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Youth participation in conservation encouraged



Nature enthusiasts on Saturday interacted with nature by taking part in competitive yet fun activities in Kereita Forest, which forms part of the larger Aberdare Forest.

During the 8th edition of the Kereita Forest Challenge whose theme for this year was “Our Forests, Our future”, Kiambu Water and Environment executive David Kuria said that the basis for the initiative this year was to encourage the young generations to participate as they get to interact with nature.

“Kiambu County has a myriad of natural resources to be exploited. This event encourages the youth, people from neighbouring counties, private sector and communities in the county to appreciate and conserve this resource,” he said.

Another key objective of the event according to Kuria was enhancing public awareness on the importance of forests and encouraging a sense of responsibility on the management and sustainable use of forests as well as fostering partnerships among stakeholders in forest conservation.

The Forest Challenge which is an initiative of the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) in collaboration with Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) saw Base Titanium emerge as the winners.

This year, 82 teams participated in the event which included 11 obstacles.

EAWLS Executive Director Nancy Ogonje on her part said that the target for this year’s challenge was aimed at raising Ksh 12 million and the resources raised would be put into tree planting initiatives during the 2023 long rain season in May.

“We aim to restore degraded forest cover in the mountain terrain especially in places where we have water catchment areas. With the kind of activities we have been having in terms of tree planning, we are actually supporting the vision of the government. We hope that we can continue in this support with the help of corporate organizations to achieve the 10 per cent forest cover target,” she said.

Ogonje however noted that an announcement would be made in 2023 addressing how much money was raised during the initiative .

Reading a speech on behalf of the Chief Conservator of Forest Julius Kamau, Principal Conservator of Forests Dr Benjamin Kanyili said that so far the Forest Challenge has contributed over 30,000 seedlings which have been used to rehabilitate 27 hectares of degraded areas in the Aberdares and Mau Forests contributing to the absorption of an equivalent of 588.6 metric tonnes of Carbon-dioxide annually.

“Over 2 million Kenya shillings have also been paid directly to local communities for procurement of seedlings and over 200 jobs have been created annually,” he said.

In addition, Dr Kanyili said that the Forest Challenge initiative has further empowered CFAs through purchase of tree seedlings from their indigenous tree nurseries and engaging them in aftercare programs to ensure high survival rates.

Kenya’s forest cover currently stands at 8.3% while the tree cover stands at 12.13% and the government says it is committed to attain a tree cover of more than 30% of the total land area by 2032.

This is because low forest cover only exacerbates the effects of climate change which have been devastating domestically, from rising lakes in the Rift Valley which have seen the displacement of nearly 400,000 people to severe drought and unpredictable rainfall patterns that have disrupted food production and thus increasing food insecurity to conflicts among pastoralist communities fighting for grazing lands.

The Forest Challenge is an initiative that started in 2014 with the objective aimed at creating awareness about forest conservation in the country.

The challenge was initially a walk inside the Kereita Forest to commemorate 50 years and brings corporations to participate and fundraise for conservation.

It was changed in 2016 to Forest Challenge. Since then, the challenge has been an annual event. However, in 2020, the event did not happen due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

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