350,000 seedlings to be planted in Kaptagat annual tree planting

Environment and Forestry PS Dr Chris Kiptoo (left) participates in a tree planting event. [Courtesy]

Some 350,000 seedlings are set to be planted in this year’s annual Kaptagat tree planting event.

The event in its fifth edition will see planted in the 225ha of degraded forest land amid efforts to boost the government’s efforts towards the attainment of the 10 per cent forest cover.

Speaking during the launch of the event on Friday,  Environment PS Dr Chris Kiptoo said the campaign aims at addressing environmental challenges being experienced in the reserves by collaborating with other stakeholders to undertake rehabilitation and restoration of degraded forest areas and riparian areas within the ecosystem which will eventually raise public awareness and inculcate a culture of tree growing activities in the region.

He said mobilising stakeholders in the region is key in escalating government efforts of increasing the current tree cover to 10 per cent as envisaged in the vision 2030 by 2022.

The Kaptagat Annual Tree Planting event was initiated in 2017 in Sabor Forest Station, a noble idea borne by the PS who is the current patron.

The event is organised under the umbrella of Kaptagat Integrated Conservation Programme and has embraced a multi-sectoral approach attracting National, County government agencies, Community Forest Associations, Community Based organisations, individuals and other stakeholders.

The event has grown to a major annual event attracting stakeholders and partners from Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet County and beyond.

So far, the past four editions have achieved a total of 210 hectares and distributed 12,000 avocado fruit trees seedlings to the forest adjacent communities of Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.

The fifth edition targets to rehabilitate 225 hectares with support from different stakeholders in the region.

Over half a million of assorted indigenous seedlings have been planted with a survival rate of more than 80% in the five forest stations.

Environment and Forestry PS Dr Chris Kiptoo plants a tree. [Courtesy]

In efforts to foster partnerships in the restoration of Kaptagat Forest, Kenya Forest Service has embraced synergies with other agencies.

NETFUND launched a programme to train and support community forest associations and private nurseries to strengthen their capacities to produce 2.5 million assorted indigenous seedlings for rehabilitation in the ecosystem.

They have so far provided equipment and materials worth KES 4 million for production purposes. This is also seen as an empowerment engagement to promote livelihoods in the community.

World Wide Fund for Nature a conservation organisation is involved in post maintenance activities such as spot weeding, protection and beating up to ensure high survival and healthy growth.

Recently WWF signed a grant agreement with Kenya Forest Service to the tune of KES 1.5million to fulfil this noble goal.

In addition, it has been spearheading the development of the Cherangany - Elgeyo Hills Master Plan that aims at escalating interventions in the larger ecosystem.

The government has set out various targets under the current forest programmes, National Climate Change Action Plan, The Green Economy Strategy and Internationally the Forest landscape Target of 5.2 million Hectares and our mitigation and adaptation commitments under Nationally Determined Contributions within the Paris Agreement.

Working with development partners such as United Nations Development Programme, the government has revised the National Forestry Policy 2016 to provide a direction in the management and sustainable utilisation of forest resources.

In addition, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry with support from UNDP is facilitating the development of the County Model Bill and Policy through the Council of Governors that will be domesticated by counties to address forestry conservation, protection, and management in Kenya.

The support to counties also facilitated the development of the Elgeyo Marakwet Forest Policy which was launched at the 4th Edition of the Kapatagat Tree Growing event 2020 by H.E. Governor Alex Tolgos and Walid Badawi, UNDP Resident Representative.

Partnerships with both state and non-state actors are key in enhancing the forest cover through tree planting and growing initiatives such as the 5th Edition of the Kaptagat Tree Growing Activity.

Environment and Forestry PS Dr Chris Kiptoo participates in a tree planting event. [Courtey]

These activities aim to spur a tree growing culture among communities which is evident with the ongoing activities across the country.

Participation of all stakeholders – government institutions, private organizations, the general public, local communities, women and youths is key to achieve the goals of the national forest.

The Kaptagat Forest Block is located in the southern part of Elgeyo Maraket County and constitutes five forest reserves namely Kaptagat, Penon, Sabor, Kessup and Kipkabus. The five stations consist of 9,387.0ha of plantation, 8,283.48 Natural Indigenous Forest, 710.60ha grassland, 1,944.90 Bushland and 165.40 ha of bamboo vegetation with a total forest area of 20,491.38 hectares.

The conservation and management of Kaptagat ecosystem is critical as it is one of the major Water Towers providing diverse livelihood services and goods to humanity in the region and surrounding areas.

Kaptagat ecosystem serves as an important catchment area for water sources for downstream communities and also supplies water to Eldoret and Iten Towns.

The opportunity on forest cultivation to the local communities through the plantation establishment and livelihood improvement scheme(PELIS) benefiting close to 5,000 members in the region.

Additionally, communities are depended on the ecosystem for the provision of firewood from dead and fallen trees within the forest ecosystem.

Forest adjacent communities have benefitted more on zoned grazing areas for their livestock as they observe the carrying capacity of the given ecosystem and are being encouraged to practice zero-grazing to avoid forest degradation.”

Under traditional benefits, the communities are able to utilize the special areas set aside in the forests for cultural practices like circumcision and traditional prayers.

Herbalists have also not been left behind as they exploit traditional plants for medicinal purposes but in a sustainable manner.

Forest adjacent communities have benefitted more from zoned grazing areas. [Courtesy]

The general air amelioration and purification by trees offer a conducive environment for locals as they help to reduce the effects of diseases.

Consequently, owing to its high altitude it has become a facility for athletics training and boasts of two training camps situated in its environs Global Village and Rosa camps, which have attracted national and international sporting personalities. The prominent athletes in the region have been training.

The Forest Adjacent Communities constitute the largest beneficiaries of the ecosystem and have formed Community Forest Associations (CFAs) as per the Forest Conservation and Management Act 2016, providing an enabling environment for partnership support and engagement with  Kenya Forest Service in conservation activities.

The current membership after the reorganisation of CFAs stands at  7,935 persons who are actively engaged in the conservation and management of forests in the greater Kaptagat ecosystem.

In 2019, all the CFAs signed Participatory Forest Management Plans (PFMPs) and Forest Management Agreements (FMAs) which are currently being implemented.

The engagement with the CFAs opens diverse opportunities within the ecosystem for the benefit of the immediate communities through forest user rights such as ecotourism, PELIS, nature-based enterprises, beekeeping, water abstraction, mushroom farming among others.

Economically, it provides a base for industrial materials for the timber industry and improving local livelihoods within the larger Kaptagat Community.