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New report gives direction to IBA conservation in Kenya

Over-grazing and logging are threats?

A report from NatureKenya (BirdLife in Kenya) sheds new light on the changing challenges and pressures facing the conservation of Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Results from ‘Kenya’s Important Bird Areas: Status and Trends’ highlight in particular, the threat of overgrazing and illegal logging to the protection of IBAs in East Africa. This is the first time that African IBAs have been monitored and the results have given a valuable insight into the issues that surround wildlife conservation in East Africa. Two threats of particular concern were found to be overgrazing and illegal grazing - both of which were deemed a serious threat to 57% (34 out of 60) of the IBAs in Kenya.

Illegal selective logging and vegetation destruction were also widespread issues – 55% of all IBA sites in Kenya highlighted the ‘serious threat’ that this had to site conservation. Of the 22 forest IBA sites in Kenya, 16 reported that tree logging and pole-cutting posed threats to IBAs. Another frequently cited threat was firewood collection; deemed a threat to 43% of IBAs. “Many IBAs in Africa face similar threats, but our results hint that these threats are reversible,” said Paul Matiku, Executive Director, NatureKenya. “The state of our IBAs has not changed dramatically between 2004 and 2005. Indeed, in some cases, pressure may have reduced slightly; often a result of the hard work that NatureKenya and its Partners, particularly in the relevant government departments, have been putting on educating, monitoring and building local constituencies for conservation, in particular the Site Support Groups”

Site Support Groups (SSGs) are independent groups of volunteers that promote conservation and sustainable development at an IBA. SSG members were among the many groups consulted during the preparation of ‘Kenya’s Important Bird Areas: Status and Trends 2005’ report. Data were also obtained by monitoring forms retrieved from employees of the Forest Department and Kenya Wildlife Service as well as IBA fieldworkers and researchers from the National Museums of Kenya. “The results from our work on IBAs in Kenya have given us a basis on which we can build,” said Enock Kanyanya, IBA Programme Manager, Nature Kenya. “Discovering that firewood collection is a widespread threat allows people, governments, and other BirdLife Partners in Africa, to further invest in solutions”.

As a result of the study Nature Kenya are now focusing on the development of environmentally safe alternatives to firewood collection which, alongside government subsidies, can be used by local communities without the need for depleting forests, an important resource for livelihoods. These alternatives include encouraging local communities to plant woodlots of fast growing trees at home for the supply of firewood and building purposes. Many of these actions have been promoted and implemented alongside the ‘Kenya Forest Act (2005)’ - a government response that has lead to a moratorium on harvesting and transporting timber.

“IBAs are valuable places for birds and many other groups of species; not least for people and their livelihoods.” said Hazell Shokellu Thompson, Head of BirdLife’s Africa Partnership Secretariat. “Finding out more about our IBAs and the issues that surround their conservation has allowed us to ‘keep stock’ of our IBAs, and to focus our efforts where they’re needed - most often by working with local people and communities."

In Africa, the first SSGs were initiated by BirdLife Partners in 1998 and 1999 through a ten-country GEF-funded project entitled African NGO-Government partnership for biodiversity conservation. Subsequently the BirdLife Africa Partnership has embraced the approach, which is being applied in all the network countries in Africa.

4th July 2014