Environmental restoration of the African Taita Hills

The Department of Geography research project combines measured data and local communities.


The population of Africa grows 2.4 per cent every year. In 2050, there will be two billion people whose nourishment requires the clearing of forests, scrubland and other natural areas to create farmland.

Changes in the land use in the Taita Hills in southeast Kenya have led to a shortage of arable land. Together with climate change, land use changes endanger the food production, water supply and tourism in the area and lead to conflicts.

The University of Helsinki's Department of Geography has studied the Taita Hills since 2003. The research utilises remote sensing data, geographic information systems (GIS) and traditional interviews, and the results will be used as a basis of regional planning.

"With funding based on research results, we will restore the environment, increase biodiversity and develop alternative means of livelihood in the area," Professor Pekka Pellikka explains the objectives for the future.

Project partners include the Kenya forest administration, the University of Ghent, Kenyan civic organisations and local communities, the representatives of which will be interviewed by geography students and researchers.

"Cooperation with local organisations had some initial problems; we came from far away in the north and they didn't know how we could help them. Now we have found the best partners and cooperation is good. When we interview local people, many still ask how they will benefit from all this," Pellikka says.

As examples of tangible measures, Pellikka lists the construction of forest areas between original rainforests, the decrease in planted forests of foreign origin and increase of farm forestry using original tree species.

Text: Tapani Sainio
Photo: Antero Keskinen

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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