association (NRFA). NRFA recently amalgamated with the Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary Trust. Implementation of the plan to save the Ngong Road Forest is being led by the NRFA, in partnership with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).
The vision of the plan is to make Ngong Road Forest safe and secure, and a world class example of sustainable forest management and conservation.
The goal is to achieve and sustain a well and safe conserved Ngong Forest through stakeholder’s participation for provision of goods and services for the city residents.
The plan is to moderate the participation of stakeholders, besides ensuring that the implementation leads to sustainable management of the forest.
The Forest has been divided into five zones as it is divided by the roads crossing the forest.
This Management Plan covers a five year period starting from 2012 – 2017.
If a city’s skyscrapers embody the pursuit of commerce, its green spaces speak of something more reflective.
A chance to pause and think afresh, to step away from the rough and tumble of city life and move forward, renewed.
Nairobi is a city growing at an extraordinary pace. In 1900, the year of its formal municipal foundation, human settlement crouched on the edge of a patchwork of open grassland, forest and woodland swamp. Today, its 4 million strong urban population jostles for space and oxygen in what has become East Africa’s single largest conurbation. A lack of housing provision has seen the ballooning of informal settlements and little by little, ancient forest makes way for concrete.
One of the few places offering respite is the Karura Forest to the north of the city. During the 1990s, it came under threat from developers and was fiercely defended. Today, it is a thriving urban forest attracting families, joggers, hikers, mountain bikers and visitors searching for a slice of peace and quiet.
The rehabilitation of Karura Forest stands as an example of what can be done through collective action and the implementation of a protective infrastructure that safeguards and sustains natural habitats.
Now that energy and dedication are needed anew. In Western Nairobi, the 1,224 hectare Ngong Road Forest is in peril. Illegal logging and encroachment by developers are depleting the forest’s resources, while the unsecured, unlit forest interior has become a hotbed for violent crime.
The Ngong Road Forest demands urgent and wholesale attention. It too has the potential to become a safe, self-sustaining and inclusive green space and a world- class example of sustainable forest management. But we must act now.
The good news is there is a plan in place – a vision to transform the Ngong Road Forest just like Karura before it. This document outlines what needs to be done and how you can help.
Mandate and Membership
Mandate of the Ngong Road Forest Association
The mandate of the Ngong Road Forest Association is to:
Promote the sustainable development of the forest for climate amelioration, soil and water and biodiversity conservation
Carry out inventories and evaluation of forest resources and their potential utilisation, in order to generate accurate information for decision making
Empower local communities to manage the forest through Community Forest Associations
Support forest management which embraces preservation of religious and cultural sites, traditional medical sources, water catchments and habitats for endemic and threatened species of flora and fauna
Promote good governance in the forest sector
Ensure that Ngong Road Forest Reserve being largely indigenous remains served
Determine and appropriate the status of the forest, and take restoration measures
Promote participatory forest management approaches to ensure the participation of communities and other stakeholders in the management of Ngong Road Forest Reserve
Ensure that users benefiting from the forest contribute to the conservation and management through the user pay principle
Promote insect farming and ensure other sustainable, non-harmful uses of forest are enabled
Ensure that forest plantations are efficiently managed and operated on a commercial basis
Ensure that degraded and over exploited areas are rehabilitated by community associations with government support
Manage the existing Wetlands by de- silting and removal of invasive species
Develop recreation and ecotourism facilities
Liberalise seedlings production Promote value added forest products Apply forestry research findings
Support public awareness creation with regard to forest conservation management and utilisation
Protect traditional interests of local communities customarily resident within or around a forest
Respect cultural practices that are compatible with sustainable forest management
Enhance more opportunities for women and youth in the forest through training and education
Promote HIV/AIDS awareness
Committee Members of the Ngong Road Forest Association
Chairman - Simon Woods
Vice Chairman - Simon Ng’ang’a
Treasurer - Philip Gitahi
Vice Secretary - Fred Mutoma
Administrator - Libby Munene
KFS, Forester - Simon Kiarie
A Growing Threat
The Ngong Road Forest covers an area approximately three and a half times the size of New York City’s Central Park. It is divided into two main sectors by the Ngong Road: the Miotoni Section to the North West, and the Racecourse and Kibera section to the South East. The Southern Bypass, which is currently under construction, in turn divides these sections.
The forest was originally gazetted in 1932, it covered an area of approximately 2,926.6 hectares and supplied the railways with timber and fuel. By 1978, this area had been reduced after a series of legal excisions. Illegal land grabbing was also rife with portions of the forest split off and allocated to private developers behind closed doors. In the early 1990s, the Trustees of Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary, led by Imre Loefler discovered that the core of the indigenous forest had been divided in to 35 land parcels and was to be given over to developers. After intense lobbying of the government, the sell-off was cancelled. By 2005, the total area of the Ngong Road Forest had reached its current size of 1,224 hectares.
The Forest Act of 2005
Since 2005 and the passing of The Forest Act, the Ngong Road Forest has been managed by the Kenya Forest Service. The 2005 Act was in part inspired by the rescue of the Karura Forest, reflecting a broader recognition of the importance of urban forest rehabilitation.
The Forest Act encourages the involvement of neighbouring communities in forest management, contrary to past practices which saw the centralisation of management. This is in line with the approach of countries around the world and a collaborative approach is now widely regarded as the optimum way of managing natural resources. The plan for rehabilitating the Ngong Road Forest has local community involvement at its core.
