Home > Counties > KFS begins 15 billion tree project

KFS begins 15 billion tree project

Kenya Forest Service (KFS) is working on a strategy to produce at least 1.5billion tree seedlings every year towards reaching the government target of at least 30 percent forest cover by the year 2032.

The move is in line with the policy direction given by President   William Ruto who pledged to increase forest cover by more than 15 billion new trees in an effort to reverse the ravages of climate change cause by global warming.

Beatrice Mbula, Chief Conservator of Forests in charge of the forest advisory and county liaison at KFS said that to ensure this happens there will be 1.5 billion trees every year for the next 10 years at a cost of Ksh 500 billion.

Speaking at KFS during a biodiversity café for Journalists, the Conservator added that they were looking for partnerships from development partners, County Governments, Communities and Government agencies to reach the target.

“The Community is very important when it comes to trees and we cannot be able to raise the tree seedlings on our own with only 300 tree nurseries”, Mbula said.

She explained that there are other private tree nurseries owned by individuals, women and youth groups who may be mobilized to ensure the number of seedlings required were achieved.

She said seedlings production went beyond planting in farms and community forests but entailed planting in all open spaces including along river banks, roads and avenues and any idle land in the countryside.

“The big plan is we hope   that all will come on board. The president talked about each Kenyan at least planting 300 seedlings within the period and if one was to start with just 50 trees by ensuring they water take care and protect them from animals, we will be moving somewhere”, she said .

Planting and protecting of trees, Mbula said ensures the country gets the forest cover desired and this will in turn give base for economic growth and environment and ecological stability.

Mbula explained that County governments have been putting effort to ensure and see the trees are   being planted in their areas of jurisdiction but noted that they should commit more funds and have deliberate effort to make sure trees are planted in their counties.

“We do not require to do more on the forests that are already gazetted, more afforestation would be done in farms and community forest that were degraded to ensure they attain the 10 percent cover at farm level. Each person owning a farm should at least have some trees in their farms. We can work with about 74 trees per acre and this is doable”, Mbula said.

Karura forest in Kiambu

The community, she said, can make sure that the river banks had forest cover to take care of water sources and catchment areas to facilitate steady supply of the resource for domestic use, energy and also wildlife consumption..

The Conservator noted that KFS has a forest App Known as “Forest 123”and currently on a pilot phase where Kwale County had adopted the system to monitor the forests activities.

“If there is planting going on, one can see the exercise in real time including cases of illegal logging which are  communicated for rapid response to the people on the ground “, she said adding that the technique may soon be  extended to other areas.

The Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri), Mbula noted, was working on faster growing tree species that could withstand tropical pests and diseases.

“We have faster growing species such as Melia volkensii that have been introduced. The three main species in our plantation are Cypress trees that take 24 to 30 years to mature, Pine and also eucalyptus which are fast growing”, she said.

Mbula said the introduction of Bamboo species which grows within 3 to 4 years was another hallmark as it had an advantage of  growing fast and never gets depleted easily because the shoots sprouts up once harvested if grown in the riparian areas.

She explained that although the Eucalyptus tree has been controversial because of its leaves having allelopathic which is poisonous to the soil, farmers are growing it for its cost benefit as it can post returns within 2 years when you get shutters, within 5 years one gets poles ad within 7 years one gets timber.

She however recommended that it should not be grown in catchment areas since it is a hardy tree but should be grown in the unproductive and barren areas when farming was not tenable.

Regarding personnel, the Conservator said more forest guards were required but they working in collaboration with communities to police the areas citing cases where “One ranger is supposed to protect 400 hectares but currently one (1) is doing 1000 hectares which is a challenge”, she said.

She however commended the government’s efforts in conservation citing the President’s directive to employ some 2,700 rangers and 600 forest officers saying the move was in the right direction.

Marceline Khalumba from the KFS, forest plantation and management department said they have been using the Plantation Establishment and Livelihoods Improvement Scheme (PELIS) where they enlisted communities living on the fringes of forest in conservation association to intercrop trees in their crop farms.

“ We moved from Shamba System to PELIS now where we allocate plots to communities giving priorities to the poor and those who do not have land and allow them to grow food even as they take care of the exotic trees also planted.”, she said.

Through PELIS Khalumba said the KFS and the community work in a symbiotic relationship where farmers are cultivating in around 10,000 hectares for three years by taking care of the farm and this sees the government save on cost as the farmers do that as they also get food.

In October, President Ruto said the Government is in the final stages of designing a Special Presidential Forestry and Rangeland Restoration Acceleration Programme.

The President further directed that sustainable solution to the planetary challenges be put in place with the ultimate solution being greening country to more than 30 per cent of tree cover by 2032

Data on Kenya’s forest cover is alarming since only 5.2 million square kilometres of Kenya’s 59.2 million square kilometres is under forest cover. The remaining 54 million hectares are bare earth, exposed to erosion and biodiversity loss. Over 80 per cent of this lies in arid and semi-arid lands.

  By Wangari Ndirangu

Leave a Reply