•Busia has low forest cover, aims for five% by end of short rains.
• Targets to plan 30 million trees in 10 years .
The Kenya Forest Service and its partners aim to plant three million tree seedlings across Busia during the current short rains.
The planting is an attempt to increase the county's forest cover to the nationally-agreed standards, promote environmental conservation and mitigate effects of climate change.
Busia County Ecosystem Conservator Vitalis Osodo said their mandate as KFS is to ensure they conserve, protect and increase the forest cover besides planning for future generations.
He commented on Friday at Malaba Township Primary School in Teso North subcounty during a Linda Mazingira Initiative Kenya programme called 'Plant a tree, adopt a tree programme'.
Osodo said, "Our main aim is to plant trees and ensure the issues of climate change are reduced. So far, in Busia county, we are on course.”
This year, KFS raised three million seedlings and so far has planted 1.5 million of them.
"We are optimistic that by the end of this short rain period we will have planted all the seedlings and probably our county tree cover, which is at 3.5 per cent, will have increased to five per cent," Osodo said.
KFS wants learning institutions to plant and nurture trees.
The school tree planting programme, he added, would also be rolled out to communities as the world fights the adverse effects of climate change.
“We are working with other partners to ensure tree planting is done at the right time and the right way so that we can achieve our goal because now we are looking at 30 per cent tree cover,” Osodo said.
He praised Malaba Township Primary School administration for the environmental programme aimed at turning the school green
“We want the same programme to be replicated in other schools across the county through our partners like Linda Mazingira Initiative Kenya and the Dedan Kimathi Foundation,” he said.
Osodo said with the new government in place, they hope to initiate a greening school programme where schools would be planting trees as one of their academic activities.
He said KFS and its partners are also educating communities about planting money-making trees such as avocado and mango for both tree planting, environmental conservation and nutrition.
He called on the Ministry of Education to iron out school land ownership challenges that are hampering tree planting activities, as neighbouring communities believe the land belongs to them and have turned schools into grazing grounds.
“Land ownership is an issue and that is why most of these schools are encroached. Again, some of the schools are not even fenced and even when they fence them, the community members cut down the fence to allow their livestock to get in for grazing,” he said.
Busia County Linda Mazingira Initiative coordinator Patrick Ikwara said their goal is to plant two million tree seedlings in collaboration with KFS, Kefri, Dedan Kimathi Foundation, Equity Bank, and Scouts associations in schools.
He said their focus would be on the hills and swampy areas destroyed by soil erosion.
Malaba Township Primary School teacher in charge of the Scouts, David Imutuan, said the school administration is focused on teaching tree planting and protection skills to the pupils.
The skills will enable them to conserve the environment and deal with climate change in the future.
Dedan Kimathi Foundation representative Dickson Maina said their target as a foundation in partnership with KFS is to plant 30 million trees in the next 10 years across the country.
(Edited by V. Graham)