Fundraising by WWF is helping the Size of Wales project towards its target of saving two million hectares of rainforest, writes Richard Nosworthy, senior media and campaigns officer at WWF Cymru.
A Welsh project to protect surviving patches of globally important and unique forests in Kenya has beaten its fundraising target, securing conservation efforts and allowing work to expand to a wider area of the country.
Working through the Size of Wales initiative, conservation body WWF has raised over £230,000, far exceeding its initial target of £160,000.
WWF Cymru is one of a number of partner organisations working with the Size of Wales charity which aims to protect an area of forest in Africa and South America which adds up to the size of our nation.
For people living in Kwale County, Kenya, the forests are hugely important as a sustainable source of fuel, food and medicine. Some forests, known as kayas, are regarded as sacred. The habitats are also a world priority for conservation, home to species including lion, bushbaby and sunbird. The forests are under threat from illegal logging, uncontrolled fires, expanding agriculture, charcoal production, mining and tourism.
If pressures on natural resources in the region are not controlled, it’s likely the scattered patches of coastal forests and their unique species will begin to disappear, taking with them the crucial resources which are vital to local people.
Elias Kimaru, who leads WWF’s conservation efforts in Kwale, explained how the money raised is being put to good use.
“We’re incredibly pleased that WWF Cymru and Size of Wales have managed to raise this money – it means we can continue working to protect these beautiful forests which are under threat,” he said.
“The forests we have here are hugely important – they are home to a massive range of wildlife. Many of the species are unique to this area.
“It’s a globally important area for birds, it’s the only habitat for the Roosevelt Sable antelope, we have a huge number of elephants and we have plants that have medicinal value. If we destroy what we have now today, we lose it forever.
“In the last five years we’ve made sure that all the forest boundaries are secure and there is no encroachment. We have significantly reduced illegal logging.
“We also have the biggest tree nursery in the region, which helps us restore damaged parts of the forests.
“The forests are under a lot of pressure because of the demand for natural resources. We work closely with the local community to support sustainable businesses such as production of honey and cosmetics made from plants.
“The demand for resources also comes from further afield – so we’re working to ensure that concerns over the impact of tourism development and plans for mining in the area are properly addressed and that local people are involved.”
Recently the Welsh organisation ‘The Great Primate Handshake’ organised a visit to the WWF project as part of a tour of conservation initiatives in Africa. The Cardiff-based group invites volunteers to join them in the field to learn video production skills and promote conservation.
Laurence Hall, who led the expedition, said: “Visiting the WWF Kwale project and seeing the hard work and dedication that goes into the tree nursery, Lima self-help group, and the protection of Kaya Kinondo forest really opened my eyes to what can be achieved when committed individuals work together for conservation. Not only does this work benefit the environment, it has a hugely positive impact on people’s lives, and is a fantastic example of how interconnected humans and the environment are. Actions that benefit the environment benefit people too.”
WWF’s success in fundraising for the project has given another boost to the wider Size of Wales initiative. Hannah Scrase, Size of Wales director said: “WWF Cymru have really got into the spirit of Size of Wales and it has worked very well.
“With the success of their fundraising, with contributions from Size of Wales partner TYF, and with our match funding, the conservation work in the coastal forests of Kenya is able to not just continue but to expand.
“In reaching the £160,000 mark for WWF we have taken Size of Wales more than two-thirds of the way towards our £2m for two million hectares target.”
Andy Middleton, co-founder and director of TYF – one of the major donors to the project – added: “Playing our part in making a difference that’s big enough to count is the reason that TYF exists.
“WWF’s contribution to the Size of Wales project and their work with coastal communities in Kwale was a perfect opportunity to connect the work we do on the edge of Wales with similar communities in Africa, where practical support changes lives by protecting nature”
Anne Meikle, head of WWF Cymru, said: “We’re really pleased with the support we’ve had for this work and it’s wonderful to build such a strong connection between Wales and Africa. It shows how much people in Wales care about people and nature around the world.
“The forests we are working to protect in Kenya are not only worth conserving for the beauty of their wildlife – they are also vital for people in Africa, in Wales and around the world, so we must do all we can to secure their future. We’re incredibly grateful to Size of Wales and all our supporters for making this work possible.”
Read more: Wales Online