- Kakamega county boasts unique tourist attraction sites, including rafting along the Yala River, birding, canopy walks and night walks along specified routes.
- Governor Fernandes Barasa said that the county is financing locally-led climate change initiatives.
Kakamega county has started the rehabilitation and restoration of the Kakamega Forest ecosystem to conserve the resource and bolster the Western tourism circuit.
The project will entail erection of the 117km perimeter electric fence around the forest and reforestation of some 220 hectares of degraded forest land at a cost of Sh500 million.
Forestry Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya presided over the launch of the first phase of Kakamega Forest rehabilitation and fencing programme at Isecheno on Friday to control human activities. The first phase will fence off 15km.
The initiative is supported by the government of Japan United Nation Development Programming and other partners who signed a multi-partners agreement on restoration of the ecosystem on Friday.
“This initiative is a continuum of the national government resolve to do good to nature for prosperity,” Tuya said.
She said that forests and trees form a critical pillar that anchors key sectors like agriculture, energy, tourism and manufacturing, adding that the fencing will help control illegal activities that threaten the resource.
Kakamega Forest is Kenya’s only remnant of the once vast Guinea-Congolian equatorial forest. It is home to a variety of birds, snakes, butterflies and primates.
More than 380 bird species, some which are only found Kenya, like the Blue Turaco; more than 20 species of snakes and more than 400 varieties of butterflies are found in the ecosystem which makes it a major centre for researchers and tourists.
It has the highest plant diversity per unit area across tropical Africa and a watershed for the Isiukhu and Yala rivers which are major sources of water for both domestic and commercial use in Western region.
Japanese Ambassador to Kenya Okaniwa Ken emphasised the importance of communities in conservation of the ecosystems, saying Japan’s forest cover stands at 70 per cent because involvement of communities.
He said that Japan has given Kenya up to 2.68 million pounds towards the conservation programme.
“It is important to promote commercial forestry in Kenya because this will support economic needs of communities and ease pressure on public forests for needs such as charcoal, firewood and timber,” he said.
UNDP country representative Anthony Ngororano said that Climate Change is the single most threat facing humanity globally and in Kenya.
Ngororano said that fencing is an effective way of conserving ecosystems and also reducing human-wildlife conflicts.
Governor Fernandes Barasa said that the county is financing locally-led climate change initiatives.
The initiatives promote ward-based interventions and adaptation of actions that will support establishment of sustainable alternative sources of livelihood among the communities surrounding the forest.
He said that the project by UNDP, National Environment Trust Fund, the Vihiga county, Kenya Wildlife Service, KFS, Rhino Ark and other partners to conserve the ecosystem will ensure enrichment planting and restoration of the degraded landscape in the forest area.
“The project will also ensure reforestation and rehabilitation of up to 220 hectares and upscale production of seedlings by establishing indigenous tree nurseries to promote a culture of tree growing in our homes,” Barasa said.
He asked communities living around the forest to support the forest restoration programme by avoiding social or economic practices that undermines the integrity of their heritage.
“By putting up this fence, we are not separating you from it. We are securing and restoring the forest to its original glory so that it can continue to contribute to the fresh ambience and the steady rainfall that Kakamega is known for.
In other words, by fencing Kakamega Forest, we are connecting you to it even more,” the county chief said.
The governor challenged researchers and traditional herbalists to conduct studies on medicinal drugs within the protocols signed with the county government in 2022.
According to the agreement, herbs spacemen’s collected from the forest should first be taken to Kenya Medical Research Institute for clinical trials before use for treatment.
Barasa said that authorities will ensure that illegal logging, encroachment, irregular excision and conversion of forest land to agriculture, settlement and other forms of infrastructural development do not take place within forest.
“My government is committed to promote a well-managed, high quality and nature-based tourism that has very minimal environmental or no impacts at all,” he said.
Kakamega county boasts unique tourist attraction sites, including rafting along the Yala River, birding, canopy walks and night walks along specified routes.
Barasa said that the forest has undiscovered geo-sites, including Irhanda water falls, the unique warm water streams in the forest and Irhanda view point that should be classified among the wonders of the world, that can be integrated to complete unmatched tourist circuit beyond Kenya.
He said that authorities will advise on in future, authorities will advise on more inclusive methods that will keep local communities engaged in forest rehabilitation.
The governor further said that authorities carrying out reclamation of forestland should adopt the aerial plant technology so as to plant more seedlings and ensure that there is real time monitoring of the planted sites.