Kenya's Wildlife and Forestry minister Noah Wekesa on Saturday joined conservationists and residents of Nyandarua in celebrating the completion of a Sh850 million electric fence around the Aberdare Ranges.
Fencing of the 2,000 square kilometres forest area was started 21 years ago.
During the fete, Dr Wekesa said the ministry would launch a master plan that will enable residents, the government and investors to tap into the Sh20 billion annual income potential of the Aberdares.
“This project is proof that Rhino Ark Trust and its partners worked tirelessly for 21 years without bickering when faced with challenges or chest thumping when they raised Sh750 million,” he said.
The government raised Sh100 million while conservationists across the world raised Sh750 million.
Kenya Wildlife Service Director Julius Kimng’etich said that a trust would be formed to manage the forest, which would also be used to showcase a successful government/private sector partnership.
Nation Media Group Corporate Communications Officer Sammy Mbau said the media group, which is interested in championing environmental conservation, had raised Sh22 million for the Aberdares project.
He said the company was now concentrating its efforts on publicising the importance of conserving the Mau Forest complex through its ‘‘Plant a Seedling’’ campaign.
The Aberdares project chairman, Mr Collin Church, lamented that while the country was making gains from the conservation of the Aberdares, it was losing Sh40 billion annually due to the ongoing destruction of the Mau.
Mr Church said the communities around the Aberdares had benefited from the fencing in terms of employment opportunities arising from construction and future maintenance of the fence, and that they were now realising 100 per cent of their farms’ production capacity.
He said wildlife population had increased and land value around the forest had appreciated as the human-wildlife conflict had been curbed.
Dr Wekesa said that once a master plan is put in place, residents around the Aberdares would be assured of an opportunity to invest in establishing eco-lodges, honey harvesting and fish farming in stream water from the protected area.
The minister said the officers involved in erecting the Aberdares’ electric fence would be transferred to the Mau Forest complex where they will begin conservation work.
“The Mau Forest complex will also be fenced once Prime Minister Raila Odinga gives the greenlight for rehabilitation,” he said. He said fencing of the Mau would begin around areas where there was no encroachment.