An Assessment of the impact of Relic Forests on urban greening in the City of Nairobi, Kenya
Mburu, George G
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Greening programmes can influence the sustainable development of urban areas thereby enhancing their green status. Urban greening is important due to continuous devegetation and threat to remaining relic forests and other green spaces. This study examined the impact of relic forests on urban greening in the City of Nairobi, Kenya. This kind of research has not been done before in the study area. The objectives of the study were to establish the source, types and destinations of tree seedlings raised in the City of Nairobi; to assess the relationship between urban greening and conservation of relic habitats in Nairobi; and to review the existing legislative frameworks that affect urban greening in Nairobi. Urban greening in Kenya has not been developed 40 years after independence, and this study was undertaken with a view to providing a benchmark for development of an environmental policy for urban areas in Kenya. Using a structured questionnaire, a cross sectional study was conducted on a random sample of 40 private and government tree nurseries around the three major green spaces in Nairobi, i.e. Karura and Ngong Road forests and City Park as outlined in map 4. Data collected by interviews and questionnaires included types of seedlings being raised, sources of germplasm and destinations of seedlings, silvicultural skills of the tree growers, policies and institutional arrangements. Additionally, interviews with key informants were used to collect information on general issues of urban greening in Nairobi. Descriptive statistics were used to determine the relationship between the relic forests and a selected number of urban greening services. The study revealed that 90.6% of tree nurseries in Nairobi are privately owned and therefore driven largely by commerce. The Forest Department and Nairobi City Council accord the private tree nurseries minimal assistance if any. While the government and City Council tree nurseries keep monthly records of plants, private tree nurseries do not keep records. In all categories of tree nurseries, indigenous trees constitute 41% while 59% are exotic. Private tree nurseries contribute 92% of all tree seedlings raised in Nairobi. Even though 83% of indigenous trees being raised in Nairobi occur in Nairobi, only 9.4% of seeds planted in Nairobi are sourced from Nairobi area including Nairobi forests. On v the other hand, most of the seedlings are planted outside Nairobi and this affects the amount and type of trees planted in the city. The influence of indigenous forests far away from Nairobi was considerable. The study concludes that indigenous trees planted in Nairobi may be sourced from forests away from Nairobi. This scenario indicates that urban woody biodiversity in Nairobi is not sufficiently being used to green the city and that more of exotic species are used. While existing urban greening services contributed to improved environmental status of the city, planting of indigenous biodiversity is dependent on the level of enforcement of City Council by-laws, which is currently at its lowest. From the findings, it appears that relevant policies to improve urban greening and protect existing relic habitats are needed. Such policies should harmonize urban greening practices and environmental governance under one institution and recommend support for private players. Planting of indigenous trees is a positive conservation practice. However, further research is needed in the area of indigenous tree characteristics that would make them suitable for urban areas so as to recommend the most suited ecotypes for planting in the city.