Community groups working on restoration of a clean environment in Laikipia

Residents in Laikipia West awaiting to receive tree seedlings distributed by Akili Group. [Boniface Gikandi]

An environmental lobby group is working towards increasing forest cover in Laikipia County to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The Akili Group project targets to distribute more than 150,000 energy-saving Jikos in the semi-arid county that has at least 149, 271 households.

The initiative has been rolled out in 15 wards where the group is working with the community to plant 1.8 million fruit and indigenous tree seedlings by the end of next year.

The programmes coordinator, John Mathenge said residents will be earning from the carbon credit scheme owing to their efforts to reduce gas emissions in the space, through various environmental intervention strategies.

Mathenge said they intend to facilitate the planting of 1.4 million trees across Laikipia County including 600,000 fruit trees apart from distributing the energy-saving Jikos.

Mathenge said they work with communities in Nyeri, Nyandarua and  Laikipia Counties to address the environmental concerns, aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

“The energy-saving jiko is a popular device as the locals are using less wood fuel at home as compared to the past years,” said Mathenge.

The jikos are meant to promote cleaner and safer cooking practices and raise awareness of the benefits of eco-friendly cooking solutions in mitigating climate change and preserving the environment according to Mathenge.

The project empowers women groups and rural households through access to clean cooking technologies and income-generating activities, as they will get returns from the carbon credit scheme. 

Nalanya Self Help Group in Kieni East led by Simon Guama welcomed the energy-saving jikos initiative which they confirmed use less firewood.

“The jikos will impact the community by reducing wood fuel and less smoke in the kitchen,” said Mr Guama. 

Mika Njeri Wanyoike, a beneficiary said in the rural areas wood fuel remains a major challenge and the involvement of the Akili group in the semi-arid areas is a relief.

“Cooking using firewood is regarded as the major contributor to climate change, upgrading to the use of the jikos is welcome,” said Ms Wanyoike, a resident of Segera ward in Laikipia North.

In Umande ward more than 600 households celebrated the jikos affirming the positive use of the devices.

Peter Karoki said the jikos will go along way in supporting President William Ruto's agenda of planting 15 billion trees in 10 years.

“We are using less firewood compared to the past year to allow the trees to grow to maturity,” said Karoki.

Laikipia County Secretary Mr Wahome Koinange, who is the patron of Akili Group, said they have distributed 27,000 energy-saving jikos, and more were being transported to the villages across the county.

Koinange said the jikos and tree seedlings will be distributed across the three constituencies of Laikipia East, Laikipia North and Laikipia West once the documentation process is complete.

Forest cover in Laikipia is at 9.8 percent, but residents are confident the initiative will increase it to 10.48 percent.

“Distribution of 100,000 jikos to the households is an elaborate plan towards promoting the use of clean energy,” said Wahome.

A member of the community initiative, John Wanjau said they are mobilising the distribution of avocados and macadamia seedlings to the farmers focusing on improving the residents' economic empowerment.

Wanjau said they desire to make Laikipia a two-season food county by educating the locals about the use of dams in food production and how they can utilise increased rainfall.

“Through carbon credit money, and increased rainfall due to deforestation, the locals will have enough in their homes,” said Wanjau.

Benefits aligned to the project include schools getting funds, support projects and construction of classrooms and bursaries among others.

Laikipia East Deputy County Commissioner Patrick Muli said the initiative on environmental conservation is celebrated in the villages based on the usage of the jikos that have reduced the use of firewood in the homes.

Mr Muli said the environmental initiative supported the protection of the river beds through the planting of trees and litter collection.

“The government appreciates partnering with the community towards planting trees in their habitats. This has assisted in safeguarding the natural resources,” said Muli.