The project was the idea of the local community through the Matuku Self Help Group. The idea was conceived following the gradual changes observed in terms of environmental quality and livelihood of community members. A series of meetings through the support of MAZIDO culminated in the group submitting a proposal to the Community Development Trust Fund through the Community Environmental Facility which eventually got funded to the tune of KShs 20,205,570.00.
To promote sound environmental management of the Taita Hills forests and environs while enhancing local livelihoods.
To rehabilitate and conserve Mbololo and Mwambirwa forests and create wealth for the community.
One of the tree nurseries.
Sunset sand dam.
Training on butterfly farming.
Fish harvesting in one of the fish ponds.
Training women on basketry.
An elderly Basket Weaver
Some of the baskets weaved.
Training on leather tanning and craft.
A product (bag) of the leather tanning and craft training.
One of the beehives set up in Mbololo.
Honey produced locally.A product of the bee keeping project.
The project was launched in August 2007 and ended in June 2010. Since the launch several strides have been made. First and foremost, awareness on environmental conservation and livelihood improvement has been achieved within the project area through 15 barazas (public meetings) which is reflected by;
Secondly, the capacity of the respective community has been effectively built as evidenced by the formation and Registration of RONGO WRUA, MWAMBO CFA, MATUKU Multipurpose (Marketing) Cooperative Society. Also through various tailored trainings, groups have been initiated and selected members equipped with skills on fish farming, bee keeping, butterfly farming, basketry and leather work and a community resource centre constructed where these groups will be meeting and conducting business. The project has ensured that all groups/ Associations formed around project activities are legitimate by ensuring that they are registered as per the Government guidelines and in tandem with respective Acts.
Thirdly, 70 ha (19.5%) of Mwambirwa Forest which had earlier suffered severe forest fires has been replanted with 90,062 indigenous seedlings. Initially six tree nurseries were established and supported by the project and were able to raise over 200,000 seedlings. 11 additional tree nurseries have been also established a clear indication that the community is eager to restore the severely burnt Mwambirwa Forest. The project undertook 14 tree planting days which were attended by 1,862 persons. As a result of these efforts the Kazi Kwa Vijana programme joined in the restoration efforts in Mwambirwa which has seen more land rehabilitated as well as ensure that the tree nurseries continue to exist. Further efforts were put towards the rehabilitation of degraded range lands where Jatropha and Aloe farming trials were undertaken. However; extreme drought of 2008/9 frustrated these efforts. Nonetheless, farmers who received training are pursuing the activity with passion.
Fourthly, through concerted soil and Riverine conservation efforts, 4.5 Km of cut off drains were constructed across slopes and further stabilized with vetiva grass to protect farms on extreme slopes from being washed away. The community has since embarked on constructing more CoDs and lately World Vision has come in to support the activity resulting in wider coverage. The project successfully constructed 3 Checkdams and 1 sand dam along two rivers to check the speed of storm flow and provide ground water recharge. The sand dam has already started to benefit 100 homesteads in a radius of 10 km. 11 springs have been protected through the planting of 3,000 catchment friendly tree species. The project has also introduced Giant bamboo and other bamboo varieties alongside vetiva to stop further encroachment for food crop production. This has seen the improvement in water quality due to reduced instances of chemical contact since farmers are eagerly adopting the bamboo and vetiva planting. Consequently, 1,800 bamboo seedlings have been planted along a stretch of 4.5 km of river banks. The interest shown by the community to adopt bamboo will most certainly improve carbon sequestration hence contributing to mitigating global climate change.
Fifthly, the project has assisted the community in building food security and improving livelihoods through the promotion of fast maturing crops and horticulture as well as supporting micro enterprise activities. Already, fish farming introduced in 2008 has successfully taken root within the area and 50 fish ponds covering approximately 10,000 m2 are stocked with 10,000 Tilapia fingerlings. This way marshy areas which were under extreme pressure due to farming and hence were being drained to pave way for food crops have rejuvenated. More farmers are taking up aquaculture and soon enough will be supplying the growing Voi Town. To provide incentives for forest protection the project has promoted bee keeping and introduced butterfly farming where 200 bee hives have been acquired, a honey refinery established and 26 butterfly breeding cages constructed.
Last but not least, in its affirmative action, the project has initiated a partnership between the Allan Mjomba Secondary School Scouting Movement and the Matuku Disabled Persons Self Help Group where the Scouts manage a fish pond and then share proceeds with the group. Also 150 elderly and disadvantaged persons were trained on basket finishing and leather tanning and craft and have already started to generate income as witnessed in the case of Mrs. Sarah Kiswani a widow, who recently acquired her first mobile phone after selling three baskets. The project has also supported the MWAMBO CFA to develop and promote the Mbololo Forest Nature Trail and prepare an eco tourism business plan. This will no doubt go towards increasing community interest in Forest conservation. All these activities relate towards the overall restoration and conservation of the fragile forest Ecosystem which will contribute towards mitigating climate change and improving community livelihoods.