Counties in hot pursuit of increased forest cover

Various counties have organized tree planting sessions to help increase the country forest cover during the current heavy rains.

The Kenya Forest Services (KFS) have also come under criticism for allowing logging thereby undermining the goal of attaining 10 percent forest cover.

Kiambu County government in conjunction with the KFS has so far planted over 400,000 trees in a program that seeks to have over 1million trees planted before the end of this year.

Kiambu county chief executive officer in charge of water, environment and natural resources, David Kuria said the achievement was as a result of good working relationship between the government and the community.

Speaking during this year’s international day of forests in Kiganjo, Gatundu South where over 7,000 trees were planted, Kuria said that Kiambu County has also donated to farmers over 450,000 fruit-tree seedlings to plant during the current rainy season.

He said that the county government has developed partnerships with like-minded groups to support the panda miti milioni initiative.

In Kitale, at least 3 million trees will be planted in Trans Nzoia by the end of this rainy season in a bid to improve the forest cover in the region.

Area forest conservator Nicodemus Mwatika asked residents to plant more trees to achieve the 10 per cent forest cover.

He said that they intend to plant three million trees which will be achieved through partnerships with various stakeholders and asked residents to support the initiative to achieve the target.

He commended the Kenya Association of Women Tourism (KAWT) who supported the planting of around 10,000 tree seedlings on Wednesday during the World Forest Day.

The association’s Chairlady, Immaculate Kipyes said forests and better tree cover can act as a tourist attraction improving the tourism sector, Women in Trans Nzoia have said.

Under the Umbrella of KAWT, the women are advocating for improved tourism activities in the county and Kenya as a main foreign exchange earner.

The Baringo County Environment Conservator has refuted claims that forests have been over harvested in the county, saying the region had one of the largest forest cover in the country.

Speaking during the World Forest Day celebrations in Katimok Forest, Kabartonjo, Orinda Benard said the county had mature trees that were due for harvesting and that they were following a planned harvesting process laid out by KFS.

There is no need for alarm as we are the second county in Kenya with the largest forest cover at 25.3 per cent and we are planting more trees every year, said the KFS county Conservator.

He said they are harvesting 480 hectares of forested land per year and have since put another 2000 hectares under forest cover in the last two years.

County Executive Committee member for Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism, Ms. Scholar Jepkesei warned that environmental degradation was posing a threat to the society.

She called for participatory management in conservation of forest resources saying it is fundamental in eradicating poverty and improving people’s livelihood.

Meanwhile, environmental activists clashed with those who draw livelihoods from the country’s forests during the public forum of the national forests management task force in Nyeri yesterday.

The environmentalists who were calling for a total ban of all human activities in forests were not received well by representatives of community forest associations and saw millers who were of the view that the taskforce needed to come up with recommendations that would lead to sustainable management of the forests.

Task force Chair, Mrs Marion Wakanyi Kamau assured all sides that their views would be considered when their final report is submitted to the Minister for Environment for action.

Community Forest Associations (CFAs) work with the KFS to protect the forests in their neighbourhoods in return for the rights to graze, collect firewood and grow foodstuff in areas where young plantations are being established under the Plantation Establishment and Livelihoods Support Programme (PELIS) system.

Elsewhere Residents of Ledero location of Samburu Central district have accused the KFS of destroying and cutting trees enmass in Kirisia forest.

Addressing residents in Ledero Mixed Secondary School after the international of day forests the Samburu County Governor, Moses Lenolkulal asked the residents to plant more trees in their manyattas and stop forest destruction.

The locals said that the community works so hard to protect the forest hence any plans to cut dead woods and old trees have to be properly communicated and agreed upon by all the parties involved.

They said that corruption involving the forest guards and those contracted to do the tree felling greatly contributes to the destruction of the natural resource at Kirisia forest.

He called on the government to stop issuing permits before consulting the community. The governor asked the Samburu KFS’s conservator, Godfrey Makokha, who was present during the meeting, to find proper ways of communicating such plans to the community.

Leaders from Machakos, Kitui and Makueni Counties yesterday pledged to support the government to save the national forest cover that is on the verge of imminent extinction.

Led by Machakos CEC for Environment and Natural Resources, John Musili, the leaders said the current status of forests in the country is worrying and might plunge the country into an ecological disaster unless addressed urgently.

Speaking in Machakos during a joint county tree planning exercise during celebrations to mark this year’s International Day of Forests; Musili reiterated Governor Dr. Alfred Mutua’s moratorium on logging in the area for the next three years.

Kitui counterpart, John Makau said unless counties unite in tackling the ongoing plunder of natural resources, the country would end up being faced with ecological challenges of unparalleled proportions.

He said as a county, they will continue pushing for mechanisms and legislations that are geared towards protecting the environment, including banning of sand harvesting and charcoal burning as announced by Governor Charity Ngilu.

Machakos County forest cover spans a total of 477.617km2 accounting for 7.6 per cent of total land area. Gazetted forested area cover 606.97 hectares.

Notable forested areas in the county include Iveti hills, Muumandu, Kalimanzalu and Kiima Kimwe.

Source: Kenya News Agency