Water companies in Nakuru have jointly planted 6, 000 tree seedlings at the source of River Rongai in Oinoptich village of Marioshoni, Elburgon as the country strives to achieve 10 percent forest cover.
The move followed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s challenge to Kenyans to ensure that Kenya achieves the forest cover milestone by 2022.
The weekend event, which was led by the Nakuru Rural Water and Sanitation Company (Naruwasco), also brought together other companies like Nakuru Water and Sanitation Company (Nawasco), Rift Valley Water Works and Development Agency and Water Service Providers Association (Waspa).
During the event which started on Friday and continued on Saturday, Naruwasco Managing Director Reuben Korir noted that the trees they planted will greatly help in creating an ecosystem that will mitigate the dangers of climate change.
He praised participants who included primary school pupils from Marioshoni Ward for readily participating in tree planting.
“We have had problems with thousands of residents in Nakuru staring at a disaster as rivers dry up because of the prolonged drought. The only way to restore the water catchment sources we have in the county is to plant as many trees as possible to save the future generations,” stated Mr Korir.
River Rongai serves up to 350,000 households in more than five sub-counties in Nakuru.
Thousands have been grappling with acute water shortage from December to around May due to persistent drought.
The most affected are residents of Soin, Mosop and Mogotio wards that border Baringo County.
Soin MCA Irene Chebichi, who also took part in the tree planting, said the situation had been worsened by large-scale farmers upstream, who have diverted water from the river.
Ms Chebichi said hundreds of tomato farmers in the three wards are counting losses after their crops dried up.
“Hundreds of livestock died since there was no water to sustain their lives,” she said.
She urged the government to revoke licenses allowing large farms and factories to harvest water from rivers in the county.
The host, Marioshoni MCA Douglas Ayabei, echoed Ms Chebichi’s sentiments, noting that despite intervention by the Water Resources Management Authority (Warma), large farms near Salgaa still divert water from rivers Rongai and Molo into their farms.
“These rivers are on their death beds. Rongai River dried up beginning December last year and due to the prolonged drought that the country experienced at the beginning of this year, hundreds of families on the upper part of Rongai went without water. The dry spell affected every aspect of their lives,” he said.
"It’s saddening to see women spending nights at a single well where it takes about one hour to fill a 20-litre jerry can.”
The two MCAs urged water harvesting in rivers to be controlled at all times.
Other guests who participated in the event were Molo MP Kuria Kimani and Mr Job Kibei Tomno, the county chief Environment and Water officer.
The MP welcomed the move by the water companies and challenged Molo residents to take the initiative seriously and ensure the country surpasses the 10 percent forest cover target.
“The current seven percent is still too low for our country which has witnessed great growth in the economy and even the population,” he said.
Mr Tomno said that knowledge about climate change is important for all Kenyans.
In October last year, President Kenyatta directed the national and county governments to ensure that they work together in ensuring that the dream of planting 1.8 billion trees is achieved by its targeted time.
He promised to establish a presidential environmental award, which will be used to recognise individuals and institutions which will make remarkable achievement in environmental protection.