Kiwengwa-Pongwe Forest Reserve found at the North-eastern side of Unguja Island approximately 45 km from Zanzibar town and covers an area of about 3,323 hectares. The reserve is exactly located at 538000 – 544100 northing and 9328600 – 93434000 easting grids. The reserve is bordered by ten communities. These include Kandwi and Pwani Mchangani (northern); at the eastern part, the reserve is bordered by the main road that runs from Pongwe through Kiwengwa to Matemwe villages. Further east, the reserve is adjacent to the Indian Ocean where as tourist bungalows are clustered. While on western part is bordered with Zanziflora Conservation Area, Mchekeni rim and a Shehia of Upenja. The road that runs from Upenja to Kiwengwa village bisects the reserve and provides easy transportation network between the Kiwengwa village and Zanzibar town.
In Zanzibar, Kiwengwa-Pongwe Forest Reserve is the second largest natural forest after Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park. It is a refuge remaining patch for endemic, endangered and threatened flora and fauna. The condition of the forest between 1960’s and 1970’s was fairly good as the villagers only depends it for domestic purpose. Overtime the use of the forest changed toward commercial charcoal and lime making, shifting cultivation, stone extraction and crashing, illegal hunting, wood cutting, and honey collection.
According to the population Census of 2002, the ten communities are surrounding the reserve Of which about 15,602 inhabitants 7,621 being women are estimated to reside.
Topography and Climate
The forest is located at the foot of Mchekeni rim, which is considered as the highest point, about 40 meters above the sea level. On the western side of the reserve, long stretches of coral reefs are parallel found. The coral reef ranges between the heights of 15m to 40m depending on the location. The micro climate of KPFR is influenced by tropical monsoon system of the Indian Ocean, which brings a bimodal pattern of rainfall in Zanzibar. The annual temperature varies between 18 – 34 degrees centigrade and average rainfall of 1600mm. KPFP experiences two raining seasons – the long rain, which normally starts from March to May; and short rains between October and December. Dry season is between July and September.
Geology and Soil
A porous ground made up of coral rags stone is the major soil characteristics at Kiwengwa. There is a thin layer of soil that can only sustain limited vegetation, but includes a dense core forest area. Coral rags soil is a shallow with high calcium content and plenty of rocky outcrops. The soils are very fragile, the vegetations they support relies on organic litters collected on the forest floor especially at the natural thickets. The scenic value of this reserve is distinguished by a number of landscape features including underground dry coral caves network which have are potential as tourism attractions.
Land use cover changes
The KPFR is the last remaining outsized patch of the dry evergreen forest and coral rags thicket that represents the biodiversity of the northern part of Unguja Island. The reserve provides the main sources of wood fuel, medicinal plants and building materials to the large population of the northern region of Unguja Island. It is also important habitat that encompasses several endemic and rare species of flora and fauna. Land use practices have been shifted from traditional and homestead farming to tourist- commercial oriented to cope with hardship lifestyle. In line with these land use reforms, changes of forest cover have been pronounced by the canopy classes, species distribution and abundances especially at the periphery of the reserve.
Kiwengwa-Pongwe Forest Reserve is a remnant of the coral rag forest that until mid 20th century covered north-east part of Unguja. Coral rag forest was the home of small antelopes such as Ader’s duiker, suni, blue duiker. Other animals include Sykes monkeys, African civets, etc. However the population size of small antelopes has sharply declined due to hunting and habitat destruction. The forest also harbors a good number of bird species. Doves in particular are highly hunted for meat and commercial consumption (selling it alive). Hunting disturbs animals’ and birds’ movements in the forest and tends to be confined in tiny places, hence limiting their distribution range. Nowak (2004) observed that, distribution of small antelopes for example Ader’s duikers is shifted to middle-height forest, less preferred but less disturbed; while Suni and Blue duiker, most occurring in middle-height forest and Red colobus are disturbed in high forest, though not preferred but they are safe.