The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has partnered with community forest associations in a bid to enhance tree cover and conserve forests in the country.
KFS is on a mission to increase the forest cover from the current 7.2 to 10 percent by next year and to achieve this they signed a five-year participatory forest management plan with communities bordering forests.
Addressing the press during the launching of the Participatory Forest Management Plan (PFMP) 2021-2025 at Gongoni in Msambweni Sub- County, the Chief Conservator of Forests Mr Julius Kamau said the plan will offer solutions to many challenges the Service has been facing in greening the country.
The participatory forest management plan, he said, gives communities powers to protect and conserve the forests.
In Kwale, the plan aims to empower communities living near the Gogoni forest to work hand in hand with the Kenya Forest Service in conservation and management of forest resources. More than 5,000 mangrove seedlings were planted to mark the event.
Kamau said the partnership will increase the survival rate of planted trees in the country and encouraged communities surrounding forests to fully embrace the ongoing conservation activities being carried out by both national and county governments.
”The government has been using security officers to protect forests but this has not been effective. With the involvement of the community, we are assured that all planted trees will survive,” he said.
He added that through the agreement, the government will introduce projects like bee-keeping, Eco-tourism, and butterfly farming to offer respective communities alternative means of earning a living instead of cutting down trees.
Kamau noted the ban on logging mangroves along the coastline was still in force and won’t be lifted soon as coastal counties have been experiencing fish scarcity from the Indian Ocean thus posing a major problem to the economy of the region.
”Fish breed well in mangrove trees and if we allow people to cut them then we will be threatening the people who purely depend on fishing for survival,” Kamau said.
He said he had signed an agreement with Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) to plant over two million mangrove trees as compensation for the forest that was cleared to pave way for the construction of the SGR road and Dongo Kundu by-pass in Mombasa and Kwale counties.
Speaking at the function, the chairperson of Gongoni Community Forest Association Abdhallah Bakari welcomed the move by KFS to partner with communities in conserving forests.
Bakari urged the government to support the association members by giving them stipends to sustain their families as they embark on tree planting and conservation.
“We would appreciate if the government recognize us. This task needs concentration, and if the government starts giving us something, then we would be motivated to work even harder,’’ Bakari said.
Project Forest Officer for World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Nathaniel Mwangeka stressed the need for conserving the mangroves in the counties.
He said the organization was implementing the public/private partnership project that will ensure all forest areas are protected for posterity.
Mwangeka said they have been organizing workshops to train tree planting scouts who will offer support to the game rangers in Kwale.
“We have directed lots of resources in this project by taking our scouts to other counties for benchmarking so that they can gain more skills in tree planting and conservation,” he said.