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MOTOR SPORTS FOR FOREST CONSERVATION

By Royan Ndegwa

 

The Rhino Charge is an annual off-road 4×4 competition held in Kenya in which entrants are required to visit 13 points (guard posts) scattered over approximately 100 km² of rough terrain within a 10-hour period. The event is organized in order to raise funds to support the activities of the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, which works towards the conservation and protections of Kenya’s mountain range ecosystems, the so-called “Water Towers” which mostly are under the jurisdiction of the Kenya Forest Service. 

 

Construction of the first fence started in 1989 and to date, over 620 kilometers of electric fence in different forests in the country have been completed and are maintained. This includes the 400 km long fence around the Aberdares and the 43 km long perimeter fence around Eburru Forest. It also includes 180 km of the ongoing Mt. Kenya Electric Fence, which will be about 450 km long when complete, making it the longest electric fence in Kenya, and possibly in Africa.

 

These fences are protecting some 80,000 households from the threats of human/wildlife conflict, they have streamlined forest access and in turn, this has improved revenue collection. The electric fences have also resulted in improved farmland security and safer living conditions. Forest-adjacent communities can now live in harmony with the forests and their wildlife, and the forests are better protected from illegal activities and it has made it easier for KFS to secure and protect these vital forest resources. Community forest scouts also earn a livelihood from patrolling and maintenance of the electric fence.

 

These electric fences are instrumental as a management tool in addressing key challenges affecting these mountain forests: regular crop damage and occasionally human fatalities caused by marauding wildlife, especially elephant; and threats arising from human activities, including poaching, bush-meat hunting, snaring, illegal logging, charcoal burning and encroachment.

 

In 2010, Rhino Ark‬ co-funded by KFS, KWS and other stakeholders conducted a study on the environmental social and economic assessment of the fencing of Aberdare Conservation Area which was itself funded by proceeds from the Rhino Charge motor event. The study revealed key positive outcomes attributable to the fence including: improved forest cover, safer living conditions for local communities and greater security for wildlife. The study specifically revealed a 20% increase in forest cover between 2005 and 2010; a 50% decrease in open areas (grasslands and cultivation) and a 47% increase in exotic plantations outside the fenced area.

 

The study also recorded socio-economic effects, such as higher household incomes and land values due to improved farmland security, crop yields and safer living conditions. Meru County Ecosystem Conservator, Mr. John Njoroge, highlighted that KFS has really benefited from this initiative because illegal activities in the Mt Kenya area that has so far been fenced have really reduced. There now are designated entrances in to the forests which have reduced human activities inside the forests and hence creating also a conducive environment to promote eco-tourism. 

 

The Rhino Charge has gained popularity with Kenyans where they have been raising over Sh100 million annually and gradually rising to over Sh183 million in 2018. In order to be accepted in to the event, competitors are required to pledge and raise the minimum sponsorship target. Most competitors however raise considerably more with long term supporters.

 

Kenya Forest Service is one of the many corporations that are part of the Rhino Ark movement who share an undeniable love for this country and commitment to its future. The Service is grateful to Rhino Ark Charitable Trust a lot for this fruitful partnership. The Service also thanks all the sponsors, participants and fans of the Rhino Charge event for dedicating their resources and time in forest conservation and encourages more people to join this humble cause which goes towards forest conservation for the benefit of all Kenyans. The Rhino Charge 2019 will take place on June 1st 2019 and best wishes to all participants and may the best car win!

Ministry of Environment and Forestry CS, Mr. Keriako Tobiko, KFS Board Chair, Mr. Peter Kinyua and Rhino Ark Executive Director, Mr. Christian Lambrechts test for voltage on the Mau Eburu Ecosystem electric fence during the commissioning of the fence by the Cabinet Secretary.

 

 

 

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