The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has played down the widely spread report indicating that Kakamega forest was on brink of depletion due to illegal human activities and ventures in the forest. Speaking at Lumakanda sports grounds in Lugari Sub County during celebrations to mark this year’s International Forest Day, the Ecosystem conservator Kakamega county, Mr Martin Mamati termed the report as baseless, arguing that KFS is alert and has managed to curb illegal logging in the rainforest by over 98%.
“Maybe there might be one or two cases of destruction, where illegal loggers might sneak in without our knowledge and cut trees, my appeal to residents leaving near the forest is to take quick action and report such people for appropriate action to be taken against them,”
He said recent satellite images show that the forest has steadily regenerated between 2002 and 2017. However, he said currently there was an ongoing plantation management activity in the forest which involves harvesting of mature trees and this shouldn’t be mistaken for destruction.
He said there were many trees which have lasted more than 5 decades and a legal procedure was followed before the felling exercise commenced in order to create space for the planting of new seedlings.
“We are saying, what is going on in Kakamega forest is normal harvesting, there’s harvesting going on in plantation areas that are designated. We have a plan in place which informs us which areas are to be harvested, then which areas we are going to re-establish plantations. So there is nothing like illegal cutting of trees in Kakamega forest,” explained the official.
Elsewhere, Mamati disclosed that KFS was set to embark on a serious reforestation exercise to ensure all gazetted forestland was under tree cover.
He said the department has projected a total of 450 hectares plantation establishment, 100 hectares to be rehabilitated, 10 hectares of water catchment area to be protected through planting of indigenous species and another 2 hectares to be put under bamboo within
He, however, said the region had made big strides towards attaining the international requirement of 10 percent tree cover, saying currently, it stands at 9.9% with Bungoma county leading with 14.86% followed by Vihiga at 14% then Kakamega at 9.81% while Busia county trails at 1.1%.
Echoing the same sentiments, the region’s deputy head of conservancy Mr John Rono said with the changing weather conditions, residents should take to aggressive reforestation
campaigns to combat the threat.
“It’s upon all of us as major stakeholders to ensure that we conserve the environment in small ways to propel the government realise its goal of achieving 10% of forest cover,” he pointed out.
He advised farmers with farm holdings of an acre to plant at least 64 seedlings and those with half an acre to do 32, adding that it will add to 10% of their holdings.
“Besides ensuring environmental conservation, the trees will also provide stable incomes and improve poverty levels,” he advised.
Rono called on residents to optimally cooperate with field forest officers to avoid unwarranted confrontations while executing their mandate.
Kakamega county CEC in charge of Water, Environment and Natural Resources Robert Sumbi who graced the celebration reiterated the County government’s commitment towards improving the environment, promising to work closely with the KFS.
He said the county government had rolled out a program where over 200,000 seedlings are set to be planted in schools and other public places every year.