Once a sun baked, arid, barren and rocky base of a former limestone mine, the floor of this quarry was barely five feet above the slightly salty water table. Dr. Frederick Gikandi, a local medical doctor started single handedly to reclaim this quarry by planting 4 acres (16,000 m2) of eighty different indigenous trees; later followed the easier to grow casuarina trees. Public awareness to tree planting was raised by inviting the public to join in the reclamation process.
To date, ngomongo is fanning out its reclamation exercises to the surrounding farms by recruiting the local farmers into planting trees to mark out their farm borders. The ultimate plan is to fan out the success locally, regionally and then nationally.
Reclamation of quarry site
Inspired by a previously successful project, Haller Park initiated by Dr. Rene Haller in Bamburi Beach, Dr. Gikandi applied Haller's approach to rehabilitate the barren quarry. It was a hazard to the neighbours as it acted as a retreat for robbers.
At around this time, the Mombasa municipal council had earmarked the quarry as the municipal refuse dumping site. if carried out this would have contaminated the water table which lies only four feet below the quarry floor, and by extension the Indian Ocean coastal and marine ecosystem. The built up surrounding urban neighbourhood would have suffered air pollution from the decomposing dumped municipal refuse.
Once reclamation work had started, he then involved individuals and the community in tree planting. This was later followed by incorporation of cultural tourism to ensure sustainability.
Geography and climate
The quarry is located 10 km north of Mombasa Island, but within Mombasa municipality. It is about 600 m to 700 m inland of the Indian Ocean shoreline. The quarry floor lies about four feet above the water table, which interconnects with the seabed as is evident from the quarry well water level fluctuations that are coincidental with the ocean tides. The site is 4° south of the equator and 390° east of the Greenwich meridian.
It is excavated up to a depth of 12m and is in the coastal and marine tropical climate. Rain falls every month although not reliably, much of the rain falling during April - June period. Average annual rainfall is about 1192 mm with a maximum of over 2056 mm. The number of rain days varies from 85–130 except for a marked increase in 1997 due to the El Niño weather conditions.
The mean temperature is about 28.8 °C in July and August. Average humidity varies too, with the lowest readings of 65% usually in February and 85% in May.
The coastal region around Mombasa has two monsoon currents: the south east monsoon from May to the beginning of October and the northeast from November to March.
Quarry rehabilitation project
Corals usually live in colonies. Each single animal excretes a skeleton of calcium carbonate, which cements with neighbor cell excretions, eventually forming a whole colonial buildup of compacted constructions, which extend over wide areas. Corals don’t thrive in temperature below 20 °C and depend on shallow seas for growth. Once the living corals get dry from shifting sea levels, the whole coral structure dies and is then known as coral limestone rock. It is at this point that man excavates coral limestone for construction works.
The arid and desolate Ngomongo quarry pit excavated to 12 m was not conducive for plant growth. It had no hope of being spontaneously inhabited by trees for another ten years.
The reason for quarry rehabilitation was therefore to make it into a good hospitable land, with high utility to the people around, improve on the ecosystem, reduce its various hazards, and make it into a sustainable development.
The total dissolved solid and the salinity of the ground water were studied for planning purposes.
Tree seedlings from government forest stations were purchased and transferred to the quarry. The quarry’s own small seed bank which was established later with the help of the community around the quarry, provided seeds to set up a tree nursery. Planted one meter apart initially, the casuarina were later thinned to two metres apart.
The casuarina did very well and helped in breaking up the coral rock with their carpet like root system. Currently the casuarina trees are of average height of 10 m and above provide a very good tree cover and shade for the quarry floor.
The dropping foliage of these trees is broken down by micro–organism and other small organisms like the millipede. The original millipede population was collected by hand by the neighbourhood community and introduced in large numbers into the quarry. Millipedes feed on the fallen leaves (needles) thus breaking them down to release nutrients.
The forest leaf cover was continuously degraded adding much more humus to the ground, as the number of millipedes increased in this their promised land. Millipedes can reach up to a length of 12 cm, hide under the leaf foliage during the dry season, reappearing in large numbers during the rainy season.
