The Rhino Ark Aberdare fence is a significant “investment which should be secured and maintained” for the future management of the Aberdares declared Kenya’s President, Mwai Kibaki at the Commissioning ceremony on March 12 at Bondeni, Mweiga.
Accompanied by the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Raila Odinga, the President presided over a colourful occasion at which thousands of fence line farmers from all areas of the Aberdares arrived to attend. The site was beside some of the earliest fence line built 21 years ago when Rhino Ark began its Aberdare conservation journey.
President Kibaki said the fence “will enable communities whose livelihoods are dependent upon the Aberdare Mountain range to benefit more from this forest ecosystem. Farmers’ incomes and land value have increased with the construction of this fence”.
The President endorsed the work undertaken by Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service and Rhino Ark “in preparation of a management facility to be called the Aberdare Trust Fund: He announced that the fund would be launched next month (April 2010)
President Kibaki specially thanked “those early initiators of Rhino Ark who helped raise funds by creating the now world famous annual Rhino Charge event.”
The President gave the annual Michael Werikhe Award for services to conservation in the Aberdares to the two Kipipiri groups – Kipkiami Cecaffe and Gita – who provided no cost labour to the value of Kshs 0.5 million to build the final 45 km Kipipiri Extra Section last year.
The award is donated by the East African Wildlife Society. The judges are members of Rhino Ark’s Rhino Charge Committee.
The President and Prime Minister were accompanied by the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, Hon Noah Wekesa, MPs Nemeysias Warugongo- Kieni, Clement Muchiri Wambugu, Mathioya, Jeremiah Kioni, Ndaragua – all constituencies bordering the Aberdare fence line.
Mark Glen and Bryn Llewellyn of Car 48 winners of last year’s Rhino Charge attended with Jas Sehmi of Car 12 and who has driven in every Rhino Charge since it began in his 1947 Willis Jeep. The Prime Minister climbed into Car 48 whilst President Kibaki turned the steering wheel of the car.
The President then flicked a switch to finally commission the fence. A flow of 7000 volts by impulse surged through the wire to the acclaim of the onlookers. The President expressed great interest that the fence was performing at full capacity ever since it was erected in 1989.
Two plaques were unveiled by the President – one to commemorate the event and the other with the message:
“Our great mountain forests are the ‘water towers’ and the ‘lungs’ of our beloved Kenya. They and the precious flora and fauna within them must be sustainably managed and conserved for all Kenyans and as a global heritage for all time.”
Above this inscription a Simbara stone from near the upper moorland of northern Aberdares estimated by a geologist to be over 5 million years old was placed.
The Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Hon Wekesa proposed a permanent commemoration site, arboretum and education centre be established at the site for all Kenyans and overseas visitors enjoy and learn from.
President Kibaki flagged off the Aberdare Fence celebration school relay run started by children from Bondeni Primary School. The relay will see a baton to be carried by children from 77 schools close to the fence line. The baton will run along the entire near 400 km fence during the next few weeks.