International Day of Forests (IDF) is a global event celebrated annually on 21st March. Its purpose is to raise awareness on the importance of all types of trees and woodlands as resources for environmental, social and economic benefits. The IDF was proclaimed in 2012 by the UN General Assembly to encourage its member Countries to undertake local, national and international efforts by organizing activities that encourage conservation of forests such as tree growing.

The IDF 2019 was commemorated in Bondo Teachers Collage in Siaya County, under the theme “Forests and Education”. The event was observed in Siaya owing to its low forest cover and to which various leaders attributed to wanton destruction of trees and negative perceptions about trees.

National Environmental Complaints Committee attended the IDF and interacted with 600 people including participants from other agencies, local leaders, students from various learning institutions and the general public. 600 brochures were issued to the aforementioned people. Additionally, 15 complaint forms were issued to record environmental complaints which will be sent via the office mail.

The following were in attendance:

Mr. Keriako Tobiko    CS Ministry of Environment and Forestry

Mr. Cornel Rasanga    Governor of Siaya County;

Mr. Gideon Ochanda Area MP

Government Agencies including Environmental Complaints Committee KWS, KFS, Water Towers, NeTFUND, National Environmental Management Authority among others and County Government of Siaya and its Administration.

The following were recorded from the events’ proceedings

Governor Siaya County, Mr.Cornel Rasanga

  • The County has 17 hills covering an area of 1800 ha of land and are forested. However, the forests are not gazzeted hence not protected.
  • Called on Ministry of Environment and Forestry to intervene in the matter so as to ensure the forests are managed and conserved.
  • Restoring the hills with tress will play a vital role in contributing to the forest cover from the current 0.45 per cent
  • The County had already signed the Forests Transition Implementation plan (FTP) with the Kenya Forest Service that aims to transfer the management of forest resources from the National Government to the County Government
  • Encouraged communities to plant trees in their farms for personal contributions to tree Cover

CS Ministry of Environmentt and Forestry, Mr. Keriako Tobiko

  • There is need for sensitization of the community and school-going children on importance of trees and adoption of tree growing instead of mere tree plating
  • Siaya County Government should initiate the gazzetment of the 17 hills in the County that urgently require reforestation.
  • By restoring the hills with tress, it will be a step in the right direction to increasing the forest cover from the current 0.45 per cent
  • The CS pledged that his Ministry would work closely with the County alongside other conservationists in management and conservation of forests.
  • Tasked Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) to conduct aerial seeing of the hills to effect afforestation once the gazzetment process was completed.
  • He called upon all public and corporate institutions to heed the Presidential directive that 10 percent of their land be put under trees, in an effort to achieve the internationally recommended tree cover.
  • He challenged the Ministry of Interior officials led by the County Commissioners to prioritize tree planting in their development coordination roles, as directed recently by the president.

The County Commissioner; Mr. Michael Tialal

  • The Ministry of Interior has been in liaison with the County Government through the established County Environmental Committee to identify Environmental issues facing the County, low forest cover being one of them and how to improve them.
  • That mechanisms were being put in place to increase forest coverage including planting 12,000 seedlings of trees in all learning institutions in the past year. However, more need to be planted to reach the set target of 20,000 trees.
  • Commended women in the County since most tree nurseries in the area are owned by women. In this light, he encouraged all administrators of learning institutions to have their own tree nurseries.
  • Office of Interior will work to ensure all fallen trees have permits
  • Mass education on importance of trees will be conducted through public barazas; and
  • He is closely following on gold mining projects in the County to ensure the activity does not degrade he environment in any way.

The Area MP Mr. Gideon Ochanda

  • Lack of trees in the County is due to lack of conservation of trees.
  • Trees grown in closed off/ fenced areas like churches, learning institutions, Chief Camps, Hospitals and County Administrative Offices relatively do well compared to those planted in open areas or in farms.
  • Encouraged the community to plant trees in such protected areas to increase forest cover. Signed the transition implementation plan for the 3 counties

KFS Representative; Mr. Wandera

  • The Ministry should to adopt tree growing instead of tree planting to ensure survival of the latter
  • He discouraged construction of Dams within forests as they are affecting growth and maintenance of forests. He recommended that alternative sites be identified for citing such large projects to reduce its blueprint effects.