Kisumu county has one of the lowest percentages of forest cover in Kenya at only 0.45% by October 2020, according to recent mapping.
This has been attributed to severe tree logging, extensive use of firewood and charcoal burning, soil infertility as well as adverse weather conditions including drought and flooding.
Population pressure has also led to cutting down of trees for construction of houses and inappropriate farming practices. In areas like Muhoroni and Nyando sub-counties residents often clear the bushes to pave way for growing of sugarcane, cotton, rice and other Agricultural activities.
This realization by various stakeholders has made the two levels of government to partner with relevant organizations to take the bold step towards curbing this dangerous trend even as they struggled to address diverse challenges associated with climate change.
It was this concern that prompted stakeholders such as the National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND) to pledge to offer support aimed at raising 40 million tree seedlings for the lakeside county by 2022, working closely with Kisumu County government.
The programme through its campaign dubbed “Each one Teach one how to Plant One Tree” has partnered with the organization called “The Marketing Heaven” to rally social media to help raise public awareness on the importance of tree planting activities.
NETFUND CEO, Samson Toniok, the Principal Secretary for Environment and Forestry Dr. Chris Kiptoo and Kisumu Governor, Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o who converged for a tree seedling production and afforestation programme at Menara station, Muhoroni in Kisumu County recently pledged to support the attainment of the projected 10% national forest cover.
Tonoik reaffirmed NETFUND’s commitment towards rehabilitation and restoration of community, private and public forests, seedling production, technologies for planting, monitoring, surveillance and management of forests. The organization also donated 5000 seedlings that were planted during the function.
As Kenya struggles to attain the 10% forest cover, the forest sector’s contribution to our social, economic and ecological development cannot be understated. It provides a livelihood base for most Kenyans by ensuring adequate fuel wood energy supply for over 82% of our households with direct employment of over 75,000 people and indirect benefit to over 4 million citizens.
KFS board Chairman, Peter Kinyua pointed out in the KFS bi-annual report that the sector also contributes about Sh. 42.705 billion translating to 3.6% of the country’s GDP. However, Kinyua said this excludes environmental services, non-timber products and contributions to other sectors of the economy such as Energy, Tourism and Water.
Kinyua said to maximize the forest sectors’ contributions, there is an urgent need to address information gaps on the extent of the distribution of trees and forest resources across the country. “The provision of accurate, timely and reliable data on tree and forest resources is essential in the actualization of the Forest Conservation and Management Act (2016), Article 8 (K) (i) and (ii), which requires that KFS prepare Forest status report bi-annually and Forest Resource Assessment Reports after every 5 years,” he added.
This tree and forest resource assessment was undertaken to generate vital information to guide the sector in honoring its obligation. The report is a representation of statistics on percentage tree cover, the extent and distribution of forests, forest types and land use as well as land cover.
Kinyua said this assessment serves as a baseline that is instrumental in developing strategies and action plans to spearhead forest protection, conservation and management. In addition, he added, the document will guide the strategic development of critical resources to help the country in its attempt to enhance the tree cover beyond the 10 per cent requirement. The document further states that Kenya Vision 2030 set a goal for the country to increase the area under trees to 10% by 2030.
It lays emphasis on the need for sustainable management of natural forests to achieve enhanced environmental protection and economic growth. However, in March 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta affirmed Kenya’s commitment to achieving a minimum of 10% tree cover by 2022 as part of the national efforts to address the challenge of climate change. To implement the Presidential directive, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry adopted a coordinated approach to manage, conserve and expand forests through KFS, Agencies under the Ministry among other stakeholders.
It further states that in order to fast-track actions towards the attainment and maintenance of the constitutional tree cover requirement, key strategies that have been put in place include but not limited to; formulation of national strategy for achieving and maintaining the 10% national tree cover.
It would also include the establishment of a National Tree Planting Campaign programme, scaling up of school greening programmes through ‘adopt a forest initiative’ among other initiatives.
Results generated through the initiative indicate that Kenya has 7,180,000.66 Ha of tree cover representing 12.13% of the total area. Furthermore, from the assessment, up to 37 out of the 47 counties in Kenya have a tree cover percentage higher than the constitutional set target of 10%.
The results reveal that our country has a tree cover per capita index of 1,507.48 m² per person. The findings also indicate that Kenya has 5,226,191.79Ha of the national forest cover representing 8.83% of the total area. However, the forest cover across the country is not evenly distributed. The central region, parts of the western and coast are the most forested parts of the country.
Wooded grasslands account for the highest land cover in Kenya with approximately 83% of the total area. Further results indicate that the wooded and open grasslands are concentrated in the country’s drier parts (ASAL) areas, especially in the northern region.
Chief Conservator of Forests, Julius Kamau on his part pointed out that the bio-diverse forests in Kenya are critical economic, social and environmental pillars. Kamau said forests are habitats for wildlife, water-catchment areas, recreational sites, prayer sanctuaries, carbon sinks and genetic banks for flora and fauna.
He said forests also act as a direct source of various ecosystem goods and services and are increasingly being organized as the resources that safeguards health and survival of humanity.
Kamau said this position is affirmed by Kenya’s endorsement of the Glasgow COP26 leaders’ declaration on forests and land use to halt or reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting inclusive rural transformation.