The Taita-Taveta County has a deficit of over 800,000 tree seedlings, which poses a challenge to the county`s ambitious plan of planting one million trees by the end of this year.
Already, the county has planted 200,000 seedlings in several areas, including schools, farms, ranches and parts of degraded Taita Hills.
This is part of an aggressive afforestation strategy to promote conservation in the region, but speaking to KNA on Tuesday, the County Commissioner (CC), Rhoda Onyancha said the huge deficit was a threat to reforestation efforts in the region.
She added that the county was committed to meet her annual target which will contribute to the overall national goal of having a 10 percent tree cover by 2022.
“We have planted 200,000 seedlings but we still need to plant more. The challenge we are facing here is a deficit of over 800,000 that we need,” she said.
The CC called upon youth, community groups and farmers in the region to grow seedlings in their nurseries as a source of income.
She said there was ready market for the seedlings under the Greening Kenya Campaign.
Ms. Onyancha said that the government had allocated Sh. 540 million for the campaign in the country.
She added that youth and groups with tree nurseries would go a long way to plugging in the deficit and allow the country to meet her target.
“This money was allocated to help us plant trees and increase forest cover. We are urging local groups to take up this challenge and plant many seedlings. They will earn money from this initiative,” she said.
During his seventh presidential address on the coronavirus pandemic, President Uhuru Kenyatta allocated Sh. 850 million for rehabilitating water pans and wells in Arid and Semi-Arid areas under the environment pillar.
The President also allocated Sh. 540 million for the ongoing Greening Kenya Campaign.
In Taita-Taveta County, the campaign has been going on especially in schools where several learning institutions have promoted tree planting.
The County Forest Conservator (CFC), Christopher Maina said the closure of schools due to Covid-19 pandemic dealt a blow to tree-planting drive.
He noted that most such activities happen in learning institutions and had to be scaled down after learners went home.
“With the closure of schools and directives on social distancing, the numbers we were targeting to plant have significantly gone down,” he said.
The CFC however, expressed optimism that the county would still meet her planting targets before the end of the year.
Maina noted that if the communities and farmers picked up the tree planting and production activities, there was hope the county will fill the tree-seedlings deficit.
Currently, most of the tree planting going on is happening in farms, protected government forests and in public lands.
In the last forest cover baseline survey, Taita-Taveta County had a 3.6 cover.
By Wagema Mwangi