NAKURU, Kenya, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Large-scale growing of drought tolerant tree species that have multiple uses in the arid and semi-arid areas (ASALs) will enable Kenyan communities to mitigate against negative effects of climate change, a research scientist at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) said on Thursday.
Angela Muthama, KEFRI's research scientist in forest pathology and mycology, said planting trees that provide shade and produce timber at the same time can increase soil fertility in the dry regions while boosting communities' revenue streams.
"Communities in the ASALs face great challenges from the prolonged drought periods. Soils in these areas are also relatively poor and mostly sandy hence drain very fast and crack when dry making agriculture difficult," Muthama told Xinhua during an interview in Nakuru.
She said that through research, Kefri has developed technologies and recommended multipurpose drought tolerant tree species for planting and the uptake has been very high especially in the eastern parts of the country.
"Kenya's landmass has been classified as over 400 percent arid and semi-arid; this means that the bigger part of our land resources are not arable unless there is adoption of hydroponics, fertilizer use in green houses and intensive agriculture under irrigation," said Muthama.
"For this reason, communities in ASALs can increase their soil fertility and provide shade for their crops by planting trees on their farms," Muthama noted.
She noted that farmers record increased productivity and diversify their sources of income when they grow trees on their farms.
Muthama said scientists at National Forest Products Research Program continue to train farmers on adding value to fruits from trees such as Tamarind and Vitex payos.
While Kenya's environment and natural resources management agencies strive to restore the degraded forest ecosystems, the scientist said natural forest reduction is the most pronounced degradation in the country due to fires, human encroachment and impact of diseases and pests.
"The losses incurred from this degradation include loss of biodiversity which cannot be quantified in monetary value but has cascaded effects," said Muthama.
With the changing climate previously non-threatening insect pests are becoming epidemics in the Kenyan forests and farms, a case in point being the last year's attack on maize plantations.
Muthama, however, noted that illegal logging in the forest plantations leads to 400 million U.S. dollar revenue.
On curbing forest degradation, she said there is need for extensive collaboration between Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and law enforcement agencies to ensure effective implementation of laws and policies related to management of this ecosystem.
At the sane time, Muthama emphasized that faster prosecution of illegal loggers would deter attempts to destroy forests.
"On the other hand, massive reforestation needs to be carried out in the coming years," said Muthama.
"That is to plant trees where they have been harvested and where there were none. This will help the country recover from previous degradation and help mitigate against climate change effects," she added.
The Kenyan government in February banned logging in all public forests in order to protect water towers which are the lifeblood of millions of farmers, pastoralists and fishermen.