RACE AGAINST TIME

How state intends to achieve 10 per cent tree cover by next year

The government needs Sh48 billion to bridge the 2.8 per cent deficit by next year.

In Summary

• Religious institutions, financial institutions, learning institutions, government agencies are among those being engaged.

• President Kenyatta promised to establish a presidential environmental award for individuals and institutions with remarkable achievements in environmental protection.

Environment PS Chris Kiptoo at his office on February 19.
Environment PS Chris Kiptoo at his office on February 19.
Image: COURTESY
Environment PS Chris Kiptoo at his office February 19.
Environment PS Chris Kiptoo at his office February 19.
Image: COURTESY

The government has now employed a multi-pronged strategy in its bid to increase meet its target of at least 10 per cent forest cover by the end of next year.

Kenya currently has 7.2 per cent cover. At least Sh48 billion is needed to help plant two billion trees to reach the 10 per cent—a daunting task.

However, to achieve it, the government has sought the support of the private sector, religious institutions, learning institutions and communities.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018 also directed that the national government, state agencies and departments, as well as county governments work together in realising the dream of two billion trees within the timeline.

Kenyatta promised to establish a presidential environmental award for individuals and institutions with remarkable achievements in environmental protection.

On Friday, Environment PS Chris Kiptoo met with representatives of the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya to strategise how to increase the cover. Kiptoo urged the religious organisations to use the huge resources in their possession to support the government's bid.

Acting conservation secretary Alfred Gichu, Kenya Forest Research Institute deputy director Jane Njuguna and IRCK chairman Joseph Mutie were among those present. The IRCK brings together nine religious coordinating bodies.

Churches in the country have vast land, massive resources and followers that the Ministry of Environment wants to tap.

“We are seeking partnership with the religious leaders to help us in the ongoing tree planting campaign through mobilisation of resources. The church has massive land for seedling production and tree planting, water and their big asset of the people,” Kiptoo said.

He said Equity Bank has also promised to step in and plant millions of trees in commemoration of its 35th anniversary. Absa bank is also set to plant 10 million seeds, while I&M has pledged five million.

Kiptoo said that to achieve the 10 per cent, two billion trees needs to be planted, while there is an urgent need for landscape restoration, mitigation of climate change and restoration of degraded forests.

He said Covid-19 has proved that the there are three cross-cutting issues of climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution, and the government is seeking partnership in specific areas.

Kiptoo decried the rate at which trees are being felled in the country.

Gichu called for a broad stakeholder engagement. He said the ministry recognises the need to tap into religious communities.

Dr Njuguna, for her part, said the institute will offer technical support for setting up tree nurseries.

Rev Fr Mutie said the council is seeking partnership with the Ministry of Environment in tree planting, environmental awareness and seedling production, among other areas.

The Kenya Forest Service also has plans to help counties with low forest cover plant more trees. It protects 6.4 million acres of gazetted forests and another 420 million acres under county governments.

Of the six Nyanza counties, Siaya has 0.42 per cent forest cover, Kisii has 2.62, Kisumu has 0.44, Homa Bay has 2.59, Migori has 0.84 and Nyamira has 7.29 per cent.

"We went there to affirm our commitment towards addressing the challenges starting with public forests," Chief Conservator of Forest Julius Kamau said early this year.

Kamau cited encroachment and degradation as challenges facing some of the forests. He said community forest associations are being strengthened as part of the plan to increase the cover. Kamau assured the country that efforts to attain the 10 per cent are on course.

KFS has also procured specialised equipment to help in increasing the cover in arid and semi-arid areas. The Service has also procured more vehicles to enhance protection of forest resources.

KFS on February 15 flagged off a 165-horsepower tractor procured in 2019-20 financial year for tree planting in the arid and semi-arid lands.

The tractor is fitted with a specialised plough known as the Vallerani system, which is composed of single reversible mould board plough and ripper.

It constructs micro basins 3.5 metres to five-metre long, 40 to 50-metre wide and 40 to 50-centimetre deep, creating an ongoing underground split furrow to collect water from adjoining micro basins.

"This technology will support the dry land forestry activities while combating desertification and climate change. It will also increase biodiversity, combat hunger and poverty through agroforestry interventions," Kamau said.

ASAL areas cover about 80 per cent of the total land surface in Kenya and hold 25 per cent of the human population.

Such areas are unique in nature and require special attention to strengthen not only the economic base of the inhabitants but also the national economy.

ASALs offer the greatest potential for intensified afforestation towards achieving the national objective.

Of arid and semi-arid counties, Marsabit has 1.70 per cent, Wajir 1.94, Taita Taveta 3.63, Kwale 5.44, Mandera 3.04, Garissa 7.09, Isiolo 5.34, Kajiado 7.14, Kilifi 7.67 and Turkana 4.06 per cent.