Livestock production intensification for the conservation of the South West Mau Forest Block (ISLA)

Type of partnership
Forest partnership

To reduce the impact of livestock on driving deforestation in Kenya’s South West Mau Forest, Partnerships for Forests is supporting the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) in the development and implementation of an innovative livestock production model.


The Mau Forests Complex (MFC) is Kenya’s largest closed-canopy montane forest and provides vital ecological services to the country. In the last two decades, the MFC forest area has been reduced by more than 25% through land use changes and unsustainable forest resources extraction. The South West Mau Forest reserve was originally gazetted in 1932 with an area of 95,356.3 hectares but following many excisions, the area has been reduced to 60,000 hectares.  A study done by IDH and Rhino Ark in 2016 shows that although the current SW Mau forest area has not been excised or encroached, a significant area along the eastern boundary that is being used for grazing livestock has been reduced to grassland/scrub. The rest of the forest continues to be degraded due to illegal activities including over-grazing and over-browsing by livestock, wood extraction for charcoal and firewood, fire and poaching. Overall, livestock remains the biggest threat to the forest area.

To address challenges around deforestation in the SW Mau forest, the Initiative for Sustainable Landscape (ISLA) was formed. ISLA is a formal partnership which brings together key stakeholders, including Unilever, Finlays, Safaricom, SNV, GIZ, Rhino Ark, and the Kenya Forest Service, to develop and implement an integrated action plan to address drivers of deforestation in the area.

The project

To address the livestock issue, Partnerships for Forests is supporting the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), as part of the ISLA initiative, in designing, piloting and facilitating the adoption of alternative livestock (beef and dairy) value chain models by communities along the eastern boundary of the South West Mau Forest.

The innovative livestock production model will be implemented with local communities and other partners to ensure herd control, improved regulatory and enforcement measures on access to the forest, intensification of livestock production systems, value addition and market linkages for the livestock products.

The project will afford farmers additional income through more efficient production systems and access to markets, while at the same time reducing the pressure on the forest through production-protection agreements between government agencies, local communities and livestock products up-takers. The project therefore seeks to strike a balance between improved livelihoods and forest conservation. If successful, the model will be shared for replication in other parts of Kenya and beyond.

Please click here to find out more about ISLA.


Lead Organisation: IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative

Implementing Organisations:

Private: Unilever Tea Kenya, James Finlay Kenya Limited, Safaricom Foundation

Public: Kenya Forest Service County Government of Kericho, County Government of Nakuru, Kenya Tea Development Authority

Civil society:  SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, Community Forest Associations (CFA), Rhino Ark, GIZ