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The Mau Forest: Africa’s water tower

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Mau Forest


  • Quick Facts:


    627,960 hectares (3,583 sq. mi.)

  • Key Landmarks

    1. Mau Forest
    2. Rift Valley


The Mau Forest Complex sits within Kenya’s Rift Valley and is the largest indigenous montane forest in East Africa. It serves as a critical water catchment area for the country and is the source from which numerous rivers flow, many of them draining into bodies of water like Lake Victoria, which receives 60% of its water from Mau. These rivers exist as lifelines for much of western Kenya’s wildlife and people.

Tags: Kenya, East Africa


Fewer trees mean less water.

The Mau Forest Complex acts as a natural water tower for Kenya, storing water during the rainy season and releasing it during the dry season. Approximately 10 million people—not to mention countless wildlife species—depend on the rivers fed by the forest complex. But, human activity, including agriculture, logging, and settlements, has reduced the Mau Forest to a quarter of what it once was, disrupting the forest’s role in storing and distributing water to outlying areas.

Fewer trees can also lead to flooding.

Forest cover allows the land underneath to steadily store and then release water slowly. Though when an area has been deforested, rainwater tends to flow more quickly into rivers, increasing the likelihood of flash floods. Rainwater that deluges an area can also lead to topsoil erosion and soil nutrient depletion.


Our solutions to the challenges in the Mau Forest Complex landscape:

  • Rebirth through reforestation.

    African Wildlife Foundation, together with the Kenya Forest Service, the Community Forest Association, and other stakeholders, is reforesting areas of the Mau Forest with indigenous trees, including a forest block in the southeast section of the complex that serves as the headwaters for Lake Nakuru National Park.

    The reforestation kicked off with the planting of 25,000 seedlings in early 2011. Less than two years later, AWF has also planted another 160,000 indigenous trees and is monitoring another 18,115 seedlings. AWF aims to reforest 1,000 hectares with 1 million trees over a four-year period.  

  • Create partnerships that enhance reforestation.

    Partnerships with both private-sector firms and public entities are at the root of the Mau’s reforestation. One such partnership is our agreement with Tricorona, a global company focused on carbon emission reduction projects, where Tricorona clients have the opportunity to purchase trees that are then planted by AWF and the local community in Mau. Thus far, 857 trees have been sponsored by Tricorona clients.

    Additionally, AWF’s partnership with the Kenya Forest Service and the Community Forest Association will lead to better management and monitoring of newly planted trees and the overall reforestation project. Additional work will be done with another partner to pilot a project in rainwater harvesting and storage.

  • Involve the community to make a difference.

    AWF is supporting community scouts and rangers to undertake ecological monitoring, including monitoring of wildlife species and the overall health of the ecosystem. Community involvement in reforestation efforts makes it more likely for them to remain committed to conservation here over the long term—additionally, it provides jobs.


Explore some of our related projects. 

  • Mau Forest Peter Chira
    Mau Reforestation
    Planting trees in a critical forested ecosystem

    Kenya’s ecological health is in danger.

    The ecological health of the Mau Forest Complex in Kenya’s Rift Valley region is in imminent danger. Deforestation and...

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