Turkana County commissioner Jacob Ouma has underscored the need to nurture tree seedlings to ensure they grow into maturity.
Speaking during a tree planting exercise to mark the the International day of Forests in Lodwar, Ouma said it was an exercise in futility to plant trees and fail to take care of them.
“We don’t want to just plant trees and leave them to dry by not watering the seedlings as this would amount to sheer wastage of resources,” he said.
The county commissioner, accompanied by the county executive member for natural resources Iris Mariao led other government officials, development partners and residents during the event held, which saw hundreds of tree seedlings planted at the Lodwar mixed primary school.
The theme of this year’s celebration is ‘about forests and health’.
The county Governor Jeremiah Lomurkai, in a speech read on his behalf by Mariao said they will establish at least one tree nursery in each of the 30 wards in the region.
The Governor added that they had established a cluster coordination mechanism that brings on board all partners working under the natural resources management sector in the county.
“The responsibility to conserve our forests is a collective responsibility, we have to work together for a sustainable and long term conservation the ecosystem,” he said.
At the same time, the county government will conduct routine tree planting and campaigns, reforestation as well as forest management programmes.
Consequently, the county will add more human resource to boost forest conservation efforts, the governor added.
On his part, Mariao said that the county forest cover currently stood at 9.7 percent, but regretted that 50 percent of the trees are prosopis, which cause harm to the environment by encroaching on arable land that would otherwise be used for food production.
“We need to eradicate prosopis from economic high potential areas, where it has colonized fish landing sites, livestock grazing areas and irrigation schemes farm land. However, we can use it in other areas for charcoal burning and save other tree species,” said Mariao.
Speaking during the same function, the Turkana County Kenya forest service director Richard Guya said forests play a key role in improving physical and mental well-being of people.
He therefore called for mainstreaming of tree planting in all public programs.
“Besides improving the environment, trees also provide fruits which boost our health,” said Guya, adding that a total of 60 percent of infectious diseases and 70 percent of emerging diseases are zoonotic and this occurs when forests are destroyed.
By Peter Gitonga