Kenya’s forest cover stands at 7.2 per cent-KEFRI official

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ENVIRONMENT Monday, October 28, 2019

By BONIFACE MULU

A senior Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) official, Dr. Jackson M.Mulatya has said that in Kenya the environment is badly managed as compared to many other countries in the world.

Mulatya is the KEFRI Corporate Affairs and Quality Assurance Deputy Director. He announced that currently the Kenya’s forest cover stands at 7.2 per cent. “And in Japan, the cover is 75 per cent. In Britain, the cover is over 50 per cent and in Australia the cover is over 60 per cent. And in Tanzania, the cover is 36 per cent and in Uganda the cover is 17 per cent. And in Rwanda, the forest cover is 25 per cent,” the expert said.

Mulatya was speaking to the participants during the tree planting launch in Kitui County on Saturday, October 26, 2019 where the exercise was held at the Kitui Government of Kenya (GK) Main Prison and where he was the chief guest representing the Environment and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko at the function.

The event had been organied by the KEFRI in partnership with the Kenya Forest Service, the Kitui County Environment and Natural Resources Ministry and the Kenya Water Tower Agency.

“We have been sent here through the KEFRI Board. And we are representing the Cabinet Secretary who is elsewhere for another function in the country,” Mulatya said. “The event is everywhere in the country. This is a national tree planting campaign launch,” the scientist added.

This campaign is about the environment, he went on to say. Nationally, Mulatya disclosed that the Kitui County’s forest cover stands at 7 per cent. “And Makueni County has about 4 per cent, Machakos County has about 3.6 per cent and Siaya County is the worst out of all the Kenya’s 47 counties with 0.24 per cent forest cover,” he disclosed.

The officer announced that we the Kenyans are planning to plant some 500 million trees within a three years period to get the country’s national 10 per cent forest cover by 2022.

He announced that they (the KEFRI) signed a memorandum of understanding with Kitui County Governor Charity Kaluki Ngilu on Wednesday, October 25, 2019 regarding the KEFRI Kitui Regional Research Centre. “This centre is the only one that carries out the dryland research in Africa. Africa is looking at it.

It has the expertise to carry out the dryland research,” the expert added. The centre carries out the research through its Dryland Eco-Region Research Programme (DERP). “I have a message to you the County Commissioner.

If you want some tree seedlings for planting in the county, talk to the KEFRI and the KFS,” Mulatya told the Kitui County Commissioner John Ondego who was present at the function. In his speech, the County Commissioner said: “Today is a very important day in the history of tree planting in Kitui County.” “This is a very vast county. It has an area of more than 30,000 square kilometres,” Ondego said.

Today we were targeting to plant a total of 5,000 trees here and we have planted a lot of trees. There are some trees that we have given to be planted in the county’s institutions like schools, colleges, hospitals and churches,” the County Commissioner said.

He urged every person in the county to plant trees at her or his homestead for the good of the environmental conservation. The government’s aim is to get the 10 per cent forest cover, the official added. “We know the trees are important.

I want to thank our friends from Nairobi through the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry for ensuring that today we are going to have a tree planting exercise in our county,” the administrative officer said.

Ondego said that the resources conflict over water and pasture is the greatest challenge regarding the security in their county. “There are our neighbours from our neighbouring Tana River County who migrate into our county in search of water and pasture for their livestock,” Ondego said.

He said the conflict is as a result of the perennial droughts. He warned the local people over the ongoing heavy rains in Kitui County. The County Commissioner announced that they had already lost nine lives through drowning there since when the rains started in the county on October 1, 2019.

He asked the people to take care of the young children for them not to go to the rivers and streams. He also asked them not to attempt to cross the swollen rivers and streams. “Today we had almost lost the lives of some our county government officials in Sombe Location, Mutitu District.

They were rescued after their vehicle was swept away by river floods. And also today, a school bus with students was about to be swept away by a flooded river in Mutomo District,” Ondego said.

The County Commissioner decried the rising cases of suicides in the county and said that the counseling is needed quite a lot there. He asked the locals to stop taking their own lives. “You just wait for the death by God because the death is a must instead of killing yourself,” he said. And Daniel Mwanzia, who had represented the KFS Eastern Kenya Regional Conservancy Head Beatrice Mbula at the occasion, announced that they are planning to plant a total of four million trees in the region.

“We the region cover a total of six counties namely Kitui, Embu, Meru, Machakos, Makueni and Tharaka Nithi,” the forester said. In Kenya there are some counties that have 30 to 40 per cent forest covers and there you don’t hear of disasters like floods and droughts because they plant plenty of trees,” he said.

The official said that Kitui County needs more trees because the area is an arid region to get the 10 per cent forest cover. “So let us plant and conserve the trees,” Mwanzia added.

The officer highly lauded the women who had attended the event saying that the women are on the frontline in planting and conserving the trees in Kenya. The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Kitui County Director Godffrey Wafula said that by planting trees we are improving our lives.

“We are here as the NEMA to partner with the KEFRI, the KFS and all the community who are here because we know the importance of trees,” the expert said. We are planting the trees because the future generations will get an opportunity to use these trees, he added.

In the banning of the plastic paper bags usages in the country by the government, Wafula said that they in Kitui County had succeeded in a certain extent towards dealing with the usage of the said plastics. “There are some people who are still using the plastic paper bags in the county and we urge them to adhere to the rules and regulations,” the NEMA official said. And in his speech, the Kitui County Environment and Climate Change Director, Fredrick Kimwilu, said the charcoal production and sand harvesting were banned in Kitui County by the governor in January 2018 and that they as a government are committed to that. “And I want to thank the County Commissioner and the County Police Commander for the support they are giving us towards achieving this,” the director said. Kimwilu said the trees are the life and that we have to plant and conserve them.

He said that to address the climate change we must plant trees. “Let us urge the schools, colleges and churches among others to plant trees for the good of the environment.

The destruction of the environment does not know the boundaries. The results from the destruction affect us all,” the County Environment and Natural Resources Ministry official added.

The officer announced that the Kitui County won the national award in 2017 for being the leading county in the planting and conservation of trees in Kenya. In her speech, the Kenya Water Towers Agency (KWTA) Kitui Regional Coordinator, Miriam Mutuku, disclosed that the region covers Kitui, Garissa, Machakos and Makueni Counties with the headquarters being in Kitui Town.

The KFS Kitui County Ecosystem Conservator Joyce Nthuku also addressed the occasion among others. The EC had been accompanied by her deputy Charles Kavithi among other officials from her office.

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