In addition to being the single most important source of water for direct consumption in the Rift Valley and western Kenya, the Mau complex helps to control river flows, mitigate flooding, reduce soil erosion, maintain biodiversity, sequester carbon and regulate the microclimate in Kenya and the region.
"The Mau Complex is of critical importance for sustaining current and future ecological, social and economic development in Kenya," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner told a one-day UN Partners Forum in Nairobi, which hosted today's launch.
Kenya is seeking $81 million over the next three years to implement some of the key rehabilitation interventions to protect the forest.
In the last 20 years the forest has lost around 107,000 hectares – approximately 25 per cent – of its cover due to irregular and unplanned settlements, illegal logging and charcoal burning, the change of land use from forest to unsustainable agriculture and change in ownership from public to private, UNEP said in a news release.
"The rehabilitation of the ecosystem will require substantial resources and political goodwill," stressed Mr. Steiner. "UNEP is privileged to work in partnership with the Government of Kenya towards the implementation of this vital project."
A recent report released by the Kenyan Government warned of serious consequences to the country's socio-economic health and internal security and even the likelihood of conflict emerging if the forest is allowed to continue on the path of deterioration.
The appeal for the rehabilitation of the Mau complex, the largest closed-canopy forest ecosystem in Kenya covering over 400,000 hectares, comes amid widespread drought in Kenya which has led to water and electricity rationing across the country.