The Nation (Nairobi)

2 March 2006

Kenya: Aboretum Gets a New Face

Nairobi — The Nairobi Arboretum, which has been in poor shape in the past few decades has been given a new face following a Sh5 million funding by the Biodiversity Conservation Programme of the European Union.

The improvement of the project by the EU has also facilitated the restoration of the former chief conservator of forests house, to become a 'tree centre'. It has also led to improvement of the car park, nature trails and production of relevant environmental education materials to be used by thousands of nature lovers who visit the Arboretum every year.

Security fence

The rehabilitation of the park was co-ordinated by the Friends of Nairobi Arboretum. The project will be further enhanced by the erecting of a Sh 2 million security fence to ensure safety of wildlife and visitors.

"There is more to the conservation of the arboretum, its not just for recreation purposes, it is also a very important learning facility," Mr Paul Matiku, a representative of Nature Kenya says.

Source of knowledge

The arboretum is a collection of indigenous and exotic trees and offers an invaluable source of knowledge. According to Mr Joseph M Ruhiu, the acting BCP manager, the project has among others rehabilitated the old foresters house, provided running water on site, produced a set of educational materials, and furnished an office.

FONA has initiated, bimonthly tree walks, events, talks and articles for nature lovers. Also on the menu are bi-monthly walks held on the last Monday and second Saturday of every month.

An arboretum masterplan launched in January 2000 aims at developing it in to a modern facility for promoting environmental excursion, recreation and scientific knowledge.

The project was commissioned on Tuesday by the head of the European Delegation to Kenya, Eric Van der Linden who said they were willing to to give it more assistance.

He said EU was concerned about the environmental degradation and called for the protection of the many species of trees, birds and animals existing there. Linden appealed to the government to incorporate environmental education at all levels of education.

Charging an entry fee

Mr Jim Bernie, chairman of the project said charging an entry fee, would be a last resort to getting funds needed to maintain the arboretum. "We still need more funds but most of the people who come here are not well off. So charging them will deny them a chance to come to this place. We do not want to take that away from them," he said.

Mr Ruihu announced BCP conservation programmes have used Sh 400million in Kenya in a five year programme which ends at the end of this month. The programme has stimulated and enlarged community willingness and capacity to engage in sustainable biodiversity conservation.

Currently, FONA continues to fund small-scale activities and other essential maintenance costs within the Arboretum aimed at improving it. Limited collections from car parking during the weekends have been one of the main sources of funding. Other sources include corporate and individual donations.

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