By Eastern Correspondent
Peasant farmers who were allowed to cultivate crops in a section of the crucial Ontulili forest in Buuri and the Imenti forest have helped conserve them.
The farmers who grow potatoes and peas in small parcels as they are also facilitated to grow indigenous trees in the Karuri forest, a 100-hectare block of Ontulili.
The farmers have completed planting 300,000 indigenous tree seedlings at Karuri, even as they grow mainly potatoes to sustain their families.
Ontulili Community Forest Association’s Antony Mwenda and Wilson Mugaa said the farmers are supplied with seedlings to plant every season.
“We take care of the trees we plant to maturity. Our aim is to play our part in reclaiming the forest, an important wetland for this region,” said Mr. Mwenda.
Mr. Mugaa said allowing the landless to grow crops and tend to tree seedlings had led to enhanced forest reclamation and conservation.
“All the seedlings are indigenous and include rosewood, red cedar, and olive. Once a particular area has been reclaimed and restored, we move to another degraded patch and plant more trees,” he said.
“There are young who we have given portions to grow potatoes and now they have bought motorbikes which have addressed unemployment. They did not have land to do farming so involving them in planting trees as they do it has worked wonders,” distributed to over 500 farmers. This is the best system of increasing the forest cover and conserving it. 95 percent of 300, 000 seedlings he provided recently were successful,” said Mwenda.
Naftaly Mwirigi said the shamba system where the government allows them to grow crops in the forest as they conserve it by planting trees, was a ‘win-win’ for all.
“I have a very little piece of land at home which cannot produce enough to pay school fees and support my children. Now I am able to get at least 40 bags weighing 90 kilograms from my quarter of acre here,” said Mwirigi.
With Mwirigi selling one bag at Sh2,500 at current rates he is able to provide his family’s needs.
He says so far he had planted hundreds of tree seedlings in Karuri even as he grows crops on parcels he has been allocated.
The farmers are watchful around the forest and have previously arrested suspected loggers and handed them to the police.
“This is an effective way to grow and conserve the Karuri forest,” he stated.
Japhet Ndiira is one of the successful farmers as he grows garden peas on half an acre at Karuri.
The system has been replicated in Ngaya forest in Igembe Central.
In Tharaka Nithi thousands of members of Atiriri Bururi Ma Chuka Development Trust (LASODET) and other community forest associations have been integral in the conservation of part of Mt Kenya Forest extending into the county.
Embu has not been left behind as community forest associations have taken part in the conservation of the Mt Kenya forest, too