NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 25 – The government has issued a directive to the Nyayo Tea Zone Development Corporation (NTZDC) to stop further plantation of the contentious eucalyptus trees in the 11,000 hectares zone.
Agriculture Permanent Secretary Romano Kiome said on Monday that the corporation had until June next year to uproot all the eucalyptus trees it had planted to conserve water catchment areas.
“We have asked them(NTZDC) not to be involved in planting any more eucalyptus but only plant indigenous trees and its true they had a lot of eucalyptus especially around Mt Kenya,” the PS told Capital News at the opening of an International conference on Agro forestry.
Last week, in an exclusive interview with Capital News, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) questioned the viability of the Nyayo Tea Zones saying they had contributed to the massive destruction of Kenya’s woodlands.
Some critics have said that only 25 percent of the 11,000 hectares was being used for the intended purpose – tea growing, while the rest had gone to eucalyptus plantation and illegal allocation.
Dr Kiome said: “We have been having a problem especially in places like Mau forest and the Cherangany hills because some of the Nyayo Tea Zone was taken over by individuals who make it difficult to manage and therefore they just walk all over the Nyayo tea zones.”
Although he was in agreement with the KFS that in some areas the tea zones had extended beyond the acceptable 100 metres into the forest he said in other areas the tea zones were up to 70 percent successful.
“Where it has not worked is because the communities are hard to manage and don’t follow the regulation,” he said.
World Agro forestry Centre Director General Dennis Garrity said although agriculture is often associated with massive deforestation, a new study by the centre revealed that agricultural lands have a tree cover exceeding 10 percent.
“This has now given us more evidence of the importance of trees on farm and the role farmers play in addressing climate change,” he said.
The study is the first of its kind and reveals that on more than one billion hectares which makes up 46 percent of the world’s farmlands, tree cover exceeds 10 percent.
Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai said the current environmental degradation affecting the country including loss of major lakes cannot be blamed entirely on climate change.
She said this was the culmination of many years of bad practises.
“When you get sick of any disease, it’s partly because you have become so vulnerable that the disease causes you to succumb,” she said.
“These things don’t happen overnight and sometimes that’s the tragedy of environmental degradation, it happens very slowly and usually the generation that causes the degradation is not the generation that experiences the problems,” added the Nobel Laureate.
She also criticised a government’s decision to reintroduce the infamous shamba system where people are allowed to occupy forest land but at the same time plant trees.
Professor Maathai said the gazetted forests had to be protected under all circumstances and the best way to do so was not to allow people back to the forests.
The shamba system has been reintroduced under the new name of Pelis programme and according to the Kenya Forest Service was being carried out only in plantations.
“We are dealing with the same people that were actually responsible for the destruction of forests in this country therefore to allow them to go back into these forested areas to continue a system that we know was partly responsible for the destruction of our forests is short sighted,” said the Nobel Laureate.
“Nobody in this country has the capacity to police the forests anymore.”
PS Kiome echoed the same sentiments and said the Pelis Programme was unsustainable.
The week-long international meeting brings together about 1,000 experts from around the globe to discuss the importance of trees on farms for humanity’s survival.