Forests are the lungs of the earth. The air we breathe, the stability of our climate depends on forests. They’re home to around two-thirds of all plant and animal species found on land and millions of people depend on them for survival. Without healthy, thriving forests, planet Earth cannot sustain life. Yet our forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Despite their immense value to humanity, nearly half of the world’s forests have been lost. What’s worse, we’re cutting them down at greater rates each year for firewood, plant crops, graze cattle etc.
Shimba Hills Forest is a National Reserve that lies approximately 33km south of Mombasa town, in Kwale district of coast province. The coastal ecosystem comprise of a heterogeneous habitat including forestlands, exotic plantations, scrublands and grasslands. The ecosystem holds one of the largest coastal forests in East Africa after Arabuko-Sokoke forest. The reserve is rich in flora and fauna and hosts the highest density of African elephant in Kenya.
The reserve is an area of coastal rainforest, woodland and grassland. It is an important area for plant biodiversity – over 50% of the 159 rare plants in Kenya are found in the Shimba Hills, including some endangered species of cycad and orchids. It is also a nationally important site for birds and butterflies. Forests provide a buffer to filter water and to hold soil in place. They sustain water and soil resources through recycling nutrients. In watersheds where forests are degraded or destroyed, minimum flows decrease during the dry season, leading to drought, while peak floods and soil erosion increase during the wet season.
In Shimba Hills forest the local people have the right to use forest resources for domestic purposes but not for commercial purposes. As results the residents have taken advantage of this gap hence the forest has suffered substantial vegetation loss and degradation since the early 1960´s. Especially since the forest is a major source of firewood. Due to the insatiable need for wood fuel many trees have been cut as people seek fuel for cooking their meals at home on the wood extravagant traditional three stone. These uncontrolled anthropogenic activities endangered the existence of this very vital forest.
Carbon Zero Kenya with the understanding that logging forests for wood fuel contributes to global warming through removing significant sources of sequestered carbon started working with local communities within Shimba Hills forest to salvage the forest through the distribution of energy efficient cook stoves. Carbon Zero stoves have seen the facing out of the “wood extravagant” traditional three stone stoves within the area. This has resulted in immense savings in terms of the wood being used for cooking ultimately reducing pressure on the forest giving it a chance to restore itself for the past four years.
The Carbon Zero stoves beneficiaries within Shimba hills are so happy with fuel use reduction giving them ample time do to engage in other economic activities i.e. Domestic farming which generate surplus income. They are also enjoying health improvement especially the big percentage reduction of smoke related infections. It’s a fact that people need forests and that’s where all human beings come in. When you acquire and use an energy efficient cook stove you save a lot on wood fuel which transforms into saving of forests thus helping create a healthier, more prosperous, more productive planet, for you and for everyone.
Compiled by; Ndoro Mrisa, Moses Nyaga and Moses Maina