12 November 2008
Miharati, a bustling agricultural area that lies on the north-western slopes of Mt. Kipipiri was the site of the formal start of construction of the final 55km long Kipipiri Extra Section of the Aberdare Electric Fence. The fence will encircle the 3,900 hectare Mt. Kipipiri Forest Reserve and link it, via a 4km long wildlife corridor, to the main Aberdare mountain range to the east.
Since July, a joint team of officers from Rhino Ark, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service and the district administration have held a series of mobilization meetings to prepare the local communities and get their support for the fence construction. The success of this effort was apparent from the throngs of enthusiastic community members who turned up to clear the thick forest vegetation along the demarcated fence line, paving the way for the construction team to commence fence building.
The event was attended by the local chief and officials from KWS and Rhino Ark, who addressed the gathering and emphasised the importance of community support for the project. Community leaders acknowledged the need for the fence, noting that the huge losses due to crop destruction and livestock predation by wildlife over the years would come to an end once the fence was built. The community also undertook to be on the lookout for poachers and illegal loggers entering the forest reserve, and to report to the authorities.
From left: Local Chief John Mbugua, Aberdare Deputy Warden Gibson Mwaluma, Aberdare Sector Warden James Magena, Rhino Ark Fence/Community Manager James Githui
Lucy Wangui, Vice Chairperson, Geta Community Fence Association
The community members organized into work gangs kicked off the fence line clearing in high gear. The grating buzz of chain saws, the thunk of axes and machetes against timber and the boisterous shouts of men, women and children at work marked the start of a herculean task that over the next 1 year will help to secure this invaluable ecosystem.
Hard labour: community members clearing the fence line
Cutting trees with an axe
Teamwork to put up fence post
Local children watch and learn
The indigenous forest that covers the 3,349 metre high mountain is an important wildlife habitat – part of the home range for the diverse Aberdare wildlife species that include elephant, buffalo, leopard, monkey, porcupine and many others. It is also a crucial water catchment, providing streams that feed the Malewa River, which drains into Lake Naivasha to the south west. With so much at stake, it is clear that the fence will provide a massive boost to conservation activities in this area.