The Story of A Forest
The idea of a perfect storm in a country that suffers endemic drought may not be the correct metaphor but it does a pretty fair job of describing the current situation in the Ngong Road Forest:
Rampant urbanisation and pressure for land and resources are pushing up against the forest boundaries. Encroachment and land grabbing, however small scale, are constant, while potential property developers continue to circle
The natural resources of the forest, be they animals, timber or medicinal plants, lie unprotected, leading to unsustainable deforestation which affects the water table and fatally impacts the surrounding ecosystem
Years of neglect and a lack of adequate fencing and patrols have created a deeply concerning security situation inside the forest. It has become a place of refuge for criminals who commit opportunistic attacks on visitors, reducing the number of people willing to set foot inside. This undermines the interest of the public in the forest’s preservation and conservation
The forest is susceptible to forest fires during dry periods
Lantana Camara and other invasive weeds grow tall and vigorously, endangering indigenous plants and trees. In the dams and waterways phragmites cluster along the waterbed and shorelines
Left unattended, these pressure points will only become more intense. One thing is certain, the longer the Ngong Road Forest is left, the smaller and more diminished the ancient forest will become. The existence of a diverse, safe and inclusive habitat is under threat. And once it is gone, there is no turning back.
The Story of A Forest
A Source of Inspiration - The Karura Forest
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Professor Wagari Maathai understood the critical importance of forests and parks to the health and well-being of a city. In the 1990s, she challenged the planned settlement of Nairobi’s other green space: the Karura Forest Reserve, resolutely standing up to vested interests who sought to replace trees with concrete towers.
Today, the 1,061 hectare Karura Forest is flourishing. On the weekends picnic goers settle on grassy banks as joggers and cyclists breeze by and birdwatchers settle in solitary corners. Walkers take advantage of the well-maintained and signposted forest circuits with routes that take in caves and waterfalls.
The Friends of Karura Forest was officially registered in October 2009, and is made up of individual, family and corporate members as well as residents’ associations bordering the forest.
Working in partnership with the Kenya Forest Service, activities completed by the Friends of Karura Forest include:
Making the forest safe and secure by building and maintaining an electric fence along its perimeter, then employing a fence manager and hiring, training and equipping 27 scouts to patrol it
Implementing a transparent entrance and event fee structure to generate revenue
Using that revenue alongside personal and corporate sponsorships, to install extensive infrastructure including public amenities, ranger accommodation and signage
Kicking off the restoration of the forest ecosystem by clearing 100 acres of invasive alien plants and replacing them with indigenous species
Felling 1,000 eucalyptus trees to help restore the forest’s swamp, making room for species native to Kenyan forest habitats
In the past five years, the Karura Forest has seen its official visitor numbers rise from zero to 12,000 people a month. That’s a pretty decisive response to the question of whether Nairobi values its green space. The same can be achieved in the Ngong Road Forest.
“I have invested 20 years of my life in this campaign for the environment and I’m still only scratching the surface. I am confident of winning. Nobody will build anything in the forest as long as we live. We cannot dignify theft.”
Professor Wagari Maathai, Nairobi, 2001
Security and Infrastructure
Security is the primary cause of concern in the Ngong Road Forest and the urgent aim of the fundraising plan is to raise sufficient monies to secure the borders of the forest.
Security is the pre-requisite; without it all other planned activities fall down. By raising funds for forest security, founding donors are drawing a line in the sand that this piece of urban forest is worth saving. The aim is not to gate off green space for the use of a few but to bring a halt to the rule of a criminal minority, transforming the forest into a place that can be enjoyed by all.
The fencing of the Ngong Road Forest is being tackled in five sections; in this way, control of the area will be achieved in manageable portions, and according to the flow of funds.
This document is concerned with raising funds for the establishment of fencing and the upkeep of security in Section 4 – the largest segment of the Ngong Road Forest.
A fundraising campaign led by NRFA with local and private stakeholders has raised over KES10million to install fencing in Section One. This security effort builds on the existing activities of local residents in this section of the forest including the planting of 7,000 indigenous trees since 2003. On 20 June 2014, a ceremony was held to mark the completion of the Section One fencing and this part of the forest is now open to visitors.
Section 2, 3 and 5 will need to be fenced but the priority now is to secure the largest area, Section 4, and put measures in place to ensure it then stays secure.
Learning from the experience of the Karura Forest fencing project, while electric fencing and the installation of missing beacons is critical, of equal importance is to ensure monies are in place to sustain these security measures. A high-quality electric fence is of little use without the infrastructure needed to support it. For this reason, the fencing plan is underpinned by a series of maintenance measures, to include:
Building and maintenance of a vehicular route along the inside of the fencing for patrol and upkeep
Setting up regular forest patrols by locally recruited forest rangers and scouts to remove the threat of illegal entry – particularly at night
Implementation of a security surveillance system with on-site CCTV manned from a central control room
Controlled access to the forest by installation of designated entry and exit points with manned barriers and guardrooms
Tracks and paths cleared and improved to facilitate movement of patrols around the forest
Rangers and scouts to be equipped with VHF handheld radios – currently the rangers in the forest use their own mobile phones to make urgent calls, as few of them have credit this system is inherently faulty
Illegal Land Title
It is not always 100% clear who owns what in the Ngong Road Forest and there continue to be many cases of false title deeds being issued and annual land rates being illegally collected.
The NRFA plans to engage with the Commissioner of Lands to halt further collection of annual land rates for illegally allocated parcels and to revoke illegal title deeds. As part of this initiative, areas along the Ngong Road which have been the site of encroachment from informal settlements and businesses will also be repossessed.