Mount Kenya plays a crucial role in the life of the country being Kenya’s single most important permanent watershed and her largest forest reserve. The fertile soils of its lower slopes also sustain the growth of the nation’s richest farmlands whilst much of its vegetation is globally unique. In recent years, however, the Mountain has suffered greatly from the adverse effects of deforestation, resulting in large tracts of its lower slopes being entirely denuded of trees and occupied by squatters. And, although much of the vast forest cover remains intact, the growing demand for timber (Kenya’s staple construction and fuel source) threatens to lead to even more serious deforestation and subsequent soil erosion.
Over half of Africa’s forests have been destroyed, in this century alone, by means as varied as illegal logging, charcoal burning, agricultural encroachment, ‘land grabbing’ and the unscheduled de-gazetting of supposedly protected forest areas. Indeed recent estimates state that only 2.9% of Kenya’s original forest cover still exists. There is also evidence that not only is the water-catchment area suffering, but also that the montane glaciers have shrunk so rapidly over the last 20 years that some of them have completely disappeared. Finally the popularity of trekking and hiking holidays on the mountain is placing enormous pressure on the natural environment thanks to the attendant ills of tourist refuse, forest fires, feeding wildlife, off-road driving and erosion of climbing routes.