Environment, Climate Change and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya today presided over the planting of 10,000 trees in Mt Elgon forest in Bungoma County to mark her birthday.
The indigenous tree species were planted at the Cheptais Forest Station in Chepyuk by area residents led by CS Tuya in a day-long exercise that was attended by tens of Bungoma County leaders led by Deputy Governor Janepher Chemutai Mbatiany.
Speaking to Chepyuk residents at the event organised by Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), CS Tuya urged Kenyans to make tree growing a lifestyle activity by taking advantage of every opportunity to plant trees.
“When you celebrate your birthday or any of your important days, please mark it with tree growing. Here we’ve planted 10,000 trees,” CS Tuya said, adding jokingly that it would be difficult for those trying to guess her new age to decipher based on the number of seedlings planted.
She said aggressive greening of the country in line with the 15 billion tree growing and ecosystem restoration programme that seeks to raise Kenya’s tree cover to 30 percent by 2032 would help mitigate against adverse effects of climate change.
CS Tuya said climate change was one of the greatest challenges facing the country, ranking second to terrorism, and urged residents of Mt Elgon and the Western Kenya belt to take advantage of the high rainfall received in the region to intensify tree growing.
“Because of climate change, our water sources dry out. We suffer shortage of food. Our environment gets destroyed,” the CS said, noting that human activities were largely responsible for climate change.
CS Tuya said Western Kenya forests including Mt Elgon and Kakamega were facing a myriad of challenges including encroachment noting that she had a meeting with Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi to find lasting solutions.
Once again, CS Tuya instructed KFS to involve forest adjacent communities through their community forest associations in conservation activities saying host communities were the first line of defence against forest degradation.
At the same time, CS Tuya urged forest adjacent communities to be responsible custodians of forest resources by not involving themselves in outlawed activities.
She promised to host a meeting of Bungoma County leaders including Prime Cabinet Secretary to discuss the conservation of Mt Elgon forest and other ecosystems in Western Kenya.
CS Tuya said the 15 billion national tree growing programme had been expanded to include a food security component assuring that seedlings being propagated by Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and KFS will include fruit tree species as part of a deliberate government effort to promote agro-forestry.
“We don’t want to ask Kenyans to plant trees while they’re afflicted by hunger. The seedlings we’re propagating through KEFRI and KFS, atleast 30 percent will be fruit seedlings. We will make sure they’re available across the country,” CS Tuya said.
The CS, who was accompanied by several senior ministry officials including Director General of NEMA Mamo Mamo and KFS board chairman Job Chirchir, outlined several other measures the Government was taking to accelerate the attainment of the 15 billion trees target including the ongoing recruitment of 4,000 youth into the green army initiative.
On her part, Deputy Governor Janepher Mbatiany said Bungoma County was on course to achieving its forest cover target of 36 percent, and urged the CS to give preference to forest host counties when recruiting staff into the sector including rangers.
“I also request CS Soipan Tuya to consider residents from forest growing regions in their recruitments because they are the ones who will take care of the trees as they border the forests,” Mbatiany said.