Kiang'ombe Hill Forest


Geographic Location

Kiang’ombe Hill forest covers a total area of 2,104 Ha and it is situated to the south eastern side of Mt. Kenya, about 30 km East of Embu town. It lies at longitude 37° 42ʹ 52ʺEast and latitude 0° 34ʹ south. The forest is located between Kirie, Muminji, Nthawa and Kiang’ombe- the locations of Mbeere-North sub-county in Embu County. These Locations are in three wards, Evuvore, Muminji and Nthawa (Figure 1). The Hill is found in Mbeere North in Embu County and it is covered with a thick forest in some parts at the top of the hill.


Legal and Administrative Status

The Forest is ungazetted, with a total area of 2,104.4 ha. Kiang’ombe forest is found in Siakago

Constitutency, Mbeere North Sub-County, Embu County. The Forest is under the management

of Embu County Government (ECG). KFS has been providing oversight in its management and

protection. There was Forest Ranger outpost at Kune.


History of the Forest Reserve

Kiang’ombe Hill forest was owned by the ancestors who shared and divided it into clans for their

farming activities. The name Kiang’ombe was derived from Kirima Kiang’ombe (cows hill).

People from Mbeere Community used the natural forest of Kiang’ombe Hill to hide their

livestock and families from raiders (Ukavi) who invaded and take their animals. The place being

the highest point, people could view the enemies from a distance and set for resistance. All cows

from around the hill were driven to the top of the hill to hide from the invaders and the name

Kiang’ombe locally meant “hill with many cows.”


It became a responsibility for everyone to take care of forest as the only secure place for both

families and livestock. During the attack young children who would not engage in fight were

hidden in the same forest. Some places/trees were termed as holy and used for sacrifice, prayers

and thanksgiving. In case a disease would break a certain wild animal was captured and elders

would gather and bless each other and animal set free as a way the disease was sent to wild

animals and not anymore to human being. There are still places used by magician like Kivarirori

in Uvarire where magician would magically treat animals (cow) so when raiders raid they would

not see cows but big stones on the hill. Farmers would only cultivate around the forest but not in

the forest in fear of diminishing of important herbal trees, security for both their families and

animals (wealth), and cutting down of some trees would cause lack of rain which led to

slaughtering of an animal as a way of cleansing of sins and rain came in plenty.


In 1950’s the colonial Government took over the forest on top of Kiang’ombe Hill empowering

local native council to take care of the forest. The forest was in two (2) locations ie Nthawa and

Evurore Locations now under the local native council. The forest boundaries were established

slightly around Kiathenge peak. The local native council employed two (2) Forest Rangers who

drove out the farmers from the forest and no farming activities were around the forest. Nursery

was established near Kiathenge raising exotic and indigenous trees which were planted in the

degraded areas.


Later in 1956 the second boundary was established covering a bigger area with 2104 ha.

Boundary establishment led by D.O Mbeere Division and his three (3) Chief’s:

• Chief Kombo Munyiri –Mavuria location

• Chief Manunga Ngoci – Nthawa Location

• Chief Mwandiko Ngila – Evurore Location


Initially, the forest was a detention camp during the Mau uprisal in the colonial era. By the year

1963 the Kenyan flag was raised on the hill after which the local authority including the local

leaders took over its management with much interest on the many shrines (iri) at the hilltop.

Those shrines are in Uvarire, top of Kanjuiri and Kiariri. The shrines were managed by the elders

and any law breaker or criminal was to give out a goat to be slaughtered and roasted on Kiariri or

Kanjuiri as a way of cleansing. The blood from the goat was put into a pot until it overflowed as

a sign of more rains expected. Once it rained, the community would interpret the rains as a result

of forest burning resulting in increase of forest fires.


The forest currently is in four (4) locations namely Kirie and Muminji location in Muminji ward,

Nthawa location in Nthawa ward and Kiang’ombe location in Evurore ward. Kiang’ombe Hill

forest is currently under Embu County Government (ECG) and recommended for gazzetment to

be under the watch of Kenya Forest Service (KFS).


Biophysical Description of the Forest


The forest rises from about 1000M to 1800M above sea level. The terrain is mostly hilly with a

series of drops and climbs, with the hills getting steeper as one approaches to the top peaks.



Kiang’ombe Forest lies in a semi-arid area, and has a bimodal pattern of rainfall with the long

rains falling between April and June, while the short rains fall between October and December.

The annual rainfall average ranges between 600 to 800 mm; with most parts receiving 600mm.

