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Tourism Ministry to plant 10,000 tree seedlings in Aberdare

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife has kicked off a one-week campaign where they intend to plant 10,000 tree seedlings in the Aberdare National Park to support the Environment Ministry attain its target of planting more than 1.5 billion trees by the end of this year.

The Administrative Secretary in the State Department for Tourism and Wildlife, John Chelimo, has said that they will also be engaging the neighbouring forest community to rehabilitate the degraded paddock. Chelimo said that they will be taking advantage of the ongoing rains to plant the tree seedlings in the next seven days.

“We are targeting high potential areas in terms of rainfall and low potential areas like Tsavo East and Baringo. Our efforts are aimed at adding to what the other Ministries are doing to attain the 10 per cent forest cover,” said Chelimo during the exercise which commenced at the TreeTops hotel in Kieni-West, Nyeri County where 1,000 tree seedlings were planted.

While acknowledging the importance of the Aberdare ecosystem to the tourism sector and as one of Kenya’s water towers, Chelimo also asked national government officials to sensitize the public on the importance of planting trees. He noted that despite owning land, most people, especially those living adjacent to forests, were not keen on planting trees.

“We need to jealously guard the Aberdare Ecosystem due to its benefits. We need to reach a compromise which is to plant more trees because the wildlife and humans are depending on the forest ecosystem,” said Chelimo.

“If you have a piece of land, set aside at least one per cent for trees including fruit trees. You will have played your part in planting a tree and also benefit from the fruits,” he added.

Out of the 47 counties, Nyeri county accounts for the largest share of the country’s forest cover at 38 per cent. Elgeyo-Marakwet and Baringo follow with each having 25 per cent forest cover.

Chelimo also said that in addition to Nyeri, the Tourism Ministry would launch a similar initiative in Nakuru county on Monday next week where they will plant 10,000 tree seedlings at the Kenya Wildlife Training Institute in Naivasha.

The Kenya Wildlife Service Senior Assistant Director in charge of mountain conservation George Osuri said that despite concerted efforts by Government Ministries and State Agencies to raise the forest cover to the recommended 10 per cent, the Aberdare Forest was still grappling with the forest fires and illegal encroachment.

He said that there was need to sensitize the general public about the best conservation practices as a way of ensuring that the government and the general public were moving at the same pace in attaining the recommended tree cover.

“One of the biggest threats that we face is the issue of fires. The last fire took us about four weeks to manage with all combined teams. The other challenge is habitat loss through illegal logging and encroachment of the forest. If we don’t deal with these two challenges then the ecosystem services we are boasting about will not be there,” said Osuri.

By Wangari Mwangi and Kiamah Wamutitu

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