South West Mau, Kenya

Challenges · Biodiversity · Deforestation · Food Security · Livelihoods · Water

Landscape Profile

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Looking out over tea fields to the Mau Forest

South West Mau, Kenya

Approximate size (hectares)



2.5 million



Production Systems

Livestock, Rice, Tea


The Mau Forest is Africa’s water tower, feeding many major rivers and lakes, including the Nile and Lake Victoria. This montane forest in Kenya provides direct benefits to an estimated 6-10 million people from water storage and purification, flood and drought mitigation, reduced erosion and sedimentation, and biodiversity protection and climate regulation. Over the past 15 years, however, high deforestation rates from agriculture, livestock grazing, logging, charcoal production, and new settlement has reduced the Mau Forest by a quarter of its previous extent. This has disrupted the provision of ecosystem services that support agricultural production of crops such as tea and rice, tourism in areas that depend on water supplies, hydropower energy generation, and other industries. Improved water catchment stewardship is needed for both local residents and the broader East African population to ensure a sustainable future.

Voices From The Field

In addressing the South West Mau forest conservation challenges, ISLA will build on existing bodies, structures and initiatives in the development of a multi-stakeholder dialogue and ultimately a long-term governance structure with strong public, NGO and private involvement. The dialogue is aimed at creating consensus among stakeholders, leading to a compelling vision, management plan and investment plan. The process will need to be supported by well-documented intervention scenarios and related economic consequences.

Winfred Mwaniki Senior Program Manager, IDH Landscapes & the Tea Program, IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative

Major Successes


From dialogue to action

The IDH Sustainable Landscapes Program (IDH-ISLA) in South West Mau, Kenya, was designed as a multi-stakeholder dialogue and governance structure among public, private and civil society leaders to address the challenges facing the Mau Forest. To date, the IDH-ISLA has engaged a wide partner base, formed a board, developed the 2016-2018 joint action plan, secured funding commitments from participants and supporters, and implemented a number of “no regrets joint actions.” IDH-ISLA continues to fundraise and contract with implementing partners based its action plan.

Working Together

IDH-ISLA engages private sector companies, government officials, and civil society organizations in its Mau Forest work. The initiative coalition is governed by a board and will be supported by a trust, secretariat, technical working groups, and numerous implementing partners. Goals include changing business practices to make the case for investing in landscapes, improving sector governance to support sustainability goals, and developing and implementing proven, scalable private sector-driven solutions.

To learn more about the project, please visit the IDH-ISLA website.

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