Deforestation is a serious issue facing all of Kenya. A healthy ecosystem requires 10% minimum land covered by forest – Kenya has only 1.3% coverage. This is a matter of urgent concern.
Amara focuses its work in the Taita Hills – situated in the middle of the Tsavo plains in the Taita Taveta District. The Taita Hills cover an area of 1000 km², out of the district’s 17 000 km2, and belong to a disjunct chain of mountains called The Eastern Arc.
Relatively high rainfall makes forest growth possible high on these ancient hills, which have been classified as one of the world’s 25 most important biodiversity hotspots. Unfortunately the indigenous mountain rainforests have suffered substantial loss and degradation during the last decades (Wilder et al. 1998:181). The remaining forest areas are small, having lost 90% since the 1950s. Forests cover only 0.12% of the whole Taita Taveta district.
Threats to the Taita Hills are numerous, but are primarily focused around the small patches of remaining forest, surrounded by agricultural people who need farmland, firewood and building materials. The highly fragmented state of the forests also means that species are threatened purely through being found only in small and isolated pockets of forest where single events could wipe the species out.
People are cutting trees for charcoal at alarming rates, and the charcoal goes as far away as the Middle East. There is little understanding of the harsh impact this is having on local resources, not only trees but water availability, soil quality, and carbon sequestration.
Most trees are cut for fuel, primarily through charcoal production. There are currently few if any alternatives to this type of fuel for cooking, but there are people in the area who are working hard at finding good solutions. For now, planting, growing and maintaining more trees is absolutely critical for the survival of the lowland ecosystems and all who they support.