The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) in collaboration with Bungoma County government of has embarked on a drive to expand the County’s forest cover by planting over five million trees before the end of this rainy season.
Speaking when he commissioned the programme at Kaberua forest station Mt. Elgon constituency Tuesday, Bungoma County Commissioner (CC), James Kianda said the exercise will be rolled out in the other eight constituencies within the County.
He said the choice of Mt. Elgon as the launching ground was critical in the effort to involve local communities in environmental conservation especially in the wake of recent reports of degradation of the Mt. Elgon water tower following the abuse of the shamba system by residents.
Kianda said that plans were underway to employ 600 scouts in Cheptais and Mt. Elgon Sub County to work with KFS to rehabilitate Mt. Elgon forest.
However, he disclosed that they were putting in place measures to curb cases of illegal logging and warned residents to desist from engaging indestructive activities inside the forest.
According to the County Forest Officer (CFO), Vittalis Osudo, the initiative sought to attain the 10 per cent tree cover threshold as stipulated in the Constitution.
Osudo said that 250, 000 seedlings were ready for transplanting at Kaberua area.
The CFO noted that they were already engaging the Green Belt Movement to ensure that the target of 5 million trees was achieved during the stipulated time.
The KFS and the County government have partnered with various communities, including schools, churches non-governmental organization and communities in a bid to move the County from a current six per cent forest cover to the standards required for a healthy ecosystem.
Osudo appealed to the residents to take seriously issues touching on preserving the ecosystem in light of environmental challenges facing the nation.
In particular, she urged those residing in areas adjacent to Mt. Elgon forest to adopt sustainable agricultural practices bearing in mind that the region hosts one of the country’s major water towers.
On insecurity within the forest, the CFO said that a patrol base of 30 rangers has been deployed to flush gangs who terrorised residents of Mt. Elgon and hid in the forest.
“The patrol officers have already reported and they will commence their work immediately,” he noted.
On the shamba system, Osudo said that community living near the forest in Mt. Elgon Sub County would be allowed to cultivate short season crops.
He said that this came about after a survey was conducted across the country and recommended the same.
He cautioned residents against cultivating maize within the forest and grazing of cows where they have just planted tree seedlings.
By Douglas Mudambo