EARTH DAY – Tuesday, 22nd April 2008
TREE PLANTING AT KARURA FOREST Nairobi Kenya
Kenya is endowed with a variety of trees which are of paramount importance to the forest cover and its significance to the water catchments. The importance of forests in Kenya's economy is critical, as fuel wood contributes 90% of the domestic demand in energy, and 75% of the national energy consumption. Approximately 2.7% of Kenya's land area is forested, 10% of which (about 160,000 ha) is covered with industrial plantations, consisting mainly of cypress, cupressus lusitanica; pines, pinus patula and pinus radiata; and eucalypts. Forests are also source for timber, pulpwood and poles and of vital importance as water catchments areas, earth stabilizers, and habitat for wildlife.
The Kenya forest service has done quite a lot in ensuring that the local communities are involved in forest conservation matters. This is through the community forest areas whereby the community members are sensitized to know that the forest is part of them and therefore, they should proactively take part in its development. Rapid population growth has exerted heavy pressure on forested land through conversion into human settlement areas and agriculture. Demand on forest products and services have increased tremendously. Trees have been also lost to illegal felling, insects and diseases, and frequent forest fires.
The day started when we set off towards Karura Forest after converging in Nairobi town. It was raining heavily so we had to wait for the rains to subdue. We arrived at the Forestry Department at 9am in the morning and we were met by Mr. Obam Lewis, the Forest Officer. The officer organized all tree planting equipments which included the Jembes, Pangas, Spades, and the Rakes. After taking enough tree planting equipments we set off for the Tree Planting site at Karura Forest. It had rained so heavily, that it was almost impossible to reach the designated site. However, our spirits were high and we wanted to achieve our objective of planting 1,000 trees and consequently contribute positively to environmental conservation which is in line with millennium development goal (MDG) number 7.
On arriving we found community members had arrived much earlier and this was very encouraging to us. The community members were from the neighbouring Huruma community.
They had come in large numbers and they included children as young as seven (7) years, women and men who were all dedicated to achieve the objective of the World Earth day. To begin with, Mr. Lewis showed the youth and community members how to plant the trees and the best way to remove the seedlings from the plastic bags.
We divided ourselves into three groups and started the noble task. Each one of us had a role to play. We planted the trees with high enthusiasm and good speed because we knew that the rains would fall any time. The children on their part were very useful because they brought the seedlings to the holes dug by the forest officers a day before. In addition to this; some children were strong enough to plant ten trees each, which was good because it instilled a sense of conservation amongst the young kids. Though we were a small number due to the challenge of heavy rains, we managed to plant over 800 trees on one day in Karura Forest.
Trees planted included; Croton Megalocarpus, Podo, Nandi Flame and other indigenous trees.
Planting trees with the local community members is very important since in conservation work, community participation is the most preferred instrument. This is due to the fact that, it inculcates a sense of ownership and management on the trees planted and consequently they protect the trees planted for they understand that they are their own.
Trees have many uses in Kenya and other parts of the World. In Kenya, the 1988 reports shown that demand for timber increased three-fold over a 25-year period, starting in the late 1980s. It was feared that, unless significant changes were made in the timber producing and processing industry, there will be a strong reliance on large imports of timber and timber products to meet growing domestic demand. It became necessary to develop sustainable forest management plans. According to Mr. Lewis (Forest Officer) the main challenges in forest conservation are during the planting season and the forest fires.
During the planting season, much effort is needed to plant the required number of trees and community participation is very essential. During the dry season, forest fires break in many areas. This has a negative impact on the total forest cover and subsequently on the water catchments areas. In line with this, more trees should be planted in order to avert the dangers of the climate change, provide shelter for the birds, food to the wildlife, food to people and other uses.
Passion for the environment and compassion for people are the powerful motivating forces in the community based organizations such as Green Warriors Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations such as Youth for Conservation and the Youth Environment Network Zambia, for their invaluable contribution towards the conservation of our precious biodiversity.
Local communities such as Huruma should also be encouraged to conserve the flora and fauna. This could be effectively achieved through Eco-Tourism approaches whereby the community members will benefit directly from the forest and at the same time, it will evolve as a complete solution to the wide spread destruction of forest in Kenya.
This strategy if well implemented rationally spearheads a process of wealth creation, job creation and improved conservation, all specifically in the rural areas where poverty abounds and peoples needs are so great. This is no small undertaking. Can you imagine replanting the whole of the Sahara desert with trees! The task in hand is enormous but together we will make a difference. Well to surmise it all; we kindly request you as a young or old person to plant one or two trees, save Kenya, Zambia and the Planet from Environmental Degradation.
Billy Mwansa Lombe
Youth Environment Network –Zambia
p.o Box 30865, Lusaka, Zambia.