By Joshua Kolondo – Vihiga
The world is losing 10 million hectares of forest – an area about the size of the Republic of Korea or 22 times the size of the Republic of Kenya – each year through deforestation. Land degradation affects almost 2 billion hectares, an area larger than South America. This has many adverse effects. Forest loss and degradation are responsible for the emission of large amounts of climate-warming gases, and at least 8 percent of forest plants and 5 percent of
forest animals are currently at extremely high risk of extinction. Degradation alone affects the well-being of 3.2 billion people and costs more than 10 percent of the annual global gross product in lost ecosystem services.
Maragoli Hills forest in Vihiga County has suffered years of massive destruction that started in the early 1990s and has left it a pale shadow of its former self. Today, shrubs, scattered trees, nurseries, planted seedlings, and rocky hills are the key features that welcome a visitor to the 1,000-acre forest. About 20 streams emanating from the foot of the forest have dried up, leaving behind caves that have a special meaning for locals. With the ongoing aggressive reforestation efforts supported by the national and county governments, however, is that the forest’s restoration journey has been characterized by resistance and lack of cooperation from some people in the local community who fear they may be evicted. Consequently, the restoration efforts are taking ages to show the expected results with at least seven villages neighboring the forest standing in the way of restoration efforts. They are Muguga, Idabwongo, Buhane, Inavi, Lodonyi, Liavora, and Kisingilo. The villages are home to at least 100
families sitting on about 40 acres said to be part of the forest cover. The restoration and responsible management of forests will address these crises simultaneously by re-establishing habitats, producing goods and services needed for sustainable development, and supporting economic recovery after COVID-19 through green jobs while increasing food security and improving human well-being. Besides the county government, other partners involved in the campaign to reclaim the highly degraded Maragoli Forest are the Community Forest Association (CFA), Equity Bank (Luanda Branch), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), National Environment Management Authority and
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). The high survival rate of the seedling has paved the way for the second phase of the campaign which will see another 30,000 indigenous seedlings planted to extend the land size to 50 acres. This is the first time efforts to reclaim the forest have returned positive results of seedlings surviving. In the past, agitated
locals uprooted the seedlings to express their anger. In March this year, the county government and various
stakeholders decided to seek the views of locals as a new approach in its attempt to rehabilitate the forest.
The county government is keen to attain over 10 percent forest cover through the conservation of gazetted
and community forests in the county. On-farm forest promotion is part of the strategy to attain the required
forest cover and it is through collective action that the forest can be restored so as to enhance the ecosystem.
Maragoli Hills forest Ecosystem restoration is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development
Goals, main Ecosystem restoration is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, mainly
those on climate change, poverty eradication, food security, water, and biodiversity conservation.
It is also a pillar of international environmental conventions, such as the Ramsar Convention on wetlands and the Rio Conventions on biodiversity, desertification, and climate change. ly those on climate change, poverty eradication, food security, and water and biodiversity conservation. Maragoli hills forest