CHASE Africa started working with Mount Kenya Trust (MKT) in 2014, when we helped to establish their Community Health Service Project, which serves hard to reach communities around Mount Kenya with family planning and healthcare services. In the same year, we partnered with them on a women’s community group reforestation programme in Irangi Forest, on the Eastern side of Mount Kenya.
MKT is working to protect and conserve the forest, water and wildlife around Africa’s second highest mountain, Mount Kenya, whose forests, vast bamboo stands and moorlands host incredible biodiversity. It is one of the largest contiguous forests remaining in Kenya and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasting some of the most impressive landscapes of Eastern Africa with its rugged glacier clad summits, AfroAlpine Moorlands and diverse forests.
Mount Kenya’s forests suffered considerably in the 20th century when large areas were cleared to provide timber and land for a rapidly growing population. At the turn of the 21st century, a detailed aerial survey, carried out by the United Nations Environmental Programme and Kenya Wildlife Service found extensive destruction of the mountain ecosystem. The effects of this are being felt with a decreasing amount of annual rainfall leading to reduced water levels in the rivers flowing from the mountain. Many of the rivers on the north side of the mountain have become seasonal. MKT is working hard to restore the forest, and in 2018, CHASE Africa funding supported the planting of 22,000 indigenous trees through its community group planting projects.
Tree Planting in Schools
Many schools around Mount Kenya have a programme that feeds all the children in the school. The cooking is done with firewood which is bought and which has often been illegally cut in the National Park. Many of these rural schools have up to 10 acres of land, and since 2016, CHASE Africa has funded the planting of 19,600 trees at 31 schools. These woodlots act as an excellent learning resource, help to improve biodiversity around the school, and after several years of growth, can be used as a sustainable source of fuel, helping to reducing pressure on the forests in the National Park, and enabling the schools to save money and sometimes bring in an income from the sale of wood. The most popular species to grow is Casuarina equisetifolia, which coppices well, produces excellent firewood and is nitrogen fixing, which helps benefit vegetables grown between the trees.
Mobile Health Clinics
MKT’s Community Health Service Project (CHSP) visits rural communities on the Mount Kenya Reserve forest boundary, in Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Kirinyaga counties, where health facilities are limited, and demand for family planning is particularly high.
The service employs Community Based Distributors (CBDs), who who were selected and trained from the large number of women working on the reforestation project around Mount Kenya. The CBDs provide an invaluable, on-going mobilisation service, raising awareness in their communities about family planning, HIV testing and the other services on offer at the clinics. These individuals visit women at home to provide clear and sensitive information about family planning and sexual health, and are able to provide oral contraceptives and condoms. They are also able to provide referrals for long-term methods of family planning, either to the monthly outreaches run by MKT or to a Ministry of Health (MoH) facility.
The clinics, which are also run by the CBDs, are held several times per month, and offer the following services free of charge:
- Family planning services including high quality information and a range of methods
- Primary health care
- HIV testing and counselling
- Cancer screening (prostate, cervical and breast cancer)