Mt. Elgon was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2003. The biosphere reserve is about 300km north-west of Nairobi city and extends in two counties, Trans nzoia, and Bugoma. Mt. Elgon is the main contributor to the major rivers draining into Lake Victoria. It has a radial drainage characteristic.
Designation date: 1978
Regional network: AfriMAB
Surface : 366,370 ha
- Core area(s): 85,900 ha
- Buffer zone(s): 91,270 ha
- Transition zone(s): 189,200 ha
Mt. Elgon ecosystem is a representative of one of the 35 biodiversity hotspots in the world according to Conservation International. It forms part of the eastern/central afromontane biodiversity hotspots that encompass several widely scattered, but bio-geographically similar mountain ranges in eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, from Saudi Arabia and Yemen in the north to Zimbabwe in the south. The main part of the hotspot‘s 1,017,806 square kilometers is made up of an ancient blocks massifs (the Eastern Arc Mountains and Southern Rift, the Albertine Rift, and the Ethiopian Highlands) plus the volcanic highlands of Kenya and Tanzania.
The Biosphere Reserve is a major water reservoir for adjacent areas. The major liabilities and land cover types include juniperus procera and cassipourea malosana in the lower zones. The higher altitude zones are dominated by bamboo (Arundinaria alpine) and a mosaic of bamboo and podocarpus milanjianus. In the higher altitude, the rain also supports Hagenia abyssinica and Hypericum revolutum grass and moorland zone.
In areas with plenty rainfall, especially on the windward side, Elgon Teak, giant camphor, and other hard woods thrive. Species found exclusively on Mt Elgon and rarely anywhere else include giant grondsel and giant lobelia. The biosphere reserve also hosts endemic wildlife like the river frog, ide-stripped chameleon, the marine viper, king mole rat and the mole shrew. On wildlife, also present are giant forest hogs, leopards, eland, buffalo, duiker *(antelope species) and cobus monkeys.
Mt Elgon National Park receives an average of 4811 visitors fetching about KES 3,192,241(about USD 32,000) per annum. There has been an upward trend for the last 10 years with 2901 in 2002 increasing to 5371 visitors in 2013. There are a number of new tourist accommodation facilities especially within the transition zone. There is also currently an initiative to promote cross border tourism to embrace tran-boundry approach to tourism development. Tourism has positive impact in the economy and no impact on the ecology as the number is still small.
In terms of agriculture, there has been significant diversification in crops like tomatoes, onions potatoes and beans increasing mainly for local market. New cash crops that have also increased include sugar cane faming, sunflower and floriculture. There is also embracing of new technology such as use of greenhouses in horticulture and floriculture. Others included increased seed production by private sector
Last updated: January 2019