The dwindling forest cover in Mwingi Sub County occasioned by illegal charcoal production can only be addressed through agro-forestry and commercial tree farming.
Sub-County administrator Luka Musyoka said they are now focusing on the two aspects, in a major paradigm shift from the traditional preservation of government-owned forests.
The county government has envisaged a programme to give incentives to farmers to plant more trees on their farms rather than solely concentrating on protecting existing government-owned forests.
Only such efforts will help increase our forest cover and achieve our target of realizing at least 10 percent tree cover, said Musyoka.
The Sub-County administrator noted that people will be willing to invest more in forests and trees if they know they can earn a decent living out of it.
Over the past couple of years, the government has largely concentrated protection efforts on water catchment areas known as the five water towers including the Mau Forest Complex, Mount Kenya, the Aberdares, Mount Elgon and Cherangany Hills.
However, while communities are capable of growing trees and saving forests, the challenge, according to locals, lies in meeting the energy demand of some 75 percent of the population who rely on wood fuel and charcoal as a source of energy.
Farmers are capable of growing trees on their farms and at the same time preserving forests, but the desperation to have energy at times overwhelms their efforts. There is need to make other sources of energy more affordable, especially to rural communities, said Aneto Muthui, Chairman Nuu Town Bodaboda Operators.
Muthui said the main reasons for deforestation are unregulated charcoal production, logging of indigenous trees, marijuana cultivation, livestock grazing and human settlements.
According to the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), just 6.2 percent of Kenya’s total land area is covered with forests.
Dwindling water resources, resulting from forest depletion, will affect the push to increase irrigated agriculture.
Musyoka urged smallholder farmers to grow trees on their farms, as this will help in not only improving their soil textures, but also minimizing deforestation in natural forests.
We encourage the use of solar energy and other methods of cooking to reduce cutting down of trees, he says.
According to the administrator, efforts to ensure the forest cover target is met, has not been easy. We have been engaging students from different schools in tree planting activities which has been the road to our success.
Meanwhile, farmers are being warned against planting eucalyptus trees along rivers, due to their high water consumption rate, which reduces volume of water in the rivers.
Source: Kenya News Agency