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Increased forest cover key to Kenya’s food security, says PS

Improved forest cover and better environmental protection are key in enhancing Kenya’s food security and the attainment of the country’s growth objectives as set out through the Big Four Agenda of the Jubilee administration and the Vision 2030 goals.

Making the remarks, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Ali Noor Ismail, explained that in partnership with various stakeholders the government targets to plant and grow at least 360 million trees annually for the next four years.

He said, as a result, the government has rolled out a series of measures to create awareness and sensitize the public on the importance of growing more trees as one of way addressing the effects of climate change, which has had a major negative impact on the country’s food security due to environmental degradation.

“This is because we have a target of growing 1.8 billion trees by 2022 as directed by President Uhuru Kenyatta so as to achieve the goal of increasing the country’s forest cover from the current 7.2 per cent to the globally accepted 10 per cent cover,” explained the PS.

 Experts have warned have warned that unless urgent measures are taken, most of the country’s key rivers, whose waters are vital for the country’s food production, will dry as a result of the depleted forest cover which are the main sources of the rivers.

The PS spoke in his office during a consultative meeting with officials from the Tsavo Heritage Foundation led by Executive Director Jacob Mwaluda, whose team had sought the ministry’s support in a tree planting campaign launched by the nongovernmental body to boost environmental conservation within the Tsavo ecosystem. The campaign also involves raising awareness on the deteriorating situation within the Tsavo ecosystem, which has compromised food security and the survival of flora and fauna across ten counties.

“Adequate forest cover is key in the mitigation against the effects of climate change which has adversely significantly reversed the country’s agricultural productivity,” explained the PS.

He further explained that his ministry will work together with the ministry of Agriculture in partnership the Tsavo Heritage Foundation and other relevant institutions such as Kenya Forestry Service, Kenya Forestry Research Institute and other stakeholders to identify appropriate locations for growing trees.

Jacob said there is urgent need for combined efforts by various stakeholders for the restoration of the country’s forest cover, through tree growing, and sustainable management of the Tsavo ecosystem so as to minimize the negative effects of climate change that has had devastating on the entire Tsavo ecosystem which supports millions of people across 12 counties.

He said that the NGO has launched a campaign dubbed Tsavo Climate Challenge to undertake a massive tree growing competition among learning institutions to be piloted within Taita Taveta County.  He explained that Tsavo Heritage Foundation (THF) is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to restore and conserve the heritage of Tsavo Ecosystem in a holistic manner.

Jacob added that the climate challenge competition is of the programmes initiated by THF as an intervention towards restoring the region’s ecosystem.

 “This aspect of the challenges focuses on mobilising education institution to compete in a green wall campaign with participants topping the challenge awarded and recognised annually. The competition targets primary and secondary schools and tertiary institutions,” explained Jacob. He said the strategy aims at making tree growing a culture and not an event as is the case currently.

The Tsavo ecosystem, which is considered one of the world’s biodiversity strongholds, cuts across 12 counties that namely; Nairobi, Kajiado, Taita Taveta, Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi, Tana River, Lamu, Garissa, Makueni, Machakos and Kitui, where it supports millions of lives.

“The challenges of reducing tree cover with attendant deserti?cation has led to the fast spread of arid and semi-arid landscapes within the Tsavo Ecosystem and Dispersal Areas (TEDA). This spreading deserti?cation has impacted greatly the TEDA Communities and their economic wellbeing resulting in reduced education levels, agricultural productivity and increase conflicts for scarce resources and hence creating a self-feeding poverty circle,” warned Jacob.

Experts have warned that Tsavo’s water table is alarmingly low that it is barely sustaining key water sources such as Mzima Springs, whose underground streams emanate from Chyullu Hills in Makueni County. Mzima is Mombasa County’s main source of water. 

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