Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Human-forest mutualisms in Kenya

Preparing to enter kaya Kinondo

I have just wrapped up a  two-week expedition in coastal Kenya, where, along with colleagues from Michigan State University, I've been helping lay the groundwork for research that explores the mutualistic relationship between coastal forests and nearby local villagers. Working with local collaborators that include the National Museums of Kenya, A Rocha Kenya, and the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, we have been meeting with members of local Community Forest Associations around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Dakatcha Woodlands, Shimba Hills, and a few sacred forests ("kayas") around Mombasa and the South Coast. Many of these villagers (which consist of members of several of the nine tribes that constitute the Mijikenda coastal tribes, who originated from Somalia) rely on forest products such as cut stems/poles for fuelwood, charcoal production, and wood carving - all responsible for negative effects on forest ecosystems that are well-documented in this part of the world. At the same time, many villagers living adjacent to forests also contribute positive benefits to forest ecosystems, including such activities as planting native tree and plant species and beekeeping. Our interest is in documenting such human-forest mutualisms, comparing them with biodiversity metrics in a range of habitats subject to different governance systems. Furthermore, we hope to engage local residents in participatory planning processes to positively increase the scope and impact of these human-forest mutualisms.

Wood carvers at Lunga Lunga, Kenya-Tanzanian border

Colobus monkey, kaya Kinondo

Sunset, Indian Ocean