Initiative seeks to plant 600,000 trees to reclaim critical Cheptais water tower in Bungoma

Members of Cheptais Community Forest Association (CCFA) plant trees at Cheptais Forest in Mt Elgon, Bungoma County, on June 9, 2023, during the second phase of "Cheptais Forest Reforestation Project" to reclaim the degraded water tower. [Photo, Courtesy]

Trees are critical in the fight against climate change as they absorb carbon out of the atmosphere. They also help communities and ecosystems adapt to extreme weather conditions, besides slowing floods, reducing temperatures and providing food.

Mr Njenga said they are now in the second phase of the project which will see 5,500 trees planted over five hectares.

"During piloting and phase one of the project, we planted 60,200 tree seedlings on 55 hectares," Njenga told the Standard.

He added: "It is part of our organization's CSR and it is a long-term project. We started by researching to find out which tree species do well in the area, then engaged the local community to grow the seedlings. We also fenced off the forest to ensure the planted trees are not destroyed."

Njenga noted that the forest is in a bad state, with at least 50,000 of the total 124,760 acres, completely degraded after people cut down trees for firewood and to burn charcoal.

He said EAIP, a management company of A.P. Moller Capital, picked on Cheptais forest because of the huge socio-economic cost its destruction would have on residents, the country and the region.

Cheptais forest is one of the five water towers in Kenya and is a catchment for the drainage systems of Lake Victoria, Lake Turkana, and the Turkwel hydropower plant.

Mrs Janephrise Talieng, the chairperson of Bungoma-based NGO, Cheptais Community Forest Association (CCFA), is joined by her members in planting trees at Cheptais Forest on June 9. [Photo, Courtesy]

The over 3,000 CCFA members have also provided critical information that has aided the project, said Njenga.

KFS Bungoma County Representative Isaac Simiyu said they picked Cheptais Forest, in support of the government's conservation drive, because it is a critical water tower.

"We're scaling up reforestation by training local communities on how to manage the planted trees and encouraging them to form forest community associations to access the forest. With close to 4,000 hectares, we encourage other organizations to join in and adopt more land for reforestation," Mr Simiyu said.

CCFA chairperson Janephrise Talieng said: "The effects of climate change have challenged us to take responsibility for our past actions as a community. That is why we have joined efforts by the government with the aim of planting 15 billion trees to reach 30 per cent forest cover. We thank all partners who are helping us to restore the Cheptais forest for the benefit of current and future generations."

Russia is home to the largest area of forest in the world, at 815 million hectares. Brazil, the US, Canada, China, Australia, and the DRC also have large forests, of over 100 million hectares each.

There are five places on Earth with no forest at all, according to the World Bank's definition of 2019. These are Nauru Island in Northern Australia, San Marino in Italy, Qatar, Greenland, an island country in North America, and Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory on Spain's south coast.

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