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RC calls for zero-tolerance against encroachment on forest lands

Residents from the western region have been cautioned against encroaching on forest reserves.

Speaking at Kaberwa in Mt Elgon Sub County, Bungoma County, Western Regional Commissioner Irungu Macharia said that most people living along the edge of government forests have encroached into the forestland leading to destruction of the natural resource and drying up of rivers.

Macharia warned residents stating that the government is not ready to lose an inch of land to the people living along the forest.

The regional commissioner noted that Mt Elgon forest is one of the five major water towers in the country hence the need to conserve it.

He noted that the challenges experienced now including flooding, drought, drying of rivers in the region has been attributed to the destruction of forests.

Macharia said that following the directive of President William Ruto to achieve 10 per cent forest cover in the country, western region was allocated a target of six million trees but added that so far records in his office indicate that through partnership with Kenya Forest Service the region has achieved approximately 500,000 trees.

Bungoma Deputy Governor Janepher Mbatiany who accompanied the regional commissioner urged residents to conserve the water catchment area to enable other counties in the western region get clean water.

Mrs. Mbatiany added that the Bungoma County Government in conjunction with the World Bank are already under taking a program on climate change.

She noted that a bill has already been presented in the county assembly and passed that will enable each ward benefit to a tune of Sh50 million to run climate change program.

DG Mbatiany added that committees have been put in place at village level, ward level, sub county level and county level respectively to decide on the suitable project related to mitigate climate change.

She called upon the community to not only plant trees in Mt Elgon forest but to adopt the tree to ensure it grows.

Former Councilor Josphat Ngomat speaking on behalf of the residents said that the major challenge the community is experiencing is population growth.

He said that the population is growing yet the land is still the same hence a few people can be tempted to encroach on the forestland.

The former councilor noted another challenge was that the Kenya Forest Service officers deployed to guard the forest are very few in number.

“Since the forest is wide from Cheptais to Transzoia County and neighbouring country Uganda hence there is need to deploy more security to the water tower,” he said.

Western Region Conservator Rose Akombi urged residents to plant trees in the forestland and also in their compound.

Akombi noted that the area is second in the region with 20 per cent forest cover and 15 per cent tree cover stating that there is room for improvement.

The regional conservator called upon stakeholders to come on board to achieve the targeted forest cover in the region by planting trees in schools, institutions, hospitals among other places.

She also challenged residents not only to plant trees but also to adopt them to ensure they grow to their maturity.

Akombi noted that despite the fact that the government has allowed the shamba system, rules and guidelines must be followed.

She warned residents interfering with natural forest and encroaching forestland that the law will take its cause.

Akombi said that they are already engaging other stakeholders to train women, youth groups, and persons with special needs among others on income generating activities without interfering with the forest.

She said the activities will include beekeeping, cultivation of short season crops stating that this will make the communities along the forest appreciate and embrace the conservation.

Dr. Isaack Misiko, patron of Bottom Line Unique Association (BLUA) an environmental non-governmental organisation said that they will partner with Kenya Forest Service in the county to plant 500,000 indigenous trees along the rivers.

Misiko said that rivers that will be given priority are the ones emanating from Mt. Elgon water towers this is after experiencing changing of rain patterns, drought and drying of some rivers.

He noted that they have representatives in each ward that will spearhead the program that will take a period of three months.

The regional commissioner launched and oversaw planting of approximately 60,000 trees in Kaberwa and Kaboywo area both in MT Elgon forest.

He directed any person who has encroached onto the forest land to vacate to allow ongoing planting of trees, failure to that security teams will swing into action.

Macharia was accompanied by sub county security team led by Mt Elgon Deputy County Commissioner Benjamin Nzioka, County security team led by the county commissioner Thomas Sankei and the regional security team.

By Douglas Mudambo

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