Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

'Wall of trees' to protect Nairobi wildlife

By Yousra Elbagir, Special to CNN
September 18, 2013 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Nairobi National Park is located just 5 miles (8 km) outside Nairobi and overlooks the Kenyan capital. Nairobi National Park is located just 5 miles (8 km) outside Nairobi and overlooks the Kenyan capital.
Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park
Nairobi Greenline Project
Nairobi Greenline Project
Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park
  • Nairobi National Park is threatened by human encroachment
  • Lack of planning means park has become compromised, say experts
  • Nairobi Greenline Project will plant 300,000 trees to form 30-kilometer fence

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- Nairobi National Park is that rarest of things -- a conservation park in a city -- and it is now a physical manifestation of the front lines in Kenya's human-wildlife conflict.

Like the nearby residents of slum housing, the wildlife of the park has become victim of the city's uncontrollable growth. A lack of planning in the capital has led to human encroachment onto the protected area, compromising the well-being of wildlife through an invasion of industrial waste and domestic pollution.

To secure its future the M-Pesa Foundation, a charitable trust, and private investors have launched the Nairobi Greenline Project. It involves the planting of 300,000 indigenous trees in a 30-kilometer long, 50-meter wide forest boundary around the park, reinforced by a 32-kilometer electric fence.

Read this: Maasai boy scares off lions with flashy invention

When we plan Nairobi we should view the park as part and parcel of the city, not as an appendage that must be gotten rid of.
Elijah Ndegwa, Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Nairobi

Dorothee Von Brentano, the Senior Human Settlements Officer at U.N. Habitat Kenya, says: "The fence is a symbol and a sign, to draw attention to an issue that needs to be much more properly addressed." This issue is what she calls an "ill hunger for land," the driving force behind the intrusion of urban development onto the park.

"They (locals) see land as a commodity, rather than a resource," says George Onyiro, the Habitat Program Manager at U.N Habitat.

Public space

Onyiro and his colleagues categorize the park as public space which is an essential component in healthy social and urban development.

"Public space is a really important part of any urban expansion," says Jeanette Elsworth, Public Information Officer at U.N. Habitat. "In fact, cities like Manhattan that we think of as really dense actually dedicate 30% of the land to public space. Nairobi is operating at 10-15% which is far too low."

Turning bones into jewelry
Rhino poaching 'relentless' in S. Africa

Not incorporating public space into city planning has created the inevitable challenge of urban growth that does not embrace and accommodate conservation areas. Elijah Ndegwa, professor of Urban Planning at the University of Nairobi, believes that "infiltration into the national park reflects a society that has not accepted wildlife as part of the stakeholders in the development of the city."

He adds: "When we plan Nairobi we should view the park as part and parcel of the city, not as an appendage that must be gotten rid of."

Read this: Maasai Cricket Warriors swap spears for bats

The value of the National Park has yet to charm local residents like Angelina, a Kenyan grandmother whose makeshift home is only a few miles away from the park. She recently received an eviction letter from the town council -- unrelated to the Greenline project -- and can do nothing but count down the days until she watches her home bulldozed away.

'I've been living here since 1972 and my home will soon be demolished but the home of animals is continuously protected', she says.

Local support

Experts believe that this mentality needs to change for Nairobi to move forward.

Axemite Gebre-Egziabher, the director of the Global Division at U.N. Habitat, says more participation from locals is crucial for the future.

"If the city is going to move into a sustainable, healthy, competitive arena then it is important to have urban planning enforcement, but together with all the stakeholders. Then you don't need a fence -- they are the fence, they are the ones who would protect it (the park)," she says.

Involving people like Angelina in planning decisions could help strengthen the sense of public ownership for areas like Nairobi National Park. And instilling in the minds of locals the importance of preserving the National Park could help it be appreciated as an integral component of Nairobi's future development.

Part of complete coverage on
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 1139 GMT (1939 HKT)
A Cameroon supporter smiles during celebrations after Cameroon qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil after winning the second leg qualifying football match between Cameroon and Tunisia on November 17, 2013 in Yaounde.
Known for its diverse geography and culture, Cameroon could be on the dawn of becoming known for tourism.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 0437 GMT (1237 HKT)
Vintage helicopters, ziplines, private flying safaris offer new, spectacular views of wildlife and rugged terrain.
March 21, 2014 -- Updated 1020 GMT (1820 HKT)
Morocco is famous for its historic cities and rugged landscape. But it's becoming known as a surfer's paradise.
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
A huge spiral in the Sahara had Google Earth users baffled by what it could be. So what exactly is it?
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 1027 GMT (1827 HKT)
A photographer took to an ultra-light aircraft to capture Botswana's savannah from above. The results are amazing.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 0934 GMT (1734 HKT)
The Hadza are one of the oldest people on Earth. Today, they battle for land, and continued survival.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
No one knows what causes "fairy circles" in Namibia's desert. A new study, however, may have solved the mystery.
February 13, 2014 -- Updated 1159 GMT (1959 HKT)
South African photographer Frank Marshall captured Botswana's heavy metal rockers as part of his Renegades series.
You might not associate Botswana with rock music, but in recent years its heavy metal scene has been making a name for itself.
January 29, 2014 -- Updated 1117 GMT (1917 HKT)
The ruined town of Great Zimbabwe is part of a kingdom that flourished almost 1,000 years ago, and a bridge to the past.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1030 GMT (1830 HKT)
Vintage clothes are proving a hit with fashionistas across Africa, as retro goes back to the future.
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Tour d'Afrique
The Tour d'Afrique is a four-month, 12,000 km cycle race across the length of Africa.
Each week Inside Africa highlights the true diversity of the continent as seen through the mediums of art, music, travel and literature.