The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry Mr. Keriako Tobiko spearheaded a tree planting exercise at Kirisia Water Tower in Samburu County as the year ended. The event that took place just before the curtail fell on 2019, followed a voluntary exit of 10,000 illegal settlers that had lived in the forest for more than three decades. During the week-long event that culminated in the launch on 30th December 2019, a total of 11,000 seedlings were planted.
“I laud the residents for deciding to voluntarily leave this critical water tower that is a source of ten rivers and of utmost importance to the Ewaso Nyiro Ecosystem’, CS Tobiko said. In an unprecedented move, the settlers led by the Community Forest Associations and officers from Kenya Forest Service, made a collective decision to support conservation of Kirisia Water Tower.
CS Tobiko gave a 30-day notice to settlers that had not left the water tower and emphasized that by January 31st, 2020, all settlers should have left or be evicted as was the case in the Maasai Mau Water Tower. He further directed the Chief Conservator of Forests Mr Julius Kamau to provide additional four lorries to assist settlers ferry their goods out of the water tower. This was in addition to two other lorries from the Kenya Police and Kenya Forest Service that were already in the site. Kirisia Water Tower covers an area of 92,000 hectares making it one of the largest water towers in Kenya.
On the issue of boundary realignment that had been requested by the local leaders, Mr Tobiko directed Kenya Forest Service to start the exercise in the first week of January 2020. This will sort out a boundary dispute between conservation agencies and the local community.
To enhance community livelihood activities and reinforce conservation of Kirisia Water Tower, Kenya Water Towers in 2018 donated 435 beehives and honey refinery equipment to Samburu Beekeepers Association. During the event, the Agency pledged another 200 beehives while Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Forestry Research Institute pledged 140 and 10 beehives respectively. In addition, Kenya Water Towers committed to provide 50,000 seedlings, Kenya Forest Service 300,000 seedlings and Kenya Forestry Research Institute promised to provide seeds that can produce up to 100,000 seedlings. As part of building capacity of the locals in conservation matters and empowering the community, the CS directed Kenya Forest Service to train community scouts and recruit qualified ones as rangers. The Service will also enhance surveillance by adding more rangers and establishing two more stations in Kirisia Water Tower.
“As an Agency, our focus is water towers conservation with an emphasis on community livelihood activities that ease pressure from the water tower. One of such activities in Samburu County is beekeeping”, Susan Boit speaking on behalf of the Ag. Director General, Kenya Water Towers Agency.
The rehabilitation of Kirisia Water Tower is an initiative driven by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and supported by Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Water Towers Agency, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, County Government of Samburu, FAO Kenya, Green Belt Movement among other partners.
Local leaders from the County Government of Samburu led by Deputy Governor HE Julius Leseeto, Women Representative Hon Maison Leshoomo, Samburu West MP Hon. Naisula Lesuuda, Maralal Ward MCA Hon Fred Kiragu among others attended the event and pledged full support in Kisiria Water Tower Conservation.
Samburu County boasts of four key gazetted water towers in the country namely: Kirisia Hills, Mathews Range, Mt Nyiru and Ndotos. The County’s tree cover is 12.8% which is fairly good compared with 30 counties that are below 10% tree cover. The President has set a target for Kenya to achieve 10% tree cover by 2022 up from the current 7.2%. This means that 1.8 billion trees must be plated in the next three years.