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Thursday, 23 February 2012

Youths take the lead in environment conservation

By David Kiarie

When a group of residents from Ririchua village of Sipili location in Laikipia West district came together one year ago, they had a sole intention of conserving a local dam.

The community wanted some of its own people to take care of the dam and therefore entrusted the youths with that responsibility.

 But after assuming their duty to man the water mass, Ririchua youth group realized that as members of the community, they could benefit more from the dam and decided to start horticultural farming within the expansive dam compound. 

The group secretary who also doubles up as the village elder Jonah Mbuthi said they started tree nurseries where they sowed vegetables and fruits and used the dam water to irrigate the nurseries.

“Besides watering our animals and fetching water for domestic use, we realized that we could use the dam to irrigate crops and so we planted vegetables that included cabbages, spinach and kales,” Mbuthi said during a ceremony to mark one year since the group was registered with the department of social services.

The group with a membership of close to 100 people also propagates tree seedlings and managed to produce over 7,000 tree of different species last year, which they distributed to eight local schools, the community, the Green belt movement and the group members. The trees included Cyprus, Eucalyptus, Gravellier, Bottlebrush and passion fruits.

The group is a member of Sipili community forest association {CFA} and advocates for tree planting and environmental conservation.

The members are undergoing training on climate change mitigation and adaptation by a local non-governmental organization, Tree is Life Trust.

Besides that, the fisheries department donated 1,000 fingerings of tilapia to the group. They however have not been able to harvest since the dam is about 15 feet deep and the group lacks fishing equipment like nets and a boat.

Lariak community forest association chairman Paul Nyutu said he would provide a boat and lifesaver jackets to the group whenever they want to harvest the already mature fish.

 This year, Mbuthi said the group plans to restock the dam with 1,000 fingerings of mudfish to check the population of tilapia fish at the dam.

Fisheries officer Muriithi Macharia also promised to provide the group with boats, lifesaver jackets and nets as well as equip them with fish farming skills.

They too intend to plant 50,000 trees including avocado, mangoes, red cinder and olive trees by the beginning of long rains in March and April this year.

“ We want to ensure that our village is well forested and we are glad the community is embracing the tree planting culture,” the group secretary said.

Other plans include buying a water pump, buying own piece of land, establishing a demonstration garden and getting training on grafting of fruit trees.

Individual members of the group are also encouraged to start poultry and goat rearing.

The group which enjoys the backing of different government departments like that of agriculture, livestock and the provincial administration has benefitted from technical skills and farm inputs like wheelbarrow, spades and watering cans from government organs.

A member of the Green Belt Movement from Sipili David Karanja who is also a member of ALIN’s Ng’arua Maarifa Centre focal group called on the community to conserve the environment saying climate change had negatively affected crop yields in the area.

“Last year we planted towards the month of June because the long rains which normally fall in March and April failed to come in time,” Karanja said.

A visiting stakeholder from Italy Fausto Gardumi who was accompanied by her schooling daughter Catelina Gardumi called on the residents to mitigate climate change saying the future of environment was in their own hands.

Another stakeholder from Somalia Saleeda Cali called for women participation in environment conservation saying their input in development matters in Africa cannot be under estimated.

On his part, Tree is life trust vice director Martin Mwangi said his organization is implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation project with 25 groups in both Laikipia and Nyandarua counties. 8 of the groups are from Laikipia.

Mwangi who recently visited Italy for an international training on development cooperation at the community, government and partners level said it was unfortunate that Kenya’s forest cover stands at 1.7 per cent against the internationally recommended standards of 10 per cent.

He said Italy has a forest cover of 48 per cent adding that Kenyans have a lot to borrow from the European country.

“If we use the available resources and opportunities, we have a chance to reverse the environment situation in Kenya,” said the TILT head.

He said while Laikipia county was arid and semi arid, there are plenty of resources and called on the residents to change their attitude and approach to environment and development issues.

“You should start by ensuring election of visionary leaders who have development issues at heart during the next general elections,” Mwangi advised.

Lariak community forest association chairman Paul Nyutu urged the community to conserve the neighbouring Lariak forest and avoid cutting down trees, use of power saws, burning charcoal and lighting fire especially during this dry period to avoid burning the forest.

Nyutu instead urged the locals to use alternative fuel like biogas and energy saving jikos, which have proved to be environment friendly.

Sipili livestock officer Peter Mukono said his ministry would teach fodder production to the group members. Mukono further cautioned them against Newcastle disease especially during this dry and dusty spell promising to teach the locals on immunization against the poultry disease.

The sipili divisional agricultural officer James Kamau advised the group to plant mango seedlings revealing that local farmers buy them all the way from Embu, in Eastern province with each seedling going for Ksh. 100.

“By the time the seedlings arrive here, some of them are wounded and as a result  do not survive after being planted,” he said advising the group to take advantage of the dam and the land around it to propagate mangoes for supply to the local farmers.

Kamau further advised the Ririchua youth group members to have their tree nursery registered with the government in order to ensure their products are certified and to enhance the market of the seedlings.

He also called on the locals to harvest rain water to use for irrigation during dry seasons.

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