The windward side receives 800mm while the leeward side receives 400-600 mm.


The extensive altitude range influences the temperature, currently the minimum ranges from

15 0 C – 17 0 C, with a maximum range of 25 0 C – 27 0 C. The months of May, June and July are the coldest with an average minimum temperature of 15 0 C, while August and September are the warmest months with an average maximum temperature of 27 0 C. Because of high temperatures, the area experiences high evapo-transpiration throughout the year which has the implication of low humidity in most parts.


Geology and soils

The area is classified as a medium to marginal land with the latter forming the largest portion.

Kiang’ombe forest falls within marginal cotton zone (LMH) agro-ecological zone that covers the

upper parts of Nthawa, Kiang’ombe, Kirie and Muminji locations. There are also pockets of

medium agro-ecological zones that include the cotton zone (LM5), in parts of those 4 locations

and the sunflower/maize zone which is also margin coffee zone around Nthawa. In these areas,

the soils are black and red with fertility ranging from low to moderate. The soils around the hills

in some areas of Nthawa, Kirie, Kiang’ombe and Muminji is thin therefore difficult for

cultivation. The soils are generally sandy, blackish-grey or reddish-brown. Some brown soil is

also found in Nthawa. There has been an increase in cultivation on the hill slope due to a decline

in soil fertility and poverty. The geology of the entire Mbeere sub-county is mostly basement

system of granite and igneous rock. Mineralogy of the area is also associated with ultramatic

intrusive of Mozambique belt.



Kiang’ombe forest is an important catchment area in Mbeere North region. It is the source of 3

permanent rivers, Marivwe, Kangiri and Nthuniri, and a source of Rwathuni River which is a

major tributary of Ena River. The hill is also a source of small rivers that drain into the 3 rivers.

These are Rwathuni spring, Njauri, Nduromori, Ngunyumu, Gekoni, Uvariri, Makengeriari and

Muconoke/Mbuari. In addition, Kiang’ombe is a source of numerous seasonal streams that flow

during the rainy season. The rivers from Kiang’ombe forest feed into the Tana River system. There are numerous springs in the fern zone and swamps near the peak of the hill, in the high


forest zone, which are a source of water that feed the river system in Kiang’ombe. As a result,

the protection of the forest is crucial in maintaining and increasing the water levels in the rivers

and conserving the water sources since the adjacent communities rely mainly on the water

abstracted from the springs in the forest.


Water is a common interest for all life on earth. In Kiang’ombe Hill Forest, since colonial times,

the communities have benefited from its drainage system. All those communities got water for

domestic use and for their animals near homes. However, due to forest destruction in the form of

forest fire, charcoal burning and grazing. Over the years, water has become their main problem.

Fetching water up and down the hill has now become a routine, especially during the dry season,

mainly in Nthawa location.


Rivers in the Kiang’ombe Hill forest, even the permanent ones are drying up during the dry

seasons. These rivers are Kangiri in Kirie location, Marivuwe in Kiang’ombe location,

Muchonoke which is Rwathuri ending in Ena in Nthawa location, and Ndurumori in Muminji

location. Seasonal rivers/streams are, Rwanjoga, Gekoni, Makengeriari in Kirie, Njauri,

Marivwe, Kivindu and Urururi in Kiang’ombe location, Mbauri and Munangeri bordering

Kiang’ombe and Nthawa (Table 1).


There are several springs which have been formed as a result of hilltop swamps that have several

intakes of water. The intakes are used in places like Michegethu-Muminji and Kiang’ombe

locations. Water from Mwanyari water intake is used in Nthawa location. Other springs in

Nthawa include, Miriruri, Kathuri and Rwakirera (Plate 10).


A plan is underway in Kune sub-location, Nthawa location to start a dam along Muchonoke

River/ Rwanthuri. Other springs are in uvariri in Kiang’ombe, Kirie and Muminji locations.

Kiang’ombe Hill forest forms a major water catchment area from which five streams rise, some

of which are tributaries of Tana River which holds the country’s most important hydropower

plants that produce 50% of Kenya’s total electricity output. Some seasonal streams that provide

water to the local community for domestic use also originate from the forest.





The Forest occupies about 2000 Ha of a predominantly indigenous forest, with lessthan 5% exotic plantations mainly found at the foot and top of the hill. There are also pockets of exotic plantations which include Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Pinus patula and Cupressus lusitanica.


