By BONIFACE MULU
Kenya faces an acute shortage of good quality tree seeds to meet the planting demand. “The use of inferior seeds will continue to degrade the quality of forest products from plantations, trees on farms and woodlots,” the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) Principle Research Scientist/Seed Physiologist, Dr. William Omondi further said.
And according to him, some 75 per cent of the Kenya’s tree growers source seeds from informal sources resulting in highly variable forest plantations. He also said that a functional tree seed system starts with an effective seed policy and regulatory framework.
Omondi was lecturing participants during a county stakeholders consultation on draft seeds and plant varies (forest and tree seeds) regulations 2020 meeting organised for them by the GATSBY Africa in partnership with the KEFRI and the Kenya Plants Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) at the KEFRI Kitui Regional Research Centre recently.
The participants were from Kitui, Kajiado, Machakos and Makueni Counties. The very sensitisation is a countrywide exercise by the government for all the country’s 47 counties. Omondi said that it is good to plant the right tree for the right place and for the right purpose.
“We are talking of the restoration of forests and degraded lands by promoting reforestation by using seedlings raised from high indigenous species to conserve our environment for the future generations,” the KEFRI official said.
The Kenya’s constitution requires us (the Kenyans) to achieve and maintain a tree cover of at least 10 per cent of the country’s land area, Omondi said.
The expert said the rare and endangered tree species in Kenya are protected by the government from extinction. He said that in Kenya, it is only the government has the seeds testing laboratories in the country. “We the KEFRI do seeds testing in the country,” he said.
“If any person can afford to have a private seeds testing laboratory she or he can be authorised by the government to do seeds testing on its (the government) behalf,” the official said. Omondi said the new regulations are to streamline the seeds industry in Kenya.
“The law focuses on crop seeds,” the scientist said, adding that selling seeds without following the law is illegal and you will be arrested and prosecuted.
There is a law to protect the supplier and there is a law to protect the user, he added. The law is to protect the user from the bad seed that will bring you damage in future, the expert said.
He said the act regulates and controls the production, processing, testing, certification and marketing of seeds. “The law aims to prevent the sale of seeds not produced under certain conditions,” the Environment and Forestry Ministry official added.
And on his part, Peter Owoko from the KEPHIS said the act will be gazetted by the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary. “If the KEPHIS catches you selling the wrong seeds it will arrest you,” the expert said.
The KEPHIS official said that the wrong seeds should be returned to the seller as per the law. Soko said the KEPHIS is the one that has the mandate to implement the regulations.
The KEPHIS is one of the state corporations under Kenya’s Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock, and Fisheries Ministry. The KEFRI Kitui Regional Research Centre Director, Dr. Albert M. Luvanda, who officially closed the function, thanked the event’s organizers. “As the KEFRI we are supporting this process,” Luvanda said.
Keep on sensitizing the public on the process so that we are going to make a change in our country,” the KEFRI official said.