According to the Kisii County Department of Forestry, the total forest cover in the county is approximated at 228.4 hectares, which is about 2.62 percent of the total land area.
Despite efforts by the department to increase the forest cover from the current 228.4 hectares to about 500 hectares, there has been a reduction in the forest cover over time.
Reports from the Global Forest Watch indicate that Kisii County lost 39.2 hectares of its natural forest in the year 2021.
This can be attributed to the high rate of urbanisation in the region and the high population brought about by the devolved functions of the county government.
In a bid to boost forest cover in Kisii, a section of Kenyenya sub-county youth farmers have started planting trees on their farms.
Lazarus Nyasaka is one of the farmers who has about two acres of farm covered mostly in blue gum, Cyprus and eucalyptus trees which are intercropped with other crops.
Nyasaka said that he grows the trees mostly for commercial purposes because trees have several uses in day-to-day activities like being a source of firewood, building materials, or making timber.
The 28-year-old man noted that planting trees is a long-term project if one depends on the trees as an income-generating activity. “I planted these trees about six months ago, however, I will reap its benefits in five to ten years to come,” said Nyasaka.
He pointed out that whenever he cuts the trees, he usually replaces them with two or three trees in order to protect his land from soil erosion.
The farmer buys blue gum seedlings for Sh5 each whereas Cyprus and eucalyptus cost Sh10 each and plants the seedlings during the rainy season once he has prepared the land for a period of one week.
Nyasaka said that trees require regular pruning for the first six months and they are supposed to be protected from destruction by animals. “In today’s market, one tree costs about Sh.27000 and tree farming and maintenance is cheap,” the farmer adds.
Jacob Ogari, another farmer from the same sub county, also has a half-acre farm where he has planted the blue gum and indigenous trees.
The farmer gets tree seedlings from cut trees which he grows in a nursery before transferring them to a prepared farm.
Ogari urged other tree farmers to fence their farms in order to protect the trees from animal disruption adding that trees have various uses like beautification, climate protection and commercial purposes.
The farmer stated that he faces various challenges like attacks by bacteria and diseases which dry the whole tree. He also noted that during the dry season, trees will not grow unless they are watered in the morning and evening.
Ogari said that in five years, he will be able to earn an income by selling the trees to Kenya Power to utilise them as electricity poles.
“I advise Kisii residents to plant more trees because more schools and factories are coming up and they will require firewood to run them. In a short time, the demand will be more than the supply,” he pointed out.
Similar to Nyasaka, he noted that after cutting down a tree, he replaces it with at least three tree seedlings to avoid deforestation and keep a steady flow of income over a long period of time.
Ogari said that one tree cost about Sh.25000 to Sh30000 in today’s market and he expects the price to increase over time.
Another farmer, Kelvin Sadala, also grows pine, blue gum and Cyprus trees with other fruits like avocados and guavas.
The 21-year-old farmer prunes his trees regularly on his half-acre farm and hopes to benefit from the sale of the trees over a ten-year period.
The National Forest Resources Assessment (2021) indicates that Kenya has a forest cover of about 7.1 million hectares and the country is working towards achieving at least 10 percent forest cover.
Currently, the national government through the Forest agencies and county governments are working to promote tree planting in the communities in order to fulfill the constitutional demand of 10 percent forest cover as per the 2015 National Forest Policy.