BIODIVERSITY

KFS should identify local tree species for farmers

In Summary

• Kenya needs to increase its forest cover from 7.2 percent to 10 percent but there is a land shortage

• Indigenous tree species on farms can increase biodiversity, soil health, farm yields and profitability for the farmer

KFS Chief Conservator of Forests Julius Kamau
KFS Chief Conservator of Forests Julius Kamau
Image: FILE

The Kenya Forest Service wants farmers to plant more trees.

On Wednesday on World Earth Day, KFS Chief Conservator Julius Kamau said farmers need to help to raise forest cover from 7.2 percent to 10 per cent (see P11 of the weekend paper).

Kenya's population is projected to grow from 48 million today to 85 million in 2050. There will be tremendous land pressure.  It will not be possible to expand gazetted forests.

So the only way to increase forest cover (defined as trees covering more than  10 percent of an area greater than one hectare) will be to grow more trees on farms and in urban areas.

Farmers in central and western Kenya have increased forest cover over the last 30 years by planting grevillea (for fodder and firewood) and eucalyptus (for poles). But these exotic species from Australia do not increase Kenya's biodiversity.

Biodiversity can make farmers better off. Local trees will hold water and increase nutrients in the soil. More pollinators will increase crop yields. Farmers will not lose land by planting trees, they will enrich the land and themselves.

Indigenous trees such as Cordia Africana or Meru Oak can be grown on farms to create that win-win of higher productivity (fodder, firewood and more nitrogen) and richer biodiversity.

KFS should work with agroforestry organisations to identify the right indigenous tree species and incentivise farmers to plant them.

Quote of the day: "I don't want to live someone else's idea of how to live."

Denys Finch Hatton
The White Kenyan hunter was born on April 24, 1887