Community Participation in Urban Forest Management: A Case Study of Ngong Road Forest

This research underlines challenges and opportunities for communities' participation in urban forestry in Kenya which has been conspicuously lacking from urban development initiatives despite the accelerated urbanization process taking place in Kenya.

The study looked at extent and nature of forest products and services managed and utilized by communities, perceptions, interactions and levels of participation among communities living adjacent to the Ngong Road Forest. Study recommendations and policy guidelines discussed were informed by the challenges, threats and opportunities in context of the international agreements, national policies, enabling legislations, including measures to form Community Forestry Associations (CFA).

Among the variables assessed to address the research questions were the frequency of use of forest products and services, income levels and distance traveled among community members. Hypothesis testing involved finding relationship between income levels and frequency of use of forest products and services and also the relationship between distance traveled and frequency of use of forest products and services.

A sampling intensity of 3% was undertaken in all the seven sub locations bordering Ngong road forest. A total of 106 households were interviewed, using random sampling in all the seven sub locations. Key informants from various actors or institutions involved in forest related activities were also interviewed and their view point integrated in developing a community based urban forest management for Ngong Road forest.

Key findings on hypothesis testing indicate no relationship between income levels and frequency of use of forest products and services and also there was no significant relationship between distance traveled and frequency of use of forest products and services. The forest products mainly utilized by adjacent communities was firewood at 59.4%, followed by herbal medicine at 26.4%, honey and fodder at 21.3% while the services included cooling, shading and wind reduction at response rate of 85%, followed by improves aesthetic at 50% and provision of wildlife habitat at 38.8%. Communities were involved more in functional participation and rarely in decision making structures. Participation, utilization and opportunities varied from one sub location to the other. Potential of the forest to provide ecotourism and recreational activities were recognized by communities in Karen, Waithaka and Ngando sublocations.

The research noted untapped opportunities under public private partnerships, Constituency Development Funds and the envisaged Forest Management and Conservation Fund (FMCF). Further research is required to ascertain why the catchment population within the 3-5 km radius is involved more in utilization of forest products and services as compared to the immediate catchment population within the 3 km radius.

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