The Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary (CS), Keriako Tobiko has told Kenyans to divorce politics from environmental conservation matters for prosperity of the country.
Tobiko who was speaking at Bondo Teachers Training College during this year’s celebration of International day of Forests termed the current trend by a section of politicians to politicize conservation efforts by the government a huge setback to the war against environmental degradation.
The CS urged politicians who feel that their communities are targeted by the government conservation programs to stop unnecessary blame games adding that environmental conservation was about life and nobody should joke around with it.
“We have realized that whenever the government moves to conserve its forests and water towers some politicians say their communities are being targeted. We need to change this narrative and instead sensitize the people about the government efforts to conserve the environment for the common good of the country,” said Tobiko.
Tobiko who was flanked by his Chief Administrative Secretary, Mohamed Elmi and Siaya governor, Cornel Rasanga expressed confidence that with concerted efforts, Kenya would attain 10 per cent forest cover as recommended by the United Nation by the year 2022.
“Last week during the UN environment conference, the president gave a commitment that we would attain 10 per cent forest cover by 2022 and this can only be achieved if every department play its role effectively t,” he said.
He said he will work closely with all the County Commissioners in the country to ensure that the presidential decree on improving the forest cover and protecting the forests from illegal logging are fully implemented.
“The president has decreed that County Commissioners, Deputy County Commissioners, Chiefs and Assistant chief will be held personally responsible for any tree cut in their areas of jurisdiction and this will be followed to the letter,” Tobiko stated.
He observed that governors from various counties should work hand in hand with the respective county commissioners to ensure that the forest cover in their regions increase by for instance making deliberate efforts to initiate tree growing projects in all public institutions across the country.
“I am very thankful to Siaya county government for signing the Transitional Implementation Agreement with the Kenya Forest Services. This will see the county government improve, maintain and manage its own forest cover together with the assistance of the county commissioner,” Tobiko added.
He on the other hand revealed that counties in the Nyanza region have the lowest forest cover in the country despite being endowed with fertile soil and reliable rainfall patterns.
“We should ask ourselves why we are doing worse than Arid and Semi-Arid areas in the country despite the favorable conditions. Siaya has the lowest forest cover of 0.41per cent, Kisumu, 0.44, Migori 0.62 and Homa bay 2.6 per cent. Perhaps we need to change our attitude about trees in this region and start treating them as wealth rather than statistics,” Tobiko said.
Governor stated that he was ashamed of the statistics blaming lack of enforcement of the law on cutting trees by local chiefs.
Rasanga said that some chiefs have been promoting the cutting of trees after receiving bribes from illegal loggers.
“If you are in Siaya the sound of ower saws is everywhere and the chiefs know it very well. They have been bribed to allow illegal felling of trees,” he added.
He on the other hand expressed optimism that the situation can be reversed for better. Pointing out that forest protection remains a top priority of his government.
He promised to work closely with the National government to ensure that all the seventeen ungazzeted forests in the county are gazetted soon so that they can allocate funds for their conservation.
The Siaya County Commissioner, Michael Ole Tialal who graced the occasion took the opportunity to direct all chiefs and assistant chiefs from the region to establish tree nurseries in all the 667 public institutions in the county.
He said that his office will be working closely with the county conservator to provide seedlings for the newly established nurseries while at the same time sensitize the public on regulations regarding cutting of trees.
The Bondo MP, Dr. Gideon Ochanda who hosted the delegation said the locals need to take responsibility of ensuring the low forest cover is increased adding that the current situation was caused by human actions which must now change.
He said that stakeholders should take advantage of huge acreage of land in public schools to plant trees saying trees are better protected in institutions.
By Brian Ondeng’