Mau Forest

The Mau Forest Complex is located about 170 kilometers north-west of Nairobi.

While the forest was declared a Crown Land in the 1930s and made a National Reserve in 1945, it was officially gazetted in 1954 as a Forest Reserve under the Forest Act.


The forest is the largest remaining indigenous forest in Kenya. It covers over 400,000 hectares, is the largest of the country's five water towers as well as the largest closed-canopy forest ecosystem.

The forest borders Kericho County to the West, Narok to the South, Nakuru to the North and Bomet to the South-West. It is divided into seven blocs comprising South-West Mau (Tinet), East Mau, Oldonyo Purro, Transmara, Maasai Mau, Western Mau and Southern Mau.


The complex forms part of the upper water catchment area and it is the catchment source for Lake Victoria and the White Nile. It also has numerous rivers originating from it which carry Mau's waters throughout western Kenya from Lake Turkana in the north to Lake Natron in the south.


These rivers support agriculture, hydro power, urban water supply, tourism and wildlife habitat throughout much of Kenya.

The Eastern Mau Forest is the headwaters for Njoro River which empties its water into Lake Nakuru - one of Kenya's prime tourist attractions.


The forest is also home to rare indigenous trees such as cedar, African olive, bamboo, dombeya and shrubs. It also has exotic trees such as cypress, pine, grevillea robusta and eucalyptus which are regularly planted by the Kenya Forest Department mainly for commercial purposes. The complex also contains a good number of medicinal plants.

The original inhabitants of the forest, the Ogiek, who have lived there for hundreds of years - continue to call the complex their home. They are predominantly hunters and gatherers hence make their livelihood from the forest.



The Mau Forests Complex comprises a diversity of forest types and hosts many indigenous plant species. Although the vegetation pattern is complex, there is a broad altitudinal zonation from west to east: lower montane forest below 2,300 metres; mixed Bamboo /forest / grassland vegetation above 2,300 metres; and finally higher altitude Juniperus ‐Podocarpus ‐ Olea forest near the top of the Mau Escarpment.



Climate ranges from cold to hot and humid weather conditions. There are also arid and semi‐arid conditions in the lower parts of the Mau catchment area. The mean annual rainfall averages 750 mm, falling within the periods of November to December and April to May. The total annual rainfall increases and becomes more certain and dependable with increasing altitude.



In July 2008, the Kenyan Government launched an aggressive campaign to evict people living in the Mau Forest Complex that it deemed to be living there “illegally”, including the Ogiek, ostensibly in order to protect Kenya’s forests. The action was taken in response to concern about the loss of forest cover in Kenya and its wide-ranging negative impacts, including drought, loss of livelihood and reduced access to basic environmental services such as clean water.


The Mau Forest is one of five main water catchment areas in Kenya, feeding Lakes Victoria, Nakuru and Natron and supporting the ecosystems and livelihoods in the Maasai Mara National Park and the Serengeti. However, according to the Ogiek Peoples Development Programme and the international NGO Survival International, the main cause of loss of forest cover is the more recent encroachment of purely commercial interests, including logging and the clearing of forests for human settlement and agriculture, not the activities of the Ogiek and other indigenous people living there.



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