A larger proportion of the land is under secondary forest, especially on the lower slopes, covered

by bush land and wooded grassland. Showing the closed canopy forest at the top and secondary

vegetation on the slopes bush land and wooded grassland stretches from about1300m altitude to

about 1548m, while the closed canopy forest stretches from 1548m to 1800m.


A larger proportion of the land is under secondary forest, especially on the lower slopes, covered

by bushland and wooded grassland . Indicated by the closed canopy, forest at the top

and secondary vegetation on the slopes bushland and wooded grassland stretches from about

1300m altitude to about 1500m, while the closed canopy forest stretches from 1500m to 1800m.

In the low degradation areas of the hill in the natural forest the dominant species include,

Bersama abyssinica (Muthandathande), Uvariodendron anisatum (Ndunga), Combretum molle

(Murama), Newtonia buchananii (Mukui), Grevillea robusta (Muvariti), Deinbollia

kilimandscharica (Mukaragati), Albizia gummifera and among others. In the degraded sites, the

most dominant species are, Terminalia brownii (Mururuku), Acacia hokii (Mugaa), Lannea

triphylla (Moino), Rhus natalensis (Mubebiaiciya), Adansonia digitate (Muramba) among others.

In the moderately degraded sites, the dominant species are: Deinbollia kilimandscharica

(Mukaragati), Croton megalocarpus (Mukinduri), Vepris simplicifolia (Muteratu), Combretum

molle (Muramba), Piliostigma thonningii, Syzygium cordatum (Muriru) and Combretum zeyheri




The forest has a wide diversity of fauna including mammals, reptiles and birds, (Table 3) e.g.

antelopes, dikdiks, wild hogs, porqupines, hyrax, bats, colobus monkey, caravan monkey, olive

baboons, etc. The bird species include Ayres’ hawk eagle, crowned hornbill, eagles, quails,

guinea fowls, owls, vultures, ravens, etc. Reptiles sighted include, monitor lizard, African

python, spitting cobra, puff adder, green mamba and the tortoise.


Other Resources

The forest has many non-wood resources such as, grazing pasture, thatch grass, bee farming,

food (wild fruits and vegetables), building materials (soil, stones), hunting (of small and medium

game), fibres and medicinal herbs for both humans and livestock.


Ecotourism sites

The forest has numerous current and potential eco-tourism sites including:-

a) Kiethiga rock at the hill peak

b) Kavaati rock in Kirie

c) Kangunguru cave in Kiang’ombe

d) Nursery cave in Muminji

e) Karima Kaugi view point

f) Kanjwiri view point and Kathembe view point.

g) Kagaamutito shrine in Michegethiu

h) Gatitu shrine in Ovarire

i) Ikurungu cave

j) Kanjuiri shrine

k) Riamuiru ecotourism site

l) Rwakirera eco-tourism site

m) Cave at kianjira

n) Mivuro cave


These sites can be exploited to serve as attraction points for tourists and visitors.


The Community Forest Association

Kiang’ombe Hill forest is highly depended upon by the local community that surround it for a

varied number of reason which included; fuel-wood, grazing and water collection. When the

forest is exploited haphazardly without proper planning, it becomes destroyed and would lead to

its degradation and destruction. 


In the year 2011, Kiang’ombe community forest association was formed. The association was

however not all inclusive as only a few areas were included. This brought about the idea of

forming another CFA that will be an all inclusive one. In the year 2017, CADEP-SFM came to

Kiang’ombe with an aim of assisting the conservation of Kiang’ombe Hill through management

planning. Through the support of CADEP-SFM, public barazas were held in all the 4 locations

that border Kiang’ombe Hill forest, to sensitize the community members on the need to form an

all inclusive CFA.


The Local Planning Team (LPT) mobilized the community to form user groups in the month of

May 2018. Thereafter, two Community based Organization (CBOs) were formed and registered

(Kirie/Muminji CBO and Kiang’ombe/Nthawa CBO) in the month of June 2018. The two CBOs

eventually came together and formed Kiang’ombe Hill Forest Conservers CFA. The CFA

committee was drawn from the two CBO leadership. That is, Kirie/Muminji CBO and

Kiang’ombe/Nthawa CBO.


Both CBOs have been registered and the CFA that would be formed from these CBOs was

registered. Each CBO has 9 committee members, with 5 being executive. Kirie/Muminji has 10

user groups, while Kiang’ombe/Nthawa has 14 user groups at the time of registration. The CFA

would adopt the name “Kiang’ombe Hill Forest Conservers Association” when registration is



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