Cover Image
close this bookArabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek - The Official Guide (KIFCON, 1995, 72 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentVisitor guidelines
View the documentWhat to see and do
View the documentThe forest's rich biodiversity
Open this folder and view contentsBackground
Open this folder and view contentsForest flora
Open this folder and view contentsForest fauna
View the documentSafeguarding the forest's future
Open this folder and view contentsTravel, accommodation and general information
View the documentForest map
View the documentSatellite view of the forest
View the documentSuggestions for further reading
View the documentSome check lists
View the documentKIFCON
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentNotes
View the documentBack cover

Safeguarding the forest's future

Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is vitally important for people and wildlife. It provides a wide variety of resources for neighbouring communities, as well as being an economically valuable forest in which some legal commercial exploitation still takes place. Moreover, it is an irreplaceable wildlife habitat of international importance. The survival of a forest of such great value cannot be left to chance. Careful management is needed to ensure that it continues to provide many benefits for current and future generations.

Sokoke Scops Owl

To achieve this, the Forestry Department (FD) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) have created a partnership to improve forest management. Both organisations recognise that Kenya's indigenous forests make a significant contribution to the country's economy and provide homes for some of its rarest wildlife. The partnership draws together people with the skills and experience to address the main issues of forest management - protection of water catchments, conservation of biodiversity and continued sustainable exploitation.

For well over a decade, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest has attracted international interest and concern.

Papilio dardanus (male)

Non-government organisations like BirdLife International and the World Wide Fund for Nature have been able to assist managers with conservation support. Research has been undertaken by Kenyan and overseas biologists working in collaboration. Their results have provided information which is essential for management planning: on the condition of the forest, its biodiversity, utilisation, and the changes that are taking place. Through a variety of programmes which include better law enforcement and the promotion of facilities for visitors the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Management Team is working to reduce unsustainable pressures on the forest.

Forest guards and wildlife rangers undertake regular patrols in the forest to check that licences issued for harvesting forest produce are not being abused. At the same time they help neighbouring farmers by controlling problem animals, principally elephants and baboons. A significant amount of damage is caused to forest-adjacent farms (shambas) annually, where elephants can in a single night destroy a family's food supply for one year. The joint FD/KWS patrols respond to villagers' requests for elephant scaring, often at night, bringing welcome relief from the damage these raiding animals cause to crops.

BirdLife International, which has been involved with Arabuko-Sokoke since the early 1980's, is seeking financial support to consolidate and expand many of the initiatives promoted with KIFCON assistance in the early 1990's.

Birdlife recognises that the long term future of the forest will depend as much on promoting local development outside the forest as on nature conservation inside its boundaries: a programme of rural extension is needed to reduce exploitation and depletion of forest resources. This could be done by creating alternative sources for many products, currently extracted from the forest, including food plants, medicines, thatching grass, minerals and water, as well as timber and fuelwood. More effort is also required to increase family income and to improve the productivity of small farms. Small timber plantations of fast-growing exotic species, and valuable indigenous hardwoods, can provide alternative sources of sawn timber, construction poles and fuelwood. Better access to tree seedlings is already being provided by the nurseries at Gede and Jilore Forest Stations. The perennial problem of access to water is also under review. If piped supplies of clean water can be made available to the nearby villages, people would no longer need to collect water from forest pools. Wildlife would then have more water inside the forest and would have less need to search for supplies in the farms and villages.


Action to increase community awareness of the value of forest conservation is important. Focusing on schools, community groups and district decision makers, it would highlight the value of the forest and the impact different activities have on its sustainable use.

With growing international interest in ecotourism, income can be generated from visitors to the forest by developing simple, low impact facilities. This income could be used to support other management activities in and around the forest that are working towards a sustainable future.

Although land pressure around Arabuko-Sokoke is not high when compared with many other parts of Kenya, there have been recent attempts to convert parts of the gazetted Forest Reserve to non-forest use. In 1994 there was agitation amongst sections of the local population to transfer up to 8,000 hectares of the forest to agricultural settlement. Although that attempt was successfully thwarted due to prompt action by the forest protection officials, the threat to the forest still remains and in 1995 there was a further attempt to get a large area formally 'excised' from the Reserve.

Naturally, these moves receive popular support from those people who think they would be allocated shambas (farm plots), but if the authorities succumb to this pressure it would be a disastrous set-back to the cause of natural resources conservation not only in Sokoke, but in Kenya generally. Support to prevent this from happening has come from many organizations including the East African Wildlife Society, KENGO, East African Natural History Society, IUCN-the World Conservation Union, and the Kenya Forests Working Group. Expressions of support for the conservation of the forest from international and local visitors are also very much needed, and they will be able to do this by joining or contributing to the Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke (FOAS), being established in 1996. Details can be obtained from the Visitor Centre at Gede.