THREATENED RESOURCE

Stakeholders design strategy to save Kirisia forest in Samburu

By reversing the threats, the people of Samburu county will enjoy water, wood and non-wood products

In Summary

•The serious threats to the forest reserve include encroachment, charcoal burning, human settlements, overgrazing and proliferation of urban centres.

•Kenya Forest Service now wants to reverse this after the illegal squatters voluntarily left the forest on December 13, 2019.

Samburu West MP Naisula Lesuuda, Environment CS Keriako Tobiko, KFS Chief Conservator of Forests Julius Kamau and Samburu woman representative Maison Leshomo plant trees in Kirisia forest on December 30, 2019
Samburu West MP Naisula Lesuuda, Environment CS Keriako Tobiko, KFS Chief Conservator of Forests Julius Kamau and Samburu woman representative Maison Leshomo plant trees in Kirisia forest on December 30, 2019

Efforts to restore Kirisia forest in Samburu have started with the development of a strategy.

On Tuesday, a technical group working on preparation and validation of Kirisia/Leroghi Forest Reserve Restoration Strategy started a four-day retreat in Samburu county.

The workshop was opened by Samburu county commissioner Abdrisack Jaldesa who noted that a multi-stakeholder restoration strategy will go a long way in ensuring the sustainability of the forest.

Deputy chief conservator of forests Charity Munyasya is leading Kenya Forest Service technical officers in the workshop, which is sponsored by the FAO.

The workshop is comprised of representatives of Leroghi/Kirisia CFA leaders, Trusts and Conservancy, NEMA, KEFRI, KWS, FAO, and county government officials.

The serious threats to the forest reserve have been encroachment, charcoal burning, human settlements, overgrazing, a proliferation of urban centres with some located inside the forest, forest fires and over-exploitation of key tree species.

Kenya Forest Service now wants to reverse this after the illegal squatters voluntarily left the forest on December 13, 2019.

The over 500 families voluntarily left some 225,982 acres of gazetted dry land forest, bolstering government efforts to increase tree cover to over 10 per cent by 2022.

Chief conservator of forests Julius Kamau says the forest, which was gazetted in 1936, has a rich biodiversity.

"Already, 30,000ha of this forest have been destroyed. This is a third of the forest," Kamau said, adding that this has elicited the wrath of nature, as there is now no water or pasture for livestock.

The CCF said Samburu's forest cover, which stands at 12.8 per cent, could be increased up to 15 per cent.

"Community Forest Associations are very critical stakeholders," he said.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has already secured funds from the global environment facility, in partnership with Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service and the county government of Samburu.

The $2.8 million (Sh280 million) funds will promote and facilitate strategic capacities and incentives to counter forest and land degradation in the Kirisia forest.

Through the project, FAO supports the capacity development of key institutions, such as KFS, KWS, county government and CFAs to adopt an inclusive and sustainable forest management approach to protect the integrity of the Kirisia forest ecosystem.

By reversing the threats, the people of Samburu County will enjoy the water, wood and non-wood products, investments, good rains, cool weather, beauty and other environmental services, particularly climatic amelioration.

Under the project, the forest-neighbouring communities in Nkarro, Naramat and Nailepunye are now partnering with various groups in designing mechanisms for protecting, conserving and managing Kirisia forest. The partners include the Environment and Interior ministries, Samburu county, KFS, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Kenya Water Towers Agency, Kenya Wildlife Service, Suryan Trust and group ranches.

Kefri has been monitoring the species diversity in the forest.

The institution's research and development senior deputy director Dr Jane Njuguna had said they will monitor the species diversity in the forest.

There will be a long-term ecological study of the forest that will monitor several factors.

"We will also do aerial seeding to complement the over 10,000 seedlings that were planted," she said, adding that this will increase the seed bank.

Kefri will also start a research station to cover the area as one way of disseminating new technologies.

"As part of our 10 per cent forest cover strategy, we want to provide the right seeds in this area," she said.

Njuguna said the forest will be used as a seed collection site. She said the original species has been in the forest for over 15 years.

"The Samburu communities are exceptional. They are conservation-conscious. They know this is their forest, we want to work with them, teach them so they can manage their forest," Njuguna said.

Njuguna said the locals will be taught how to conserve the forest.

Equally, their indigenous knowledge will be tapped.