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KEFRI and Presbytery Church plants trees to reclaim Ondiri wetland

A tree planting and clean-up exercise to conserve Ondiri swamp, led by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, Kikuyu Township in collaboration with KEFRI, Friends of Ondiri Wetland and Kiambu County Government marked the 100 years of local elder’s ordination in Kenya. “The Kikuyu Township church dedicated the one month countrywide celebrations to environment and stewardship under the theme bearing lasting fruits John 15:16. Several activities are integrated in the Church national programme as we remember the Ordination of the first 43 African Church Elders in September 1920. Among those in the pioneer group of elders was the first Kenyan PCEA minister Rev Musa Gitau who was a local resident,” said the Parish Minister Reverend John Calvins.

According to David Wakogi, the patron of Friends of Ondiri Wetland, Ondiri swamp is the only highland bog in the country. The swamp being the source of many rivers including Nairobi, Nyongara, Kabuthi, Rungiri and Gitwe Kia Mbagathi in the edge of Ngong forest need ample protection from encroachment and pollution.

KEFRI Central Highland Eco-region Programme Director Dr. Eston Mutitu, stated the swamp provide domestic water to almost 2 percent of Nairobi residents and millions of people along the riverine stretching to the Indian Ocean. The socio-economic activities derived from the swamp are enormous with over 49 water boreholes providing water for domestic use, flower and food crop farming.

“Globally swamps are known to be habitats of high species diversity. At Ondiri swamp, over 78 species of birds, and a wide range of reptiles and marine live have been recorded. Any tilt of such ecological equilibrium may create a serious environmental adversity prompting pests or disease outbreak,” said Dr. Mutitu.

“KEFRI donated 200 assorted tree seedlings including indigenous species and bamboos to revamp the wetland which is a potential ecotourism site and a reservoir of carbon. In addition, the institute has spearheaded in planting about 3000 trees over the last one year in collaboration with state agencies, Kiambu County government and other key stakeholders,” said Dr. Mutitu.

“So far, a document to derive conservation of swamps and fencing of 19.9 of 34.5Km is complete while drafting of management plan is ongoing. All these endeavours aim to protect, conserve and sustainably utilize this important resource for prosperity and future generation,” Dr. Mutitu added.

The Secretary to the National Environment Complaint Committee Dr. John Chumo commended the church for fronting to conserve Ondiri swamp, noting the bog is an crucial water reservoir that feeds into several rivers traversing Nairobi, Athi river, Sabaki, Galana in the coast region before emptying into Indian Ocean.

“Ondiri swamp will be gazetted to enhance protection from encroachment and pollution -comprising effluents from adjacent residents and farming activities. This is in line with the Government environmental programme seeking to clean up rivers, increase tree cover and conserve water catchments countrywide,” said Dr. Chumo.

Others who addressed the gathering were Mr. Romano Kinyua, the sub county Environmental Officer, who noted the County is keen in enforcing the waste management law to protect the Ondiri wetland from degradation.

The Kikuyu sub county assistant commissioner Mr. Alex Mukindia said, through the National Hygiene Programme, dubbed Kazi Mtaani, youth in Kikuyu sub-county led by the Friends of Ondiri Wetland have accomplished achievements with positive impact including a nature trail to attract visitors in the wetland, maintenance of the seedlings and stern action to arrest dumping.

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