Mount Kilimanjaro, or ‘Kilima Njaro’ as it is known to the locals, is the highest mountain in the African continent, and the highest freestanding mountain located in a region of Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa. It towers over an altitude of 19,341 feet or 5,895 meters, offering a majestic sight by day and night.
Mount Kilimanjaro has an interesting geology and composition, consisting of three distinct complimentary volcanic cones resting on a trachyte base that is more than 580,000 years old. It is a dormant stratovolcano, classified according to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program, which refers to a conical-shaped volcano composed of alternating layers of lava and tephra that are produced by explosive eruptions.
The Kilimanjaro National Park located in Kenya and Tanzania offers a diverse population, including the local Maasai Tribe, bush lands and the specialties of the unique ecosystems, from alpine to sub alpine. Wildlife visitors can easily spot animal such as elephants, giraffes, hyenas, buffalos, eland, duiker, hartebeest and zebras.
The surrounding hills along with the mountain itself contain every type of forest found in the African continent. Forests range from montane forest with wild mahogany and giant heather trees to moss-laden, marshy, alpine moorlands that support rare varieties of vegetables, flowers and trees with snow-capped peaks.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the pride of the local and African population, offering spectacular views and extraordinary wildlife sightings. Climbing it is an adventure that has inspired unknown and famous people and stories such as Hemingway’s famous book “A Farewell to Arms”. Nowadays, many people strive to reach its summit to experience the feeling of standing on the roof of Africa and a closer look to the ice summit of Uhuru, a unique place on earth.
Climate Change and its Effects
Mount Kilimanjaro has been regarded as a symbol of the power of nature in Kenya and Tanzania for centuries. Unfortunately, since the beginning of the Twentieth century, the climate conditions of the mountain have started to change drastically. Scientists believe that global warming is the main factor responsible for accelerative melting of the snow and ice covering the mountain’s summit.
The mountain’s melting ice rate has been captured in distinct images, such as the 2013 snapshot taken by the European Space Agency’s Alpine Glacier Monitoring Network. This image compared with photos taken in nature reveals half of the original mountaineering routes to its summit now covered in grass and other vegetation.
In addition, due to global warming, waterfalls surrounding the mountain are drying, crops are being affected, diseases are spreading and herbivores have started migrating off the typical grounds. All of these raise concerns about the future of this majestic mountain, for local living species and for future generations.
While many governments on the African continent are still failing to recognize climate change as something beyond a weather problem, Kenya and Tanzania have been actively involved in raising awareness and trying to reduce the danger.
Innumerable legal and illegal attempts of logging, poaching and other illegal dwellings have been addressed by the governments of Kenya and Tanzania in order to protect Kilimanjaro. These initiatives are closely observed and supported by non-governmental organizations and international organizations, such as UNESCO.
An increase in environmental education and protection measures have been taking place since the 1980s. This includes the implementation of public policies, parks and reserves along with regular campaigns and patrols by local and international environmental teams.
The Kilimanjaro Challenge
The Kilimanjaro Challenge is an international non-profit organization created to help protect ecosystems and promote outdoor activities around the mountain. This includes technical support such as gear, gear maintenance and mountain guide certifications. In addition, they promote education programs, scientific research and sustainable development.
Every year they conduct successful projects in collaboration with other organizations, helping to reduce waste and improve sustainability in the area. This includes their ongoing project of reforesting 10,000 tree species on the slopes, reducing the risk of soil erosion, among many other exciting and important initiatives.
Social Impact and Income Generation
The economic impact of Mount Kilimanjaro has been positive for both countries, Kenya and Tanzania. The income generated by tourism, forest products and other resources has made a medium for the local populations to be able to access healthcare, water and education.
Tourism has a great potential for income generation, with numerous vehicles from walking, to aerial, to mountain biking across different paths. These paths have a great potential for sustainable utilization, as it provides the opportunity for the local populations to benefit from the natural resources in a sustainable way.
Environmental impact of man-made practices on natural resources around the mountain is a subject of great relevance in discussions concerning Mt. Kilimanjaro conservation. This discusses the urgent need to restore water sources and improve the water quality of the local communities, who depend on the resources provided by the mountain.
The challenge of preserving the mountain ecosystems and making the local communities aware of the need to protect it is a major issue in the conservation plans. There are initiatives and campaigns that involve leading international organizations and supported by local authorities and communities which focus on reducing the environmental impact and replacing non-native species with native ones that can adapt and thrive in the area.
Environmental education is essential for the survival of the environment and species inhabiting it, and it starts with awareness campaigns and public policies. The campaigns, mostly conducted through education and access to important information, raise the awareness of local communities on the impact of human activity and how they can help in preserving the land.
Organizations such as the Kilimanjaro Challenge have been campaigning to involve local communities in the conversation, working together on sustainability projects that focus on the protection and conservation of the species and the environment in the area.
Engaging local communities with the conservation initiatives for protecting and preserving Mount Kilimanjaro involves creating interest and activating social networks. This involves informing the locals of the biodiversity of the area, and fostering reflection on the importance to conserve it.
Outreach from local and international organizations, such as local park rangers, biologists, environmentalists and experience climbers, have been made to involve local population on the conservation activities in an effort to encourage participation.
Sustainable practice projects have been conducted to protect the mountain from illegal logging, waste management issues, and the need for sound water management, as well as the introduction of renewable energy.
Projects such as composting and waste management systems, planting gardens, and introduction of renewable energy sources such as solar, are making positive changes to the environment in the area. These energy sources are beneficial for not just reach out to areas with no access to electricity but to also preserve the natural resources.
The future of Kilimanjaro will depend on the efforts of the governments and the local populations to continue with their measures to restore its ecosystems and protect it from human activities. Through local efforts, international support and global commitment, it is possible to protect the mountain from further degradation and ensure a future for future generations.