The Mirema Community Forest Association (CFA) based in Kenya, East Africa, has mitigated the Mirema forest’s flooding problems by reforesting 50 percent of its forests. The main goal of the reforestation was to protect the Mirema community from floods that would deluge nearby farmland, colonies, and homes after long and heavy rains. Heavy floods can sweep away crops. This will lead to acute food shortages.

 

“I have firsthand experience of what deforestation can do,” said Susan Aluoch, member of the Mirema Community Forest Association. “I have been a victim of floods, drought, and hunger. As a mother, I know the pain it can cause.”

 

tree planting
Mirema CFA and community members during a tree planting and management training with KFS rangers. Image courtesy of Jackson Okata.

Five years ago, around 810 Hectares (2,000 acres) of the Forest area were almost completely stripped of its trees. In the 1980s and ’90s, the Mirema Forest area was widely logged for charcoal. This extensive logging resulted in cataclysmic floods in the Mirema community, in Migori County, 300 miles west of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, according to Michael Onyango, a government forestry officer for Migori county, where the forest is located.

 

“Long rains came with floods because there were no trees or vegetation to control the speed and flow of water,” said Edwin Ouma, member of the Mirema CFA, “This affected hundreds of families.”

 

According to Michael Agono, a researcher at Rongo University, the reforestation, management, and protection of the forest has played a major role in mitigating the effect of floods in the area. Their hard work led the community members such as Esther Omido, a mother of four, to return to their lands.

 

“The flood impact has greatly been minimized in the past two years,” Michael Agono told Mongabay. “Initially the forested area would turn into a big lake when rains came.”

 

The Mirema community began its reforestation work five years ago. Till now, the community has replanted more than 300,000 trees with a success rate of 70 percent. This great reforestation work helped to reduce the community’s heavy flood problem. Not only that, but the Mirema initiative also ranked among the best community-led reforestation initiatives due to the high survival rate of the planted trees, an outcome that caught the attention of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

community tree
Edwin Ouma harvests tree seeds to be planted in the community tree nursery. Image courtesy of Jackson Okata.

“It was not easy telling people to move from the land which they had occupied for almost two decades,” said William Odhil, chair of the Mirema CFA. “It took a lot of effort for them to understand where we were coming from.”

 

For reforestation, the Mirema CFA used two methods, natural regeneration and establishment planting. In the Natural regeneration method, seedlings from the existing diminished forest will be planted. This method is considered a slow reforestation method. In the Establishment planting method, nursery-grown seedlings will be planted at spaced intervals. Using two methods, the Mirema CFA replanted many species of tree that existed before the logging.

“After two years, part of the forest was back, and green shrubs were all over,” Odhil says. “The impact of floods had reduced.”

The Mirema CFA members meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to work on the nursery, plan tree management schedules, and carry out forest patrols.

 

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