Kitui Ecosystem Conservator Joyce Nthuku urges farmers to provide a $ 10 million forest investment facility.
Nthuku lamented that the world is facing a triple, self-amplifying, interconnected crisis of climate change, biodiversity pollution and waste management that will be resolved once the national forest cover threshold of 10 percent is reached.
“Land degradation is the fourth crisis that crosses borders while affecting youth, women and the most marginalized communities. The Forest Investment Facility offers a solution to mitigate land degradation, ”said the Ecosystem Conservator.
Nthuku said the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) is working with Africa Wood Grow (AWG) to develop community-based groups to ensure harmonized efforts from grassroots to land remediation as part of Covid-19 recovery processes.
At Umu Farm in Kitui Rural, she said that the destruction of the vegetation cover in arid areas occurs for a variety of reasons such as overgrazing, over-farming, collection of firewood, and burning. “Pasture is the most widespread use of arid land and is widely viewed as a major cause of desertification because of its increased intensity,” Nthuku said.
The Ecosystem Conservator noted that the main role of dryland SCFs is the sustainable management and use of forest resources in drylands for improving community livelihoods and mitigating climate change.
She pointed out that the service is increasing and maintaining the forested area in ASALS through institutional tree-planting approaches and redevelopment of degraded areas in order to protect the environment and improve livelihoods.
“The service also encourages sustainable investments in dryland forest operations like beekeeping, silk and aloe farming, adding value to products like rubber and resins,” she noted.
She said KFS has started programs to ensure that sustainable forestry practices are achieved in the arid areas.
“This includes the promotion and establishment of suitable multi-purpose tree species in the ASALS as well as measures for water extraction and water protection in the arid regions,” says Nthuku.
Jeconiah Mokaya, project manager for Africa Wood Grow, said the arboriculture project is taking an integrated approach to tackling deforestation, land degradation and biodiversity loss in communities in arid Kitui County.
“Our organization supports community-led forest and landscape restoration (FLR) and the development of alternative livelihoods to achieve national forest cover of 10 percent and more by providing local tree saplings and fence material to farmers,” said Mokaya.
He said deforestation is mainly caused by unsustainable forest use by communities, including deforestation for building materials and firewood, overgrazing, land use changes and grass fires, and is exacerbated by population growth and the lack of alternative livelihoods.
“AWG works with environmental volunteers who have adopted trees on farms and are increasing forest cover in the area. These volunteers own the trees and are tended for them, ”he said.
The project manager said AWG is in the process of setting up volunteer tourism where those who have adopted the trees will visit the farms and surrounding communities to train them in environmental protection and natural resource management.
“We invite the communities around us to adopt the idea so that, in collaboration with schools, universities and other stakeholders and partners, farmers can offer training on nature conservation, alternative production technologies and the enrichment and conservation of biodiversity,” said Mokaya.
Stella Isaac, a beneficiary of the project, said the farmers have planted over 15,000 species of the highly drought-resistant plant Melia Volkenssi, known locally as Mukau and other species which means 345 acres of restored farmland.
Pius Mathuku announced that weather conditions in the area have improved tremendously since the project started in 2017, adding that the trees have been able to attract relief rain for the past four seasons.
By Yobesh Onwong’a