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Conservation continues despite the difficulties

Thursday April 9 2020

Onesmus Muange, a smallholder farmer in his farm which hosts a dryland forest, in Machakos.

Onesmus Muange, a smallholder farmer in his farm which hosts a dryland forest, in Machakos. PHOTO | FILE | NMG 

LINAH BENYAWA
By LINAH BENYAWA
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It seems that the only thing on anyone’s mind recently is the coronavirus. Whether you a private citizen or a member of government, the virus has become the focal point of most plans and considerations, and has affected all of our lives.

But while this is happening around us, life is still going on. And many of the national government’s programmes that were created to contribute to our development goals are still continuing.

For example, one programme for us to be hopeful about is the continued advancements towards our nation’s goal of covering 10 percent of Kenya’s land with trees. At the beginning of this month, Phase II of the Green Zones Development Support Project was initiated in conjunction with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

Environmental conservancy has been a stalwart of President Kenyatta's leadership, from the plastic bag ban to various efforts to preserve and grow our forests and protect wildlife. And despite these trying times, that policy is not going to change.

The KFS is implementing the project, with financing from the African Development Bank, across 15 counties in addition to the Mau, Aberdares and Mt Kenya critical forest ecosystems. While the AfDB is funding US $50 million for the project, the Government of Kenya has allocated an additional US $5 million.

In a communication about the project, the KFS spokesperson said that, “The project’s goal is to improve forest conservation and community livelihoods for sustainable forest management in Kenya.

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The specific objectives are to enhance forest conservation and livelihood support for climate change resilience and to develop timber, bamboo, horticulture and cereals value chain for improved household incomes.”

The Green Zones Development Support Project will supply farmers and other involved parties across 15 counties with the nursery tools needed to produce seedlings. These will then be distributed around 22 forest stations in Kenya.

The ultimate goal of the project is to facilitate the production and distribution of 10 million tree seedlings during the current financial year. Thus far, four million seedlings potting materials have been distributed in Kenya, and another five million will be distributed throughout April.

Since the rainy season is just beginning, many counties have already experienced adequate rainfall to get started on tree planting.

Planting is moving forward despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The government of Kenya, in conjunction with the KFS, have urged Kenyans to take advantage of the plentiful rains to plant trees in their homes and farms. Each tree needs about 2.5 metres of space around it, which is an adequate range to plant and still respect social distancing guidelines.

President Kenyatta's conservation efforts are also designed to help community income-generating activities. Sh 4 million has been allocated to support such activities, and it has already been put to good use. In Kiambu, local farmers used that fund to plant mushrooms, in Meru, for fish farming and in Nakuru, a greenhouse for horticulture production has been established.

In many rural areas, an overdependence on wood to produce energy has contributed to the depletion of many of our forests. Thus, the project also includes an initiative to mitigate that dependency. Information and assistance about alternative energy sources and new, energy efficient technologies is being shared with the relevant communities. The KFS predicts that over 7500 households, in addition to 10 institutions, stand to benefit from this initiative.

We might be facing one of the most difficult challenges that Kenya has had to face in its history, but that does not recluse us from keeping our eyes on the goal: growth, development, and prosperity. While temporary obstacles will always stand in our way, sometimes small and sometimes widespread like coronavirus, Kenyans are resilient.

And we are resilient because optimism is our guiding attitude, through thick and thin. This optimism about our future has even guided the president’s policies of stressing the importance of conservationism and caring for our natural environment. While some world leaders seem to not have the least interest in what kind of earth the next generation will inherit, Kenya stands out in that regard. Our wildlife is protected by hardworking park rangers and our coastline is kept clean with minimum plastic waste.

So if you are indoors because of coronavirus, remember that many hardworking Kenyan farmers are still doing their best to plant more trees with the help of our government. After isolation is over, there will be even more nature to enjoy.

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