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Environmental conservation messages dominate World Forest Day

West Pokot residents have been urged to prioritise matters of environment through increasing forest cover in the region for sustainable development.

Speaking during this year’s International Day of Forests at Kaprech Mixed Secondary School, County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Water, Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change Mr. William Petot reiterated the value of trees in balancing the ecosystem calling on the residents to heavily engage in tree planting drives.

Petot appealed to the residents to make tree planting a culture mentioning that his department had prepared tree nurseries that can be distributed to those willing to plant trees on their farms.

“Today we have launched an important tree planting exercise to commemorate World Forest Day. We have planted 30 trees to mark this day and making an appeal for the residents to follow suit,” he said.

He highlighted that tree strengthen family ties since they attract rain which is essential for growth of food crops. Petot assured the county government’s commitment on matters of forest cover noting that recently Governor Simon Kachapin issued fruit seedlings to farmers in an event that was attended by various stakeholders.

“You are all cognisant of the effects of climate change which has not left out anyone. As a county we are feelings the negative effects of climate change which has been significantly been brought about by our poor management of our forest resources,” said the water CECM.

He regretted that some parts of the county had lost a huge chunk of indigenous trees through logging and other unsustainable human activities thus leading to soil erosion and landslides especially along the escapements.

Meanwhile the International Tree Foundation (ITF) for African programmes Chief Executive Mr. Wycliffe Matika amplified the value of forests in sustaining humanity citing that Kapkanyar-Kapenguria forest is a trans-boundary resource supporting Cherangany (West Pokot) and River Turkwel (Turkana and West Pokot Border) ecosystem.

“We are celebrating this day so as to remember the key ecosystem areas which are very important to our livelihoods in the entire republic. Our close ecosystem like Cherangany has iconic trees that are endemic and serves both cultural and economic value,” said the ITF executive.

Matika regretted that Kenya as a country was not doing well in terms of national tree cover within the East African region.

“I have been to Tanzania and their total percentage tree cover stands at 50 with Uganda at 15 but here in Kenya we trail at a paltry 12% tree cover with a forest cover of below 10 percent which is about 8.63 trees per land mass,” stated Matika.

He mentioned that the Cherangany ecosystem was experiencing a worrying trend owing to bad practices that have seen iconic trees disappearing due to destructive human activities.

He appealed to residents to diversify their tree species to adhere to the constitutional requirement of in Article 69 which stipulates those individuals, institutions and other public entities have at least 10 percent tree cover on their farms.

“Trees like eucalyptus have high agroforestry value but when planted in wrong places, they contribute to the challenges we are experiencing in terms of water scarcity,” he explained advising residents to consider planting various types of trees on their farms for sustainability.

West Pokot County Kenya Forest Services (KFS) Forest Conservator Benjamin Kore announced that his team will engage stakeholders among them residents in planting more trees during the expected long rains.

He pinpointed that the West Pokot forest cover was still very low as compared to the national average at 8 percent meaning comprehensive tree planting initiatives should be implemented to at least contribute towards the achievement of the 30 percent cover by 2032 as envisioned by the Head of State of State.

“The government has decreed that as a country we have to plant 15billion trees in the next decade which means every year we need to plant 150 million trees which calls for concerted efforts.  As of now as a county we have 2million tree seedlings which are ready for planting in the coming rainy season,” Kore cited.

He also urged residents to plant trees in their homes, in schools, churches and the urban centres like Makutano and all areas. He challenged residents to engage in agroforestry especially in highland areas and indigenous trees in lowland areas for high survival rates.

“Tree species such as grevillea and fruits for garden farming can be planted along the escapements where soil erosion is prevalent,” suggested the conservator. He asked those who have encroached into government forests especially in Kapkanyar and Lelan areas to move failure to which they will drive away by force.

At the same time the conservator clarified that even though KFS was giving out tree seedlings, learning institutions have been encouraged to establish their own for sustainability.

A UN funded Non-Governmental Organisation Village Enterprise led by their Conservation advisor Isaac Obongo expressed its commitment in working closely with the county government to promote a resilient ecosystem in the region.

“We are working together with West Pokot County to support tree planting initiatives through our entrepreneurship programmes. Apparently, this project has been implemented for the last three years but we will not leave the project without a sustained component of ecosystem conservation,” stated Obongo.

He added, “Village Enterprise and the UN Women, we are trying to teach women and children about climate change and environment conservation. We are here to give support and partner with Perur Rays of Hope to champion massive tree planting.”

Perur Rays of Hope Director who is also St. Elizabeth Girls’ Secondary School – Morpus Ms. Caroline Menach encouraged residents to own tree planting initiatives being spearheaded by various entities for a better environment.

“Forests are not just home for wild animals but we human beings benefit directly from trees that is why the international recognition of the day. As Perur Rays of Hope we are targeting to plant 50 thousand trees at Kapkanyar forest and our schools within the county have heeded to the call of planting trees on their compound en masse,” she mentioned.

She underscored the value of planting indigenous trees in riparian lands to protect water catchment areas.

By Richard Muhambe and Erickson Kiprotich

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