World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) 2016

Venue: Sidika Primary School, Migori County
Date: 17th June, 2016
Theme: Inclusive cooperation for achieving land degradation neutrality
Slogan: “Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People”
WDCD 2016 event advocates for the importance of inclusive cooperation to restore and rehabilitate degraded and contribute towards achieving the overall Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  In order to ‘leave no one behind’ as proclaimed in the new Sustainable Development Goals, achieving land degradation neutrality needs to be in the forefront to meet our requirements and develop sustainability.

Background information
The proposed venue for this year’s national (Kenya) commemoration of the World Day to Combat Desertification is Sidika Primary School grounds. The school is in Karundu Division of Nyatike Sub County of Migori County. The school also neighbours Sidika Secondary School. The area is semi-arid and has all the characteristics of an emerging desert, with prolonged dry spells and short erractic rains.

The proposed site has land measuring about 5 hectares within the school compound where the school management has planted some trees which are doing well. This is the area earmarked to plant some of the 2500 seedlings pledged by the Kenya Forest Service to be supplied free of charge. The Sidika community, groups and households neighbouring the proposed site shall host the event.
The preparation for WDCD commemoration, has involved two Steering Committees at the national level (4 meetings held by end of May) coordinated by the National Environment Management Authority an institution under the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities, and at the County level the Local Steering Committee under the County Government of Migori. The composition of these committees covers all relevant government and Civil Society organizations. The county committee will identify various activities to be undertaken during the commemoration.
The main activities will include tree planting, a procession, exhibitions, media talk shows and a visit to selected rehabilitated areas in the county near the venue. The climax will be the various messages by dignitaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary Prof. Judi Wakhungu of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities. Others will be the Director General of NEMA Prof Geoffrey Wahungu and the representatives of UNEP and UNDP. The sponsors and partners who have supported the effort are Safaricom (most successful mobile phone service Provider Company in Kenya, UNDP, KFS and NETFUND.

In Migori County, the total area under forest cover is about 695.5 ha out of which 43% is woodland while the rest is plantation located on various hills. 435.5 ha of the forest land are gazetted and 260 ha are non – gazetted forests. There are 19 identified forests in the county with 16% of the population involved in forestry activities.
The Kenya Forest Service is involved in a campaign to sensitize the community to plant more trees. In addition, the government initiated several projects such as the Kazi Kwa Vijana Programme and the World Bank funded Kenya Youth Empowerment Project which has been involved in extensive planting of trees across the constituencies. Major challenges faced in conservation of forests include charcoal burning and frequent outbreaks of wild forest fires. These forests are: Nyasoko, Sagegi, Magina, Giribe, Otacho, Nyamarere, Rabuor, Ranen, Kwa, Aroso, Ombo, Omange, Got Kogalo, Nyaitara, Gatambega, Tarakwiti, Nyandiri and Makangwa among others.
Several Hectares of forest cover are lost every year through illegal logging, encroachment, settlement, cultivation and development projects in forest reserves. In addition, unsuitable utilization of these resources, lack of capacity to value forest goods and services, forest fires, lack of harmonized guidelines on management of trans-boundary forest resources and lack of forest zoning.
The major forests such as Nyatike, Got-kachola are being deforested at an alarming rate due to charcoal production, logging, encroachment and settlements.
The main forest products include timber, wood fuel and charcoal. Some of the trees and shrubs have medicinal value and are used in the extraction of herbal medicine. Poles and posts are also increasing being produced for purposes of fencing and electricity transmission.

Those who engage in tree farming usually accrue incomes from sale of timber, poles, posts, fire wood and charcoal. The practice is still low but steadingly rising in consideration of the improving prices at the market place.

The county lies in the lowlands and depends mainly on rivers whose sources are in the highlands. However, there are numerous springs whose protection is necessary. The government and other development partners have been engaged in protection of the springs and wells in the county thereby improving access to safe drinking water to the public.
Conservation of these water catchments is vital for the county’s survival and prosperity. Conservation is being undertaken by government agencies such as the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS) among other stakeholders with increasing the tree covers at the water catchment areas being top priority.

Most agricultural and mining activities lead to soil erosion within the county but efforts are being made to sensitize farmers on good farming practices to curb environmental degradation. The low lying areas of Nyatike Sub County are mostly affected by erosion from storm water. The Department of Agriculture has spearheaded efforts to prevent soil erosion and rehabilitate degraded areas. The measures include; building of gabions, digging terraces in the farms, planting of grass. The proposed irrigation project in lower Kuja River will also assist the management of the storm water and mitigate against soil erosion.

