Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UNEP and Colin Church, Chairman, Rhino Ark Management Committee today launched The Environmental, Social and Economic Assessment of the Fencing of the Aberdare Conservation Area at UNEP Headquarters in Gigiri.
This independent study confirms that the fence has has improved the livelihoods of millions of people in central Kenya. It also attributes improved forest cover, safer living conditions for local communities and greater security for wildlife to the fence, which was completed in 2009 after 20 years of construction.
The study was requested by Rhino Ark pioneers of the fence project, with funding support from thousands of Kenyans and friends of Kenya overseas. The study was co-funded by UNEP, Rhino Ark and Kenya Forests Working Group and supported by the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Kenya Forest Service and the Greenbelt Movement.
The study affirms that the fence has proved a prime management tool in the process of both conservation integrity and ensuring better incomes for all – fence edge farmers, as well as the national and global interests that are derived from the Aberdares as a prime water, forest and biodiversity hot spot. It shows that the Aberdares is offering a management and policy blue print for the precious ‘water towers’ of Kenya and other tropical mountain ecosystems and upon which so much human resource is increasingly dependent.
Among the study’s key findings are:
- A 20.6% increase in forest cover between 2005 and 2010
- A 54% decrease in open areas (grassland and cultivation inside the now fenced 2000 km² Aberdare Conservation Area
- A 47 % increase in exotic plantations outside the fenced area
The comprehensive study included a detailed economic valuation of the Aberdare Conservation Area. Highlights of this valuation are:
- Annual carbon sequestration and soil erosion control – KES 1.9 billion (US$ 20.3 million)
- Annual Carbon credits value – KES 450 million (US$ 5 million)
- Total products and services values are put at KES 39.3 billion (US$ 420 million) and biodiversity at KES 20 billion (US$ 214 million) – an overall total of KES 59.3 billion (US$ 633 million).
A summary of the report will be available on the Rhino Ark website (www.rhinoark.org) shortly.