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Counties hold key to meeting 10pc forest cover goal by 2022

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Margaret Chepkoech, plants a tree seedling during this year’s Kaptagat Forest Annual Tree Planting exercise held at Kaptagat Forest in Elgeyo Marakwet County where 11,000 seedlings were planted on July 23, 2021. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

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Summary

  • The North Rift counties of Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Elgeyo Marakwet are now carrying out campaigns to encourage locals to plant trees on their farms.
  • Each county has been given a target of planting more than 43 million trees as part of the collective efforts to raise the country’s forest cover.
  • Environment Principal Secretary Dr Chris Kiptoo said the country should plant at least 15 million trees by the end of next year in order to hit the goal of 10 percent forest cover.


The clock is fast ticking on Kenya’s goal of achieving 10 percent forest cover by 2022, pushing counties in the North Rift to roll out new environmental conservation projects to help the nation achieve its target.

Increasingly, Kenya has been experiencing erratic weather patterns that include cyclical drought and flooding, blamed on rising global temperatures as people continue to produce greenhouse gases on an unprecedented scale.

The goal of increasing forest cover is meant to mitigate some of these problems. The North Rift counties of Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Elgeyo Marakwet are now carrying out campaigns to encourage locals to plant trees on their farms.

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Members of the public plant tree seedlings during this year’s Kaptagat Forest Annual Tree Planting exercise held at Kaptagat Forest in Elgeyo Marakwet County where 11,000 seedlings were planted on July 23, 2021. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

They have also identified forests that are also water catchment areas within their jurisdictions which need to be restored after decades of wanton destruction.

They hope to complement the Ministry of Environment’s plan of planting more than 1.5 billion trees by the end of 2022.

Environment Principal Secretary Dr Chris Kiptoo said the country should plant at least 15 million trees by the end of next year in order to hit the goal of 10 percent forest cover.

"2030 was set as the year that our country was to achieve 10 percent forest cover but the President revised it to 2022. Therefore, we plan to plant seven million trees next year and another eight million in 2022," said the PS.

He added that the government has set up several measures to help attain the target, part of which involves partnerships with county governments.

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Climate change mitigation drive: Environment Principal Secretary Dr. Chris Kiptoo (left) plants a tree seedling during this year’s Kaptagat Forest Annual Tree Planting exercise held at Kaptagat Forest in Elgeyo Marakwet County where 11,000 seedlings were planted on July 23, 2021. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

“We have a strategy in place for achieving the 10 per cent tree cover by 2022. The strategy is first to have as many seedlings as possible and then involve all stakeholders in planting them,” Dr Kiptoo said when he inspected the Eldoret Arboretum recently.

He also revealed that the government has already approved the expansion of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) from the current six centres to 16 as part of efforts to attain the required minimum tree cover.

“Through expansion we want Kefri to train more staff and provide the necessary expertise that will enable us implement the strategy we have,” he said.

Dr Kiptoo said the state is working with all counties in the new aggressive plan to plant more trees. Each has been given a target of planting more than 43 million trees as part of the collective efforts to raise the country’s forest cover.

Nandi county has put up legislation which will help it achieve 30 percent forest cover up from its current 26.2 percent by 2030.

“We have formulated the Nandi County Wetlands Conservation and Management Policy and an Act of 2021. We have also formulated and gazetted the Climate Change Fund Act of 2021, with all these frameworks meant to combat climate change,” said the Nandi county environment and lands executive Philemon Buret.

This year, the county is planning to plant a million trees in gazetted forests, public institutions, wetlands and escarpments through partnerships with locals and organisations invested in environmental care.

“We have planted more than 15,000 trees in North Nandi Forest and 10,000 indigenous trees in Tinderet Forest,” said Dr Buret.

“We found out that we have 1.8 million tree seedlings in private tree nurseries and two million in KFS tree nurseries. This means that we have the capacity to raise more than five million tree seedlings yearly.”

In Uasin Gishu, governor Jackson Mandago said the county has achieved 7.6 percent forest cover currently, and has outlined a programme to help it hit 10 percent in the short term and 15 percent in the medium term.

Mr Mandago said the county needs to conserve its water catchment areas to effectively serve the needs of the growing population, especially in Eldoret town.

“Major concerns to us are water towers such as Kaptagat Forest which the Ministry of Environment has fortunately declared a water tower,” said Mr Mandago.

In Elgeyo-Marakwet, the county is banking on private forestry to help it contribute its fair share of pushing Kenya’s cover to 10 percent.

The county governor Alex Tolgos gave an example of Nyeri County, which he said now accounts for a large share of the country’s forest cover due to the efforts of private individuals who have wholly embraced afforestation.

“Our people need to move away from the notion that forests belong to the government and be like Nyeri people who have ventured into forestry as an individual's investment, where as a result their county’s forest coverage is impressive,” said Mr Tolgos.

“In Elgeyo-Marakwet, we are going to sensitise people to plant more trees to avert landslides and floods. This will be achieved through research and training we will offer to the people.”

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Mzee Solomon Engasia plants a tree seedling during this year’s Kaptagat Forest Annual Tree Planting exercise held at Kaptagat Forest in Elgeyo Marakwet County where 11,000 seedlings were planted on July 23, 2021. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

The county, which is characterised by the Kerio escarpment, is targeting 60 percent cover by 2030 from the current 37.49 percent. By the end of this year, they intend to plant more than 10 million trees in conjunction with the ministry of environment, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Kenya Water Towers Agency (KWTA) and World Vision among others.

Currently, the county government has provided 12 million tree seedlings to 49 nursery groups, which have also been trained on tree care and propagation.

“In wetlands and water catchment areas we are doing indigenous trees and bamboo. In farmlands, we are doing exotic trees while encouraging avocado, coffee and macadamia, especially along the escarpments,” said Elgeyo Marakwet environment executive Abraham Barsosio.

The goal of raising the forest cover is also dependent on protecting the existing forests from wanton and illegal logging, which has been the bane of the country in the past.

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A truck transporting logs along the Nakuru-Eldoret highway. Government banned logging in a bid to stop deforestation. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A ban on logging has helped stem some of the reduction in forest cover, although experts say the country needs to come up with a more sustainable, long-term solution to forest management.

Overall, the Economic Survey report of 2020 shows that Kenya’s forest total area under state forest plantations increased from 141,600 hectares in 2018 to 147,600 hectares in 2019 as a result of the ban on forest logging imposed in the period.

New area planted during the period under review was 7,200 hectares, a decline from the 9,200 hectares planted in 2018.

The report says that total sale of timber from government forests declined from 144,200 true cubic metres in 2018 to 10,700 in 2019.

The sale of softwood timber declined by 29,400 true cubic metres in 2019 while hardwood timber sales declined to 9,200 true cubic metres down from 113,300 thousand in 2018.