Kenya Forest Service (KFS) Murang’a office is currently engaging local farmers in planting and nurturing trees in their farms.
In Murang’a South Sub County, KFS is focusing in areas which are semi-arid where more than 5, 000 seedlings are being distributed to local residents.
KFS County Advisory Officer Mr. Moses Mwangi on Friday told KNA that they are training farmers on best ways of planting and nurturing seedlings.
He said among the seedlings they are distributing include those of fruit trees which he noted have more benefits to local farmers.
Forest cover in Murang’a currently stands at 14.2 percent with Mwangi stating that they are targeting to attain more than 17 percent forest cover by end of this year.
He noted that KFS is committed to provide technical support to residents so as to ensure planted seedlings are nurtured to maturity.
“We first organize training sessions to farmers where we teach them how to transfer seedlings from nurseries to where they are planted. They are also being trained on best ways of nurturing planted trees,” he added.
Mwangi continued, “Planting alone is not enough, it is paramount we enhance the survival rate of those trees. So, we demonstrate to them the required spacing, digging of planting holes and how to irrigate the trees in the event that the rains fail.”
Currently, he noted that many areas within the county are receiving adequate rainfall, thus the survival rate of planted seedlings is almost 100 percent.
“However, in the event that the rains subside, we have armed the farmers with knowledge on how to use low-cost irrigation methods. Using locally available bottles, drip irrigation that uses minimal amounts of water can be utilized,” advised Mwangi
Mwangi further indicated that for farmers who are able to purchase more advanced drip irrigation tools, the County’s demonstration farm in Ithanga area comes in handy as they are taught how to drip irrigate their farms.
The farmers received 5,000 seedlings of the famous Mubariti grevillea robusta trees commonly known as silky oak. In addition, they were given 2,000 seedlings of grafted passion fruits and mangoes.
“Improving the forest cover and maintaining a healthy ecosystem ought to be a continuous process,” averred Mwangi who also revealed that a month after the distribution exercise his department makes follow-up with the farmers to ascertain the survival rate of the seedlings.
The KFS officer divulged that as the population grows there is a need for more land for settlement and agriculture thus decline in forest cover is inevitable hence the urgency to balance between development and conservation.
“We encourage people to plant more trees and nurture the forest cover in their areas. Consequently, they form the Community Forests Associations (CFA) which ensures the communities adjacent to the forests use them sustainably to generate income and improve their livelihoods,” noted Mwangi
Being part of the CFA has proven crucial in conserving the ecosystem as it encourages collective responsibility in taking care of the forests.
“It is unlikely for an individual to graze livestock on newly planted trees farms in their locality or even cut trees without a permit,” remarks Mwangi
Ms Elizabeth Munee is among the farmers who benefited from the exercise and she intends to improve her livelihood and strengthen her financial base from the returns she projects from the trees and fruits she has planted on her farm.
“For a long time, my farm has been lying idle owing to the climatic condition of this area, but now I can grow trees and fruits and benefit from the same,” she noted
Munee expressed gratitude to the government for the initiative as she beamed with positivity at the idea of enhancing conservation and forest cover.
By Florence Kinyua and Bernard Munyao