Return the Bush initiative
Aberdare Safari Hotels (ASH) as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, in 2007 launched Return the Bush initiative. The objective was to rehabilitate the Salient area which is (152km2) 125 Ha of Aberdare National Park. This project commenced with 1.5 km fence that cost 2.4 million followed by dividing the fenced area into 10 -15 Ha paddocks. In the first year, the area was left bare to allow undergrowth to thrive. Meanwhile ASH forestation and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) team started identifying indigenous trees from various tree nurseries in readiness for Tree planting season. Though Outspan a base hotel to Treetops had a tree nursery, seedlings required for the project were over 20,000 and at least 2 meters tall.
Planting of trees commenced in 2008 by then the undergrowth had regenerated and the soil ready for the2 meter tall trees. A year later the project faced its first challenge when elephants destroyed 3 paddocks that had acacia trees planted in it. Apparently Acacia tree is Elephants delicacy and also for other wild animals. The paddock fence was quickly fixed to protect further damage on other trees and new set of indigenous trees planted. Late 2008 the country experienced draught and as a result delayed planting of trees during the rainy season in October.
These challenges did not deter project progress and by end of 2011 the tree cover was 20 Ha with over 22,000 indigenous trees planted of 2meters tall.
Importance of Aberdares
The southern and eastern slopes of the Aberdare Range are studded with innumerable streams that form life source for two of Kenya’s major river systems that is Tsavo River, known further downstream as the Tana River the largest river in Kenya. The southern slopes of the Aberdare Range in combination with the southern highlands drain to feed the Athi River that further along its sinuous course is known as the Sabaki River. The Tsavo – Tana and Athi Sabaki river systems rely for most part on the rainfed forest –filtered streams of Aberdare Range. Most of the water supplies for Nairobi and many of the adjoining districts come from this area and the bulk of Kenya’s hydroelectric power schemes along the Tana River rely on water from the Aberdares in Mt. Kenya
Treetops is located on the boundary of Aberdare National Park that borders farmlands.
The lodge area supports the highest density of wildlife and 125-ha-salient has been greatly desecrated. A wildlife migratory passage connects the Aberdare with Mt Kenya forest; thus, an electrified fence had to be put up to mitigate human-wildlife conflict. Rhino Ark formed in1988, the Kenyan Conservation Charity raised over ksh 400 million (USD 5 million) funds mainly through the now world famous Rhino Charge to construct an electrified game proof fence. So far a total of 265 of the 350kilometer long Aberdare fence has been completed with about 85km to go. This paved way to rehabilitating the forest around the Salient and Treetops.
Since inception the project has attracted various stakeholders keen to conserve the Aberdare eco system around the Salient. Recently, the project received a boost from Parks Canada and an additional 6km fence covering 100 Ha was built. This area will accommodate 110,000 trees to be planted within 3 years.
Other key stakeholders who have contributed in various ways to meet above requirements are,
Save the Rain forest, KEFRI, EABL, ROOTED IN HOPE, KTB, The local Community Treetops Guests, KWS, ASH
Success of this project requires;
- Maintenance of electric fence to deter animals from destroying planted trees.
- Buying seedlings of 5-6 feet tall.
- Labour for ground preparation and planting trees
- Purchase of manure for nutrients deprived areas
Though great milestones have been achieved the project requires funds to realize this objective. ASH welcomes donations either in cash or material in support of this project.
Contributions can be made to;
Account Name: Aberdare Safari Hotels
Bank Name: Cooperative Bank of Kenya
Bank Code: 11036
Swift code: 11045