Community cinema eases pressure on Kakamega forest

A community cinema being credited with saving Kakamega forest, that hosts some of the most rare birds globally, and which is under threat of human encroachment, with the videos being key in delivering the urgent need for locals to conserve the forest.

Traditionally people living around the forest have been blamed for moving into the forest and felling trees as majority of them rely on firewood for income. The forest is among the most treasured globally and is home to endangered birds and trees including the last remnant of the ancient Guineo- Congolian rainforest that once spanned the continent.

On this particular day it is a lively scene on the village square perched on the edge of the last remaining remnant of the Kakamega Forest. Local football stars play their hearts out in the local tournament and a theatre group uses humour and slapstick to entice the crowd into a large tent. Inside, hundreds, mainly children, crowd around a large screen where, spellbound, they watch “Bees are Life”, a documentary about bees.

After the closing credits, James Ligare, coordinator of the Muliru farmers’ group takes the microphone and explains how the risks facing bees represent a threat to the Kakamega Forest. He also tells them that if the forest were to disappear, it would mean an end to regular rainfall. Crops would dry out and drinking water would be in short supply.

The community cinema shows a whole range of different films on natural history and the environment. It is part of a new campaign to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the forest. The campaign, financed by Biovision, is run several times a year by the local “Muliru Farmers’ Conservation Group” at various locations.

The group is creating alternative sources of sustainable income for local communities in order to reduce the pressure on the endangered forest. This is part of a Biovision project in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania supporting sustainable alternatives to the harmful exploitation of valuable forests.

Muliru Farmers Conservation group has been actively involved in domestication of Ocimum kilimandscharicum, an indigenous medicinal herb of the mint family, known locally as Mkombela, from the Kakamega forest to the homes which is turned into hangover curing drugs and which has now given over 2000 households sustainable income while removing the strain from the forest.