WATER TOWER CONSERVATION

Maasai Mau restoration on course — Natembeya

Environment CS Keriako Tobiko launched the 10 million trees initiative for restoration of forest complex on November 1.

In Summary

• Natembeya was yesterday upbeat that the restoration efforts were on course following the kicking out of illegal settlers.

• He told the Star on the phone that the tree-planting drive had gained momentum.

Maasai Mau Forest settlements.
Maasai Mau Forest settlements.
Image: Gilbert Koech

Will the heavily degraded Maasai Mau Forest regain its lost glory? Rift Valley regional commissioner George Natembeya thinks so.

Natembeya was yesterday upbeat that the restoration efforts were on course following the kicking out of illegal settlers.

He told the Star on the phone that the tree-planting drive had gained momentum.

"The tree planting drive is going on well. We expect to go on until the end of the short rains," he said.

Environment CS Keriako Tobiko launched the 10 million trees initiative for restoration of Maasai Mau forest on November 1.

Maasai Mau Forest is one of the forest blocks of Mau Forest Complex and is registered as a trust land under the Trust Lands Act. It covers an area of 114,355.2519 acres.

Owing to human-induced pressure, the forest was the most threatened block of the Masai Forest Complex.

The major threats that faced the Masai Mau Forest were encroachment, commercial charcoal burning and illegal logging.

Based on the analysis of land use and land cover, 14 per cent or 15,715.878 acres of the area is highly degraded. These are areas where illegal settlement existed.

Priority areas for conservation in order include Olokurto area, SierraLeone in the Narok South few kilometres from the Amala River, Kosia, Nkoben and Nkareta area.

Irked by the state of the affairs, the government kicked out what it termed as illegal settlers in phases, to hue and cry from a section of leaders.

Under the first phase carried out in July and August last year, some 2,400 settlers in Nkoben and Kass FM areas were targeted.

An estimated 11,119.725 acres of forest land was recovered.

Phase two saw illegal settlers in Sierra Leone and surrounding areas, also popularly known as ‘status quo area’ kicked out. The area measured 42,007.85 acres.

It borders Olposimoru Forest to the North, Olokurto to the East, Ololunga to the West and Narok town to the South.

An estimated 7,000 households were targeted in the operation.

Fifteen schools were declared illegal and shut by the government.

During the tree-planting drive, an aircraft was also used.

Some 200,000 seedlings were planted manually that day, to complement the over four million planted through aerial seeding.

Trees species planted include; Calodendrumcapense (Cape Chestnut), Cordiaafricana (Muringa), Croton megalocarpus (Mukinduri), Dombeyatorrida(Forest dombeya) and Hageniaabyssinica (African redwood).

Others are Juniperusprocera (Pencil cedar), Maesopsiseminii (Mama Mutere), Markhamalutea(Nile Tulip), Oleacapensis (black ironwood), Podocarpusfalcatus(Podo), Polysciasfulva (Parasol tree), Vitexkeniensis (Meru oak) and Zanthoxylumgilletii (African satinwood).

A total of 1981 kgs from the 13 tree species was broadcasted in Maasai Mau.

The 1981 kgs are estimated to have approximately 60 million individual seeds and will yield an estimated 30 million seedlings at a conservative germination rate of 50 per cent.

The effective stocking rate discounting for damages, losses and predation by birds and rodents is calculated to be approximately 7,500 seedlings per hectare.

Natembeya said over 1,000 people some of whom had been kicked out from the forest have been enlisted to plant trees.

He said that at least 13 million tree seedlings will have been planted by the end of short rains.

Natembeya said owners whose crops are ready for harvesting were being given permission to harvest them.

They are however required not to tamper with the already planted trees.

"We have enough security in the forest," he said.

Natembeya said one lorry was confiscated ferrying iron sheets that were illegally sourced from one of the schools inside the forest.

He said the lorry is in Mulot police station.