The casuarinas are famous for their prestigious timber, which is used in the construction industry. The Neem tree is also doing very well, so are the Baobab tree, coconut, mango trees and the date palms, “mvuli”, “muratina” and others. The Neem tree (“mwarobaini”) is believed to be able to cure 40 diseases hence the name “mwarobaini”. “Akamba” carvers use the logs for carving wood sculptures. Its bark and leaves are used for treating fevers such as due to malaria and other ailments. The leaves yield a non–synthetic insecticide. The small branches are used as disposable toothbrushes The powdered bark of the tree is used for protection of maize granaries against weevils. The “Muratina” tree spongy fruit is the traditional ‘yeast” for brewing traditional “muratina” brew for the “Kikuyu” and the “Akamba” ( this can be sipped and tasted at the Akamba village of Ngomongo villages) “Mvuli” is a sought for hard wood originally from Tanzania. It is the best oak tree equivalent for furniture in East Africa.
Plants and insects
Ferns, mushrooms and other plants which require tree cover and a lot of humus started appearing after just a few years in the forest. At first only a few species were found flourishing but more species are now appearing, some on branches, trunks of dead wood and on the rock cliff faces. Leaf shedding ants are useful in cutting leaves into small pieces. The ants work day and night. Their leaf shredding habit and their fungal cultivation are beneficial to the forest. These types of ants are many, an example being the weaver ants. The termites are also in large numbers in our forest. The termites feed on soft timber trunks, thus they are usually considered as pests, but they play a great role in reducing the dead wood in forests to humus.
- Lantana camara
- Castor oil
- Okra - ladies finger – (vegetable)
- Flamboyant tree
- Indian almond – (fruit tree) – “mkungu”
- Guava – (fruit)
- Neem tree – (medicine)
- Arrow roots
- Sweet potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- Ananas - pineapple
- Paw paw
- Whistling acacia
- Ficus sycamorus / casuarinas forest
- Sugar cane
- River bamboo
Natural ponds were dug by an improvised homegrown hole and shovel. The shovel was made from an empty fifty-gallon steel water storage tank whose designated shoveling edge on the tank open top was reinforced with a sharpened pickup main leaf spring, welded onto this edge.
With two men sitting on the plough or shovel to give it weight and anchorage, the donkeys would drag the plough or shovel. This would be repeated many times until the lake was at least one meter deep below the water table. The depth of the three ponds is an average of one meter.
Crocodiles were introduced into one of the ponds that represent Lake Turkana in the village theme. (Lake Turkana is in the northern part of Kenya.)
The other pond represents in our village theme, lake Victoria that is on the Western side of Kenya. Tilapia has been introduced into this lake.
Large flocks of birds nest on and feed on these wet lands. These including king fishers, weaver birds, Egyptian geese etc.
The bird sanctuary
Within the quarry, a 2-acre (8,100 m2) bird sanctuary has local chicken, ostriches, geese and cranes.
The daily feeding of birds at the bird sanctuary has attracted many wild birds like the Egyptian geese. These wild birds have established their breeding sites on the quarry rock out crops and most of them have made the quarry their home.
There are now over 50 species of birds in the entire quarry. The birds help in seed dispersal as they feed on wild fruits and drop their droppings on other parts of the forest.
Frequently identified species are:
- Egyptian geese
- Helmeted guineafowl
- Crested cranes
- Black water tortoise
- Local chicken
- Strike (bird)
The quarry now has ten diverse rural Kenya villagers each with a niche of forest, displaying his true "culture" and "rural home replica".
Among the things they display are huts, utensils, gardens and the crops they grow in their rural areas. The gardens were made by clearing patches of the new forest. Loosening the coral, then putting a 4” soil and manure cover on which various tribal unique crops are being cultivated. (See FAUNA above).
The land, which was once a lifeless wasteland, now has a diversity of life.
- UNEP Article
- Dubai Municipality Article
- The Haller Foundation
- Dr. Rene Haller's Work