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Name of Project: Brackenhurst Botanic Garden

Location: Kenya

Number of Trees Planted: 15,000

The Tigoni township in Kenya is home to more than 1,000 residents, and a great number of them work in tea estates and factories. The use of their land is devoted to tea, wattle plantations, flower and horticultural enterprises and smallholder farms. These highlands to the north of Nairobi, however, were once blanketed with native forest.

Beginning in 1890, the area saw extensive clearing of native forests. Tea replaced trees as a cash crop. Exotic plantations of black wattle and eucalyptus claimed even more native forest. And steam-engines appropriated additional trees for use as fuel-wood. With the expansion of areas dedicated to tea as well as smallholder agriculture, an estimated 99.9 percent of the area’s native forests have been destroyed. The only remaining evidence of a former forest are the Muna trees that rise on buttress-roots 40 meters above the Limuru Tea Company’s plantations.

The people of Tigoni once possessed a wealth of indigenous knowledge of plants, trees, ethnobotany and the ecological value of forests in watershed management. With the destruction of the forest, however, these traditional values have gradually been lost. This loss has led to smallholder deforestation, removal of indigenous trees, soil erosion, a reduction of biodiversity, the drying up of springs and the loss of traditional medicine.

The Brackenhurst Botanic Garden, which has been recreating indigenous forest since 2000, seeks to reverse this trend. Plants for Life International (PLI) is a non-governmental organization that operates at Brackenhurst, receiving about 25,000 visitors every year. American Forests is partnering with PLI in order to restore a closed-canopy, high-altitude, sub-humid, afromontane forest. The project includes the planting of 15,000 trees comprised of up to 300 different species. This will allow for the reintroduction of some of the charismatic animal and bird species native to the area, including mammals like the black-and-white colobus monkey, tree hyrax and greater galago and birds such as the silvery-cheeked hornbill and Hartlaub’s turaco. Once replanted, the forest will benefit local communities by stabilizing soil and improving water flow in a severely degraded watershed. It will also serve as an educational and inspirational model for other communities restoring forests in East Africa and will demonstrate the sustainable income-generating activities offered by an indigenous forest.

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