Vihiga County will benefit from an environment and water catchment conservation programme funded by the European Union at a cost of Kshs 120 million.
County Executive Committee member for Environment, Water and Natural Resources Prof Inonda Mwanje said the Landscapes Conservation and Livelihood Improvement (LaCoLI) programme will be undertaken in three years.
Speaking in his office, Mwanje said the project upon completion will adversely help reverse effects of environmental degradation in the county.
He added that the project was part of the main Water Tower Protection and Climate Mitigation and Adaptation (WaTER) programme being funded by EU in 11 counties in the region.
“The decision by EU to accept our request to fund our environmental conservation programme has come at the right time,” said Mwanje.
He added that under the programme key water catchment areas in the County which include Maragoli, Ebusiekwe and Ebuhando hills alongside Kibiri and other related community forests will be rehabilitated.
The former University don explained that Musikhoni- Mwilako, Wopalia-Emukangu,Ekikuyu pan wetlands and Kaimosi dam which have been degraded will be conserved under the project.
He noted that he has prepared a proposal on how the county will execute the project and presented to EU for approval before the release of funds.
Mwanje said the wanton destruction of water catchment areas in Vihiga such as forests by residents who encroach on them was worrying.
He added that as a result, the County has started experiencing effects of climate change occasioned by indiscriminate deforestation of indigenous tree species on hilltops, water catchments and riparian areas.
“The situation has led to an increase in stormwater intensity causing massive gully soil erosion, destruction of river banks coupled with siltation of wetlands and reduced quality and quantity of water discharge from springs,” he explained.
He blamed all this on human encroachment, sand and marram excavation and gold mining at some parts of the county.
Mwanje noted that communities will be involved in the conservation programme to avoid conflicts and make it sustainable.
“In my proposal, I want the communities living in the water catchment areas were are targeting in the programme to own the exercise for the intended goals to be achieved,” he explained.
He added: “By ensuring environmental sustainability we will involve women, youths, minority groups, people living with disabilities and local communities living in the project areas.”
He added that the programme will focus on building the capacity of beneficiaries and target groups to sustain public participation in environmental conservation.
Mwanje assured donors that resources put in the project will be managed well adding that he will ensure that transparency prevailed while undertaking the programme.