Ngong Forest Location
Ngong Forest is one of the few forests in the world within a city. Only 6km from Nairobi’s city the forest is a precious resource for the capital city of Kenya. Managed by the Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary Trust, it is open to the public. The sanctuary protects conserves and manages an urban forest of more than 500 hectares within the city boundaries. It comprises 538 hectares of forest —80 percent indigenous and the rest exotic eucalyptus plantations within the Ngong Road Forest Reserve.
It is rich in biodiversity compared to nearby forests and is home to more than 120 bird species, 35 mammals and numerous insects, reptiles, amphibians and fish. The project’s aim is to transform a vulnerable, under-used forest into a secure amenity that not only protects and conserves the valuable resource, but also introduces an exciting venue. The Trust’s overall goal is to protect the forest’s natural environment and to create a self-sustaining and multi-functional reserve, which will serve the social, educational and economic needs of the nearby communities.
With the help of the EU’s Community Development Trust Fund, TTF and other donors, the sanctuary built an educational centre for school children, company meetings and for community conservation education. It will also serve as a resource for disseminating information — through conservation movies in schools, colleges, universities, the local community, visitors and Nairobi residents. It will also offer services to conferences and weddings.
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Ngong Forest History
The forest was originally gazetted in 1932, it covered an area of approximately 2,926.6 hectares and supplied the railways with timber and fuel. By 1978, this area had been reduced after a series of legal excisions. Illegal land grabbing was also rife with portions of the forest split off and allocated to private developers behind closed doors. In the early 1990s, the Trustees of Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary, led by Imre Loefler discovered that the core of the indigenous forest had been divided in to 35 land parcels and was to be given over to developers. After intense lobbying of the government, the sell-off was cancelled. By 2005, the total area of the Ngong Road Forest had reached its current size of 1,224 hectares.
THE FOREST ACT OF 2005
Since 2005 and the passing of The Forest Act, the Ngong Road Forest has been managed by the Kenya Forest Service. The 2005 Act was in part inspired by the rescue of the Karura Forest, reflecting a broader recognition of the importance of urban forest rehabilitation.
The Forest Act encourages the involvement of neighbouring communities in forest management, contrary to past practices which saw the centralisation of management. This is in line with the approach of countries around the world and a collaborative approach is now widely regarded as the optimum way of managing natural resources. The plan for rehabilitating the Ngong Road Forest has local community involvement at its core.
Ngong Forest Recreation
The programme that has the potential to place Ngong Road Forest firmly in the broader consciousness of Nairobi is the recreation programme.
The restorative effects of walking, running and being out in the open air are well- documented. Once Ngong Road Forest is safe, the existing network of trails will be cleared and expanded for walking, jogging and cycling. Nature trails and animal and bird watching circuits will be set out, so too will access to sacred trees, groves and shrines. These will be quiet spaces for reflection served by modern, clean facilities, including toilets, benches, water fountains, bird and animal hides, and a lakeside café.
The forest has great potential for a whole range of recreational activities – from woodland concerts, to a monkey watching programme and competitive running events. The Ngong Race Course dam and the two Miotoni dams can be used for sport fishing for Tilapia and Barbus. All these activities provide scope for an entrance fee, as already practiced in other urban forests and parks, helping Ngong Road Forest become self- sustaining.
Visitor numbers will be carefully studied and extrapolated to ensure the forest can support ecotourism numbers. Clear guidelines and codes of conduct will also be developed to ensure visitors are fully versed in the ways of the forest.