The Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in Kitui have mobilized over 6, 400 women and youth groups to plant 1.5 million trees ahead of October-December rainy season.
Speaking in Kitui on Monday, the Community Voluntary Development Network Association-Kenya Chairman, Augustus Malu decried wanton destruction of trees for charcoal production that had reduced the forest cover which stands at 7% below the required national standard of 10%.
‘Planting and caring for 1.5 million trees to grow to maturity is not a mean feat. We have mobilized both human resources and tree seedlings in readiness for the tree planting as soon as the long rains start,’ said Malu.
The community environmental champion disclosed that if each of the 6, 400 women and youth groups together with over 3, 800 bodaboda operators planted 10 trees, the county would easily achieve its lost forest cover, improve soil retention and alter the climate that is adversely affected.
He noted that deforestation and forest degradation impact on livelihoods through reduced biomass energy, soil erosion and siltation had reduced water infiltration in the soil leading to diminishing groundwater quantities.
Malu added that at independence in 1963, Kenya’s forest cover stood at approximately 11 percent but this continues to reduce due to human activities.
“Deforestation has reduced Kenya’s forest cover to six percent, with the country losing approximately 12,000 hectares of forest a year despite the government’s attempts to alleviate the problem,” he added.
Malu noted that the main drivers of deforestation included conversion to agricultural land in response to demographic pressures, and unsustainable production methods and consumption patterns for charcoal.
“Other drivers include degazetting of forest lands, ineffective institutions and enforcement, corruption, illegal logging and, in the case of private local authority forests and unclear land tenure for forest,” he noted.
Malu said that degradation has also occurred in gazetted forests because of decades of illegal logging, adding that many trust land forests have been degraded due to demand for charcoal, timber and fuelwood.
According to a report by Kenya Climate Change Action Plan report, the overall demand for wood products is estimated at 37 million cubic metres per year, while total sustainable supply only stands at 30 million cubic metres annually, creating a demand shortfall of 7 million cubic metres.
The forest sector’s contribution to the national economy is 1.3 percent of the GDP annually excluding forestry’s contribution in household wood energy and production of non-timber products.
To reverse this trend, the County Environment Executive said that in a gazette notice dated 16 January 2018, the Kitui Governor, Charity Ngilu banned the sale and transport of charcoal and sand in the county.
“Due to the public outcry over the unsustainable exploitation of the natural resources in the County of Kitui, it is notified to the public that with immediate effect the governor has banned the transportation and sale of charcoal and sand outside the geographical boundaries of the county of Kitui and revoked all licenses, permits and any other documentation,” reads the gazette notice.
Malu decried the wanton destruction of many water catchment areas saying that communities no longer cared about environmental conservation which was the source of their livelihoods and that of the future generations.
“Deforestation, degradation and encroachment of water towers and other catchment areas, uncontrolled human activities including wanton logging have threatened and undermined the county’s capability to ensure food security,” he lamented.
“Environment is the bedrock of the Government’s Big Four Agenda. It is the foundation upon which they hung. We need to ensure that the constitutional minimum 10% forest cover is achieved by 2020,” he added.
Commenting on the sustainable green uptake, Kitui County has developed an energy masterplan tapping into the last mile connectivity and renewable energy to stimulate rural economies, John Makau, the County Environment Executive has said.
Makau noted that the energy masterplan aims to advocate for and promote use of clean, sustainable, reliable, accessible and affordable energy and to amplify the positive impact of renewable energy on the development of the Kitui County.
By Yobesh Onwong’a