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Don’t just plant a tree, grow an Indigenous one!

The forest ecosystem of the coastal

Every continent, countries, regions or islands, have a specific plant specimen that is indigenous to their geographic location. In fact, one of the reasons that propel most people to visit a particular country is to learn of their native plant specimen which is unique and cannot be or found in few countries around the world.

The forest ecosystem of the coastal areas of Kenya is listed as one of the top global biodiversity hotspots by Conservation International, with high levels of endemic, threatened and rare species. The once extensive coastal forests have been reduced to a fragmented patchwork along a narrow coastal strip. This fragile resource is made up of gazetted forest reserves and conservation areas; community managed forests and woodlands, including culturally important sacred “kaya” forests; and privately-owned forest and woodland patches.

Despite the fragmented nature of the remaining forest patches, they have high conservation, cultural and livelihood values for local communities. Several biological surveys undertaken over the past two decades have highlighted the importance of conserving the forest remnants for their biodiversity and cultural values to the Mijikenda people.

Community oriented efforts to save the forest in South Coast

Tree Seller Training Initiative (ITSTI), Colobus Conservation has initiated the ITSTI, which creates awareness amongst local businesses, road side tree sellers and residents of the importance of indigenous forests for people and wildlife. It also reduces the number of exotic species being planted and increases the number of indigenous species available within Diani. This project facilitates forest regeneration and community development by providing the whole community with easy access to a comprehensive selection of suitable and sustainable indigenous saplings for future planting. This initiative creates a viable market for each indigenous trees, whilst addressing the need to increase the demand for indigenous species over exotics, and thus help maintain biodiversity through indigenous forest conservation.

Why indigenous trees?

Indigenous fruits are those which are native to Africa, where they have originated and evolved over centuries. These are different to exotic fruits, which have been imported from other continents, although they may now be quite commonly grown in many areas. Indigenous trees, such as marula, baobab, African plum, are mostly found wild, although some are now planted, but they all evolved in the African environment. Many indigenous fruit trees are able to withstand hot, dry conditions, when the fruits provide an essential food source. The baobab for example is found throughout Africa at low altitudes and during drought periods. The fruits provide a valued source of vitamins and minerals, but often they are underutilised.

Indigenous trees habitually survive longer than exotics species and do not need much nurture because they are hardier and more disease resistant. More so, planting indigenous trees is of benefit to the environment, the soil and also helps in the preservation of other trees especially the ones those on the verge of extinction due to deforestation.

Before choosing an indigenous tree to plant in your property, there are things you need to consider such as indigenous tree habitat groupings (i.e. shapes, textures, forms, flower colours, seed shapes, etc.), available space, soil tolerant, and water availability. Generally, indigenous trees are attracting low cost of maintenance, they are beautiful, make healthy place for people by sinking more carbon, improve climate condition, conserve water and provide food and habitat for wildlife.

When can I plant a tree?

The onset of long rains (March-May) is the best time to plant a tree to cut on the cost of watering and increase tree survival. However, you can also take advantage of short rains (October - November/December).

Can zai pits in forest restoration?

Zai pit technology has been widely and extensive applied in agriculture. Square pits are sunk and filled back with compost and top soil; the rest of the area is left undisturbed. These pits hold and retain surface runoff water for relative long and sustain plants through drier periods. Colobus Conservation is working to introduce the technology to the drier areas of Kwale County to help with forest regeneration and restoration.

What can I grow?

Category I: Gigasiphon macrosiphon, Markhamia zanzibarica, Sideroxylon inerme, Moringa stenopetala, Sterculia appendiculata, Dabergia melanoxylon, Macphersonia gracilis, Majidea zanguebarica, Trichilia emetica, Lannea welwitschii, Combretum schumannii, Afzelia quanzensis, Tamarindus indica, Moringa stenopetala, Uvariodendron kirkii, Milicia excelsa, Knobwood (Zanthoxylum chalybeum), Croton megalocarpoides Frii and Gilbert, Lettowianthus stellatus, Pycnocoma littoralis pax, Dalbergia vacciniifolia Vatke and Dalbergia Melanoxylon. These are rare and endemic to Coastal Forest ecosystem.

Category II: Adansonia digitata (baobab/monkey bread), desert date (Balanites aegyptiaca), bush butter tree/African pear (Dacryodes edulis), wild mango/African mango (Irvingia gabonensis), marula (Sclerocarya birrea), black plum/water berry (Syzygium guineense), tamarind (Tamarindus indica), wild loquat (Uapaca kirkiana), African black plum/chocolate berry (Vitex doniana) and jujube/ber fruit (Ziziphus mauritiana), Syzygium cuminii

Where can I get an indigenous tree?

1. Colobus Conservation

P.O. Box 5380-80401, Diani, Kenya

Mobile: +254 717 601 601/+254 711 479 453

Follow us on Social Media: @colobusconservation

2. Diani Indigenous Tree Growers Association

3. Kenya Tree Farmers Association

4. Gogoni Community Nursery

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