The forests in the county are a source of wood fuel mainly through harvesting of the dead wood. However, the use of wood fuel has to be sustainable. The cessation of massive tobacco growing has saved the trees that would otherwise have been used as fuel wood for curing. Firewood constitutes 79.7% of the households’ energy demand while charcoal accounts for 16,7%. Efforts to provide alternatives sources of energy like solar and LPG are slowly being adopted and promoted by the Department of Energy and the NGOs but the uptake is still slow.
The fertiliser trees growing in the county are mainly the nitrogen fixing trees such as sesbania, calliandra species, luecena species which are exotic trees and acacia species which are natural trees. Other agro forestry trees grown include: Dombeya goetinezii, Markhamia lutea, Grevillea robusta, and Cordial abyssinca among others.

Fruit trees are grown in the county though in small scale and specifically for domestic use. Some fruit trees also grow naturally in the forest reserves. The fruit trees grown are notably mango trees passion fruit.

Trees and forests play an important role in carbon sequestration and act as carbon sinks for soaking more carbon than they emit. In the reduction of the greenhouse gases emissions the County has initiated measures like adoption of greener technologies, tree planting and reforestation.

Environmental Degradation Causes
The major contributors of the environmental degradation in the county include overstocking, flooding, mining, deforestation, and high population density. The community majorly in Nyatike and Kuria East Sub-Counties keep large herds of cattle which have led to overgrazing hence causing soil erosion. The back flow of the Lake Victoria waters causes damages to crops, homesteads and livestock along the lakeshore. It also causes flooding of River Kuja along the lower regions of Nyatike leading to the formation of gulley’s and eventually soil erosion. Mining has also left large parcels of land derelict. Soil erosion takes place and heavily pollutes dams and rivers especially River Migori.
Water supply to major rivers in the county has declined significantly due to deforestation. This affects the agricultural sector directly and indirectly resulting into reduced crop productivity and subsequent food deficits in Migori County.
In the last decades, frequencies and severity of drought in the county has increased, as a result livestock industry has severely been affected especially in Nyatike areas thus leading to shortage of livestock products and loss of livelihood of pastoral communities.
Environmental degradation has resulted in severe climatic changes whose effects are currently being felt by the residents. These climatic changes effects include rain pattern changes, massive soil erosion, landslides and prolonged drought seasons. The above effects have resulted to reduced agricultural productivity which has in turn jeopardized the already vulnerable food security given that residents of the county are agriculture dependent.

Various government institutions including KFS, NEMA and KWS together with NGOs such as World Vision have embarked on mitigation measures to reverse the adverse climatic change effects. Adaptation strategies like afforestation and protection of catchment areas have been initiated. Proper land use practices including enforcements of the various Acts and Laws have been advocated and disseminated by agricultural and environmental practitioners in a bid to mitigate the climate change effects and prevent further environmental degradation.
Migori is endowed with mineral resources that are scattered within the county. There are Gold deposits in Masara, Macalder, Masaba, Kehancha, Kitere, Kamwango (Rongo) and Migori, Carlos mines in Kehancha and Prancis mines in the Kuria-Transmara border. Equally Copper, Azurite and Silver deposits are found in Macalder. The exploration of these minerals at commercial levels has not been determined although currently individual and cooperative prospecting is being done on artisanal scale.
The mining methods currently under use are both surface and underground. Surface mining involves both alluvial mining and mechanical mining such as open cast, while underground mining involves supported and unsupported mining methods. The challenges that arise from mining are; acid mine drainage (AMD), air and noise pollution, frequent collapse of mines, heavy metals pollution, mine caving and mercury pollution.
In addition to gold mining potential, the county has adequate deposits of good quality sand along Lake Victoria and major rivers like Migori, Kuja and Kuria. Hardcore stones which are crushed for ballast are also available in plenty in the upper regions of Nyatike. Ballast and sand are therefore comparatively cheap within the county and sufficient to meet the future requirements in the construction industry.
Migori County has abundant deposits of clay soils which have been proved to be suitable for brick making and pottery. They are plenty especially in parts of Uriri, Rongo and Kuria constituencies. Rock deposits from which hard core and stone can be extracted for construction industry are also available in upper regions of Nyatike and Uriri.
Tourism plays a major role as it brings revenue to the county government. It is imperative to promote sustainable tourism measures and practices within the county. Some of the tourists’ attraction sites within the Migori County include Thimlich Ohinga historical sites Migori main wildlife attractions are birds found in small forest patches, primates and in the lake shore environment.
Migori has potential tourist attraction sites, this include Gogo Fall, Traditional Caves, historical sites like Nyora caves, and sporting activities like fishing. The lake shores offer sandy beaches with potential for development of tourist sites.
Migori County acts as a transit point to tourist and traders moving into Tanzania. Most hotels in the county are geared towards accommodating transit guests and therefore lack amenities associated with tourism.

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