At The Optimist Daily, we love stories fighting deforestation or spurring reforestation. Forests are our friends. They host myriad wildlife, foster ecological diversity, consume carbon dioxide, and breathe out oxygen. They also do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to reducing floods.
In Kenya, the Mirema Community Forest Association (CFA) has greatly reduced its own flooding problems by reforesting 50 percent of its forests that were over-logged in the last decades.
Just five years ago, the 2,000 acres of the Mirema Forest area was almost completely stripped of its trees. The area was extensively logged for charcoal in the 80’s and 90’s. This led to devastating floods for the Mirema community, in Migori County, 300 miles west of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
“Long rains came with floods because there were no trees or vegetation to control the speed and flow of water,” Edwin Ouma said to Mongabay. “This affected hundreds of families.”
Vegetation plays a vital role against flooding by absorbing water. The Mirema community’s crops were damaged by flooding from its tributary leading to the Kuja River, which feeds into Lake Victoria, and they had to rely on government aid at times.
The community began its own reforestation five years ago, and since then it has replanted 300,000 trees with a 70 percent success rate. This not only helped to reduce the community’s flood problem, it intrigued the government and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to help them. Other government-led reforestation initiatives under the KFS have only seen 50 percent success rates.
The Mirema CFA has been so successful because it used two reforestation methods, natural regeneration and establishment planting. Natural regeneration involves planting seedlings from the existing diminished forest, which is criticized as being too slow a method for reforestation initiatives. Establishment planting uses nursery-grown seedlings planted at spaced intervals. Using both, the CFA was able to replant many species of tree that existed before the logging and replicate the forest’s biodiversity.
This reforestation success attracted help from the county government, the Kenyan Government, international aid group World Vision International, and a local bank, all of whom now provide support to further improve the Milema reforestation and expand it to other areas.