Kenya Forest Destruction Threatens Mara River

Plans for destruction of more of Kenya’s Mau Forest, source of the Mara River


Decreasing water levels in the Mara River is a treat to the Serengeti. The Mara, which originates in Kenya’s Mau Forest and flows into the Tanzanian side of Lake Victoria, is the lifeblood of the Serengeti ecosystem. If it dries up, the great migration will crash. And Lake Victoria, which gets 60% of its water from Kenya, will see devastating impacts.


The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) and its partners have come together to strongly oppose the recent decision by the Kenyan Cabinet to hive off 17,000 hectares of the Mau Forest for resettlement. The conservationists urged the government not to go ahead with the planned act of forest degradation, noting that it would contravene the constitution and other framework laws on environment and land use.

Speaking during a press conference, EAWLS Executive Director Julius Kamau stated, “by hiving of the 17,000 hectares of forest for resettlement or any other purpose other than forest conservation will violate, deny, infringe and threaten the right of millions of people in Kenyans and East African region to a clean and healthy environment recognised and protected under Article 42 of the Kenya Constitution”

Mr.Kamau added that “the destruction of the Mau Forest is a violation of several multilateral environmental agreements to which Kenya is a party. These include the East Africa Community Treaty, the African Convention on Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Migratory Species, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

Earlier this month the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities, Prof. Judi Wakhungu, announced that the government had reached a decision to excise 17,000 hectares of the forest to settle people who have illegally occupied the forest over the years.

While the Mau Forest forms the largest closed‐canopy forest ecosystem of Kenya and the single most important water catchment in the Rift Valley and western Kenya regions, it has witnessed extensive illegal and ill‐planned settlements, as well as extensive destruction.


More on Previous Excisions of the Mau Forest

Excisions (de-gazettement) of forest reserves and continuous widespread encroachment have led to the destruction of approximately 25 per cent of the Mau Forests Complex over the last 15 years.

As of the year 2009 a total of 61,586.5 hectares of the Mau forest had been excised. In 2001 over 17,000 hectares of forest were allocated to the expansion of Group Ranches beyond their adjudicated boundaries and a further 29,000 hectares have been encroached since then.

Such an extensive and on‐going destruction of a key natural asset for the country is a matter of national concern. It presents significant environmental and economic threats and underlines a breakdown of law and order, with the potential risk of conflicts and other ramifications for internal security.

Previous efforts by the government and stakeholders to protect Mau, through the establishment of the Mau Task Force in 2009 and the subsequent establishment of the Interim Coordinating Secretariat to coordinate the implementation of the Mau task force recommendations were steps in the right direction.

For more information please contact

Julius Kamau [email protected] (mobile +254 728 419 063) or Jackson Bambo [email protected] (mobile +254 726 816 000)