CS Environment and Forestry Keriako Tobiko planting a tree seedling with NEMA Board members at Sierra Leone Maasai Mau forest [PHOTO: S. IRUNGU/NEMA]
BY SAMWEL IRUNGU & LEONARD MUTAI
The government launched 10 million tree planting initiative to restore the Maasai Mau water tower on 1st November 2019. This marked the end of 60 day eviction notice issued by the government for the Mau illegal settlers to leave the iconic tower.
Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary, Keriako Tobiko while presiding over the launch noted that almost all the illegal settlers have voluntarily moved out after the government deployed a humane and judicious face by providing free transport to them to move their belongings out of water catchment area.
The restoration of the water tower dubbed “Restore Mau Save the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem, Save Lives” drew participation of multi government agencies led by Kenya Water Towers Agency (KWTA), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), National Environment Complaints Committee (NECC), National Youth Service, Ewaso Ngiro South Development Authorty (ENSDA), Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), Universities, members of the public among others.
During the ceremony over 200,000 trees were planted in the reclaimed areas with target of 3 million tress expected to be planted during the short rains.
In addition, through the modern technology dubbed “aerial seeding” was used by KEFRI to plant 4.5 million seeds using aircraft. Through this technology, about 20 million seeds would be scattered within a few days after launch of restoration of the water tower.The Rift Valley regional commissioner, George Natembea who has been in the frontline to reclaim the forest said the farmers who left the forest voluntarily would be allowed to harvest crops already planted in the area bur warned them not to destroy tree seedlings in the process. During planting exercise local leaders who accompanied the CS, among them Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina and Narok North Mp Moitalel Ole Kenta, lamented that rivers in the Mara, Lake Victoria and Nile basins that sources the forest, are drying up
with devastating effects to millions of people who depend on them. In an elaborate plan to guarantee the success of
ongoing environmental conservation initiative including increasing Kenya’s forest to at least 10% by the year 2022, Tobiko said government is cultivating closer relationships with private sector organizations and community groups.
With heightened partnerships Tobiko further added that the state agencies charged with environmental management responsibilities had also stepped up their surveillance to curb environmental pollution across the country.
The launch conforms to a 2018 Presidential Directive that Kenya should increase its forest cover to 10 % by 2022 through the planting of an estimated 1.8 billion tree seedlings.