By BONIFACE MULU
The Matinga Dam in Kitui West District in Kitui County is the Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority’s key entry point in the region.
The remarks have been made by the TARDA Chief Manager, Mr. Parmenas Mukeku. “We the TARDA have a lot of activities that include the conservation,” the official said. He also announced that they are to partner with the Kitui County government in rehabilitating the Matinga Dam. And he disclosed that the dam’s rehabilitation work requires about two billion shillings.
Mukeku was speaking during the Matinga Dam water catchment area’s official tree growing and conservation launch held at the Kangungi Primary School in Kitui West District on Wednesday, December 29, 2021.
The event had been organised by the Kitui County Environment, Tourism and Natural Resources Ministry in partnership with the TARDA, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) where a senior East African Community (EAC) official, Dr. Christopher K. Musumbu was the chief guest at the function. About 5,000 tree seedlings donated by the TARDA were planted at the Kangungi, Mauluni, Mbuini, Ngong’u and Nzinia Primary Schools in Kitui West District.
All the five learning institutions are within the Matinga Dam water catchment area. The Musuu, Mathata and Kithyoko Rivers are the tributaries of the Matinga Dam. Mukeku announced that they (the TARDA) are planning to establish a trees nursery at the Matinga Dam for the good of the dam’s water catchment area’s conservation. “And we are going to train some local community members on the trees nursery management,” he said.
We are to work with the community towards conserving this catchment, the officer added. Mukeku said that every person has a right and duty to conserve the environment. “The aim is not planting the plenty of trees. But the idea is to plant the trees that we can conserve,” the expert added.
The officer announced that the government has set aside some funds to them (the TARDA) to buy some 1.8 million tree seedlings to plant them in the Kenya’s dry areas during the 2021-2022 financial year. And he talked about the melia volkensii tree species that he said are some of the trees which they encourage the people to plant. “They are very good trees for the timber and fodder among many other benefits,” the TARDA official said.
The TARDA is a state corporation within the Industrialisation Ministry. It was established in 1974 by the Parliament Act CAP 443 of the Laws of Kenya. And on his part, Musumbu said the Matinga Dam has a lot of the environmental impact. “The dam was constructed by the Kenya’s colonial government in 1955. And it was de-silted in 1972. And it has been silted from 1974 up to date. So this time round we want this project be sustainable,” he said. “If well taken care of, the communities livelihoods will be good,” Musumbu, who is also a TARDA director said.
He added that they are going to sensitise the community on the importance of conserving the Matinga Dam water catchment area. “We are talking of the partnership here,” Musumbu said.
He said that some migratory birds from Europe such as the Eurasian roller find refuge in the Matinga Dam habitat. “They breed and feed from this critical ecosystem,” Musumbu added. And addressing the occasion, a lecturer at the Kitui based South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU), Dr. Muusya Mwinzi, said that those who formed the TARDA and other agencies had a lot of thoughts.
The don said there are some community based organisations (CBOs) that partner with the SEKU in the environmental conservation issues. “And we have much interest in conserving the environment at the Matinga Dam and Kitui County in general,” Mwinzi said. Mwinzi is also the former Kitui County Environment, Energy and Minerals Investments Development Ministry Chief Officer.
“There is no area where you can’t plant trees. The trees can be planted everywhere even in the driest areas,” the lecturer said. So make the environmental conservation part of you, he added.
In his speech, the Kitui County Environment and Climate Change Deputy Director, Mr. Dominic Mutisya Mumbu, announced that the Kitui County government has been rehabilitating the old medium-sized dams in the county through the funding from the African Development Bank (ADB) and the Small Scale Irrigation and Value Addition Project (SSIVAP).
“The TARDA deals with all the major dams in Kenya including the Masinga, Kindaruma, Kiambere and Kamburu,” he said.
Mumbu talked about the melia volkensii. “The melia volkensii takes 12 to 15 years to mature. And it has a lot of benefits to the farmers who farm it,” Mumbu, who is a forester by profession said.
Those who conduct forestry research like the KEFRI and TARDA say that the melia is the coffee here in Kitui, he said. And he highly lauded the KEFRI for leading in promoting the very tree species in the region. “A research by the KEFRI has revealed that the one stem of the melia tree can earn the farmer some 3,000 shillings. So the one hectare with some 400 stems can earn the farmer some 1.2 million shillings which can be enough income to educate a child or help one to prepare for his or her decent retirement package,” Mumbu said.
The expert also talked about the acasia tree species that he said are very good for the conservation matters. Mumbu announced that they are going to survey the Matinga Dam before planting the trees at it. The KFS Kitui County Ecosystem Conservator, Mrs. Joyce Nthuku had been represented at the occasion by an official from her office Joseph Kongo. The officer said that for one to cut down a tree, he or she must get a permit from the KFS office. “We have destroyed a lot of trees in our area,” Kongo said.
The forester announced that the KFS has been partnering with many stakeholders including the Equity Bank, the TARDA and the Kitui County government in planting the trees in Kitui County. And he disclosed that they have already planted almost 200,000 tree seedlings in the county during the current rain season.
He asked the locals to make it a culture of planting the trees during every rain season. The Kangungi Primary School head teacher, Mrs. Elizabeth Musyoki, who also addressed the occasion, said: “We can change our area by planting as many trees as possible.” I am happy when we are here because we have some trees that we are going to plant here at the school, the teacher said. “We can make the rain to rain through the deed,” Musyoki said.
“Let me assure you that the parents of this school are supportive. They are going to take care of all the trees which we have been given here,” she went on to say.
The District Commissioner John M. Waithaka had been represented at the function by the District Officer (DO) Ruth L.A. Obuya who also addressed the event among others