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Women and Young People at the Center of Kenya’s Conservation Journey

Mount Kenya lost 30% of its forest cover due to deforestation caused by firewood collection, charcoal burning, timber harvesting, and agricultural land clearance. Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation has therefore stepped in to protect this region. 

The degradation of Mount Kenya as a major problem impacting ecological stability and livelihood, has been attributed to loss of biodiversity species and ecosystem function, which required an intervention of an organization like Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation (MKEC). 

In 2007, a group of young people formed a self-help group called "Save Mount Kenya Forest from Extinction" with the goal of restoring part of Mount Kenya forest and promoting farm forestry to reduce community dependence on the forest. This group later evolved into the Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation (MKEC), a Kenyan non-governmental organization established in 2015. 

MKEC undertook around six projects initially, including “Greening Schools,” which involved partnering with over 20 schools in a “My 20 Trees and Me” initiative to promote greening programs. This initiative involved pupils planting and caring for trees until maturity, while also establishing vegetable gardens to promote a balanced diet. MKEC has raised awareness among 5,000 community members through various projects since 2007, including reforestation. The organization is collaborating with 26 community-based organizations and over 400 members living around Mount Kenya forest to restore over 700 hectares of degraded forest lands. MKEC empowers women in environmental conservation by involving them in its projects and purchasing seedlings from 25 women groups. This initiative enables the women to start income-generating activities, such as poultry farming, which contributes to their livelihoods. 

The organization’s climate change project provided energy conservation stoves to women in Embu county. This is because 80% of women in the area use open fire or three stones methods of cooking, leading to deforestation. By involving women, the program manager, Julian Wanja, believes that significant changes can be made to combat this issue, as gender norms play a crucial role. “Our projects enabled women to start table banking and earn income, allowing them to support their families and pay for their children's education. This has changed traditional beliefs about women's roles and empowered them”. Julian says. 

The organization achieved all these through partnerships with institutions and organizations such as the International Tree Foundation, Kenya Forest Service, Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya, and Ecosia. MKEC is working on a project funded by TerraFund for AFR100, a consortium of the World Resources Institute, One Tree Planted and Realize Impact to finance Africa’s top restoration projects. The funding will allow the organization to develop a healthy, sustainable and resilient landscape between the Mount Kenya Forest and Embu’s neighboring communities. 

The funding will help MKEC plant trees on local farms, minimize erosion, enhance soil fertility, and protect crops from strong winds. In future, MKEC aims to plant 100,000 trees and has already engaged 210 farmers who have planted 54,000 trees.  This effort will contribute to Kenya’s goal of increasing forest cover to at least 10% of the national area by 2030, which includes planting 5,000,000 trees and identifying 5.1 million hectares with restoration potential according to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. 

MKEC’s work is making Kenya a safe haven for people and nature through its restoration efforts. The future looks greener for the region and its people, thanks to initiatives like this. Learn more about Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation at