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The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Marsabit County Government led a tree planting program where 8,235 - indigenous and fruit tree seedlings were planted to rehabilitate the degraded 51,000 ha of Mt Kulal biosphere, in Marsabit County.
The exercise was accomplished under the Global Environment Facility (GEF) project which focus on restoring arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) of Kenya through bio-enterprise development and other incentives under The Restoration Initiative (TRI). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations with the Government of Kenya is implementing The Restoration Initiative (TRI) project, an initiative funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to address the challenges of environmental deforestation and degradation.
The project of which FAO is the main implementing agency and KEFRI the Lead Executing Partner, aims at reducing forest degradation and landscapes, establishing bio-enterprises such as beekeeping, ecotourism and in Mount Kulal Biosphere Reserve in Marsabit County and the wider Mukugodo forest landscape in Isiolo and Laikipia Counties to mitigate their vulnerability to climate change.
The Chairman of KEFRI Board of Directors Dr. Sammy Letema, who was the main guest, said the national government through various Ministries, Departments and Agencies is directing its environmental conservation efforts in Marsabit County by conserving 18 gazetted water towers including Marsabit forest, Huri Hills and Mt. Kulal.
Dr. Letema added that restoration of Mt Kulal Biosphere which is globally recognized as forest reserve by UNESCO since 1979, is a step towards increasing the Marsabit County’s forest cover from 1.7 percent to 10 percent as required in the national development plan 2022.
“To ensure the 2 billion tree planting national campaign is achieved, the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment and Forestry Mr. Keriako Tobiko has mandated KFS and KEFRI to register and regulate tree nurseries respectively in a bid to also decentralize seedlings production and availability of quality tree seeds countywide, which is crucial in the achievement of the 10% tree cover by 2022,” said Dr. Letema.
Dr. Letema over saw distribution of 600 grafted fruit trees of avocado, oranges and mangoes to the communities to plant on their farms and seeds to raise approximately 200,000 seedlings in the community nursery and 20 bee hives. During the exercise, 8,235 trees (7,635 indigenous trees were planted. “This project is being implemented in Mount Kulal Biosphere Reserve in Marsabit County and other areas in Kenya to support agricultural productivity and safeguard land and other environmental resources vulnerable to climate change,” stated FAO - Natural Resources Governance Progamme Leader Mr. Phillip Kisoyan.
The overall objective of the project is to restore deforested and degraded lands and enhance the socioeconomic development of local communities. He commended the community for conserving the forest for 16 generations, noting that FAO is strengthening institutional capacity and empowering communities in the development of bio-enterprises as alternative livelihoods.
Mt. Kulal forest is currently managed by the local community through Wazee wa Mazingara and CFA-comprising 26 groups. With support from the National Museum of Kenya (NMK) and other agencies the locals are developing a management plan expected to govern the 51,436 hectares of forest comprising transition zone, buffer zone and core zone, the three tires forming Mt. Kulal Biosphere, according to Mr. Patrick Maundu, a lead ethno-botanist at the National Museums of Kenya.
Mt. Kulal has abundance of Carrisa edulis popularly known as "Loliondo" a herbal and a cedar tree that to survive the harsh conditions of Mt. Kulal “The project through the technical inputs of National Museums of Kenya has developed a 5-year management plan (KFMP 2021-2025) that is to be launched soon. This plan aims at directly restoring about 4000 ha - deforested and degraded lands within the ecosystem and establishing bio-enterprise such as ecotourism, nature trail and camping sites,” further stated Mr. Maundu
The event was graced by other stakeholders including National Museums of Kenya (NMK), NEMA, KFS, Kenya Water Towers Agency, North Rangelands Trust (NRT), the County Government of Marsabit, Isiolo, Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Northern Rangelands Trust, Lake Turkana Wind Power Company, Kenya Police Service, County Commissioners Office, local community, NGOs and CBOs.
Dr. Letema reminded the meeting that the MOEF is bracing to make history globally by planting 2 billion trees by 2022. He implored the Kenyans to take responsibility and plant and protect trees during this rainy season. Other state agencies also pledged beehives and different kinds of support including capacity building of the community to undertake forest management plan, tree nurseries, ecotourism and other suitable forest based enterprises.