An International Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Rainforest Alliance, has embarked on a five-year programme of rehabilitating Mt. Kenya Forest Ecosystem.
Through the Mount Kenya Sustainable Landscape Programme, the organization, according to Director in charge of East Africa Julius Ng’ang’a, seeks to train over 50, 000 farmers in Embu County on ways to conserve and better manage their resources so that they could collectively protect Mount Kenya biodiversity reservoir.
The director said the iconic forest landscape had been degraded through practices such as illegal deforestation, uncontrolled water abstraction in rivers emanating from the forest and encroachment into protected forests surrounding one of the country’s major water towers.
“We want to train farmers on regenerative and climate-smart agricultural practices that will also help increase their yields and incomes,” Ng’ang’a said, adding that famers were already feeling the effects through rising temperatures and unpredictable rainfall.
Speaking while launching the programme at an Embu Hotel that brought on board other stakeholders from local communities, private and public sector, Ng’ang’a said it was important to prioritize conservation of the forest as it was also an important agricultural zone to thousands of coffee and tea farmers.
The two crops are the key export earners for many farmers in the Central Region who he said have been left struggling to maintain their livelihoods owing to these environmental challenges that have affected their yields and income.
Besides the famers majority of whom are coffee and tea growers, Ng’ang’a said the programme would also include youth and women to train them on diversification of sources of income.
“Coffee and tea farming is more patriarchal and we felt there was also a need to rope in women and youth and assist them engage in other income generating ventures,” he said.
He said some of the alternative economic activities they were exploring for them included high-value trees such as hass avocado and macadamia, dairy farming, beekeeping as well as rearing of small livestock and insects such as rabbits, crickets and black soldier flies.
He said the programme that is also running in Kirinyaga County having been launched last year would be scaled to also help conserve other towers including Mau, Mt. Elgon, and the Aberdare Forest.
By Samuel Waititu