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Farmers in Meru have launched a tree-planting effort to mitigate against climate change

By Phares Mutembei | November 12th 2020
A farmer in Meru watering her trees in her shamba in Imenti region. The effort to plant trees in farms is an initiative of the Farm-Forestry Smallholder Producers Association of Kenya (FF-Spark), in partnership with Food Agricultural Organisation and others. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

The farmers, both young and old, are planting indigenous trees in farms and in wetlands, in an effort to promote conservation agriculture

The continuing tree planting, efficient energy use and resource conservation is an effort led by the Farm-Forestry Smallholder Producers Association of Kenya (FF-Spark), who have partnered with the Meru County Environment department in the tree-planting effort.

Edwin Kamau, the organisation’s programmes coordinator, said the efforts are aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change and enhancing the community’s agricultural production capacity.

The organisation has partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Association for Christian Association and the devolved unit in a tree planting exercise in farms and riparian areas, outside the gazette forests.

Mr Kamau said the Sh2 million pilot project was meant to empower communities to promote traditional climate change mitigation methods.

Areas where farmers have planted trees include Buuri, Imenti and Tigania, with plans to spread the exercise to Tharaka Nithi County being planned.

“We started the project to sensitise the community on climate change, and top promote indigenous methods of addressing climate change, which has affected agricultural production and caused forest destruction,” said Mr Kamau.

So far, since the project started in Meru around the Imenti forest and the Nyambene forest, over 200, 000 indigenous tree species have been planted.

“We have been sensitising local farmers on best practices to address climate change, including responsible use of water from rivers, streams and other sources. Through women and youth we have trained on mitigation measures, we educate communities on the importance of tree planting,” he added.

Meru County Environment Chief Officer Kinoti Mwebia said local farmers are now planting trees in their farms, including avocado, and macadamia.

“The fruit trees Governor Kiraitu Murungi distributed in all parts of Meru are progressively changing farms and enhancing food security. This is part of our efforts to change how agriculture is practiced, to mitigate against climate change,” said Mr Mwebia.

Zipporah Matumbi, 61, and Esther Mbijjiwe (65) are among the elderly who are leading efforts to encourage local farmers to plant trees in farms.

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“In the old days we seldom cut trees and we want our communities to stop cutting trees for timber and fuel. Back then we had a lot of fruit and medicinal trees, but they are all gone now, because of the irresponsible use of natural resources. We are educating farmers on the dangers of logging,” said Mrs Matumbi.

Mrs Mbijjiwe said Njuri Ncheke elders in the past ‘outlawed’ tree felling, and decreed some forested areas out of bounds, to protect natural resources.

“When we were young it was criminal to cut certain species of trees. Our parents and elders drove fear into us, and cutting trees was a punishable offence. We want strong laws against logging now, as a way of restoring our environment. Otherwise, we face doom because our capacity to produce food is compromised,” she said.

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