The community living around Irangi Forest in Embu County has called on the Government to assist in opening up the forest to promote ecotourism.
They said the magnificent forest nestled on the Eastern side of Mt. Kenya was an unexplored gem that if well exploited could transform the economy of the area and the county at large.
The forest is home to a wide variety of animals such as elephants, buffaloes, dik dik, Columbus monkeys and bird species including hornbill, pigeon and a rare species of frog christened Irangi frog that locals claim to be the only one of its kind in East and Central Africa.
Other scenic sites include waterfalls deep within the forest that is also endowed with giant old trees such as camphor that are said to be centuries old.
“This is a new opportunity for revenue generation for the county and economic empowerment for the community,” said area (Kagaari North Ward) MCA Mucangi Mwariama.
He said the flora and fauna of the forest offer diverse attractions for local and international tourists, adding that the forest also offers the shortest route to Mt. Kenya for mountaineers.
“It also here that we have a waterfall that forms a natural swimming pool that is very therapeutic,” the MCA said.
He said the greatest impediment to unlocking the full potential of the forest was the lack of proper infrastructure including access roads and other amenities such as camping sites.
“We must invest first so that we can also get back and we are imploring the national government through the Kenya Tourism Board to help set up good infrastructure,” he said.
Irangi Community Forest Association (CFA) Chair Samuel Mbogo said they also have a challenge of revenue collection due to the lack of a mechanism to monitor movement and fee collection.
“Being an attraction site for many tourists, we wish to have an office put up here for the purposes of monitoring activities and collection of revenue,” he said.
Local tour guide, James Muriithi said the forest was strategically placed as one can easily get to Chogoria in Meru County, Narumoru in Nyeri, and Castle Forest Lodge in Kirinyaga through the forest.
He said they are also looking forward to establishing recreational activities such as boat rafting, zip lining, and wild swing among others that attract adventure tourists.
They were speaking on Monday during a tree planting exercise and tour of the forest organized by the County to showcase Embu tourism product offerings ahead of the annual United Nations-World Tourism Day to be commemorated in the county on Wednesday, September 27.
By Samuel Waititu