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Kipepeo Butterfly Project

Current initiative


Butterfly on a leaf.

Butterfly (Photo "Cethosia hypsea - Malay Lacewing" by ksblack99 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0)

The Kipepeo Butterfly Project (KBP) was started in 1993 to provide an alternative and sustainable income for the communities living near Arabuko-Sokoke forest in Kenya. Many of the people involved in the KBP were once illegal loggers or hunters, who now earn a much greater income in butterfly farming. The KBP has created a sense of community stewardship and communities are motivated to protect the forest.


Kipepeo Butterfly Project


The Arabuko-Sokoke forest covers 162 square miles and is the largest block of natural coastal forest in east Africa. It is home to many endangered species, including the golden-rumped elephant shrew as well as nearly 300 butterfly species. The forest is protected by local Mijikenda elders, although it is increasingly threatened by a rapidly growing surrounding rural population.

The poaching and wildlife trade problem

Species affected Timber Species

Overview of the problem

Illegal logging.

The anti-IWT initiative

Butterfly farmers from the 50 villages around the forest trap batches of butterflies in the hope they will lay eggs, which will eventually turn into pupae that can be sold to international buyers from Europe. Farmers can earn up to 10,000 shillings each week during peak season, which motivates ex-loggers to join the business.

One of the key objectives of the KBP is to foster an increased awareness of the natural environment, which is achieved through an environmental education program. Farmers are organised into community groups, with regular meetings to discuss production, marketing and welfare. In addition, Producer Associations of butterfly farmers are involved in forest protection and awareness raising of nature-based enterprises.

The strategy

Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship

Legal trade

Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife

(Non-wildlife-based) enterprise development/support

Build/and or support sense of community ownership or stewardship

Improving education and awareness

Has the initiative made a difference?

Since KBP was launched in 1993 illegal logging has reduced, with most loggers now coming from outside the community. Communities now see the importance of the forest and the average annual per capita income has grown from US$50 to between $US100-800. Individuals have been able to set up alternative livelihood business with their income and education their children, which previously wouldn’t have been possible.

Butterfly habitats are also protected and KBP has managed to expand to other forests in Kenya.

Organisers, donors and partners

Kipepeo is managed by the National Museums of Kenya and partners with other government agencies, including KFS and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

For further information contact (