Conservation Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Mr. Gideon Gathaara has commended both KEFRI and Japanese scientists involved in breeding program for indigenous trees and more so those growing in the drylands. Mr. Gathaara who represented the PS Margaret Mwakima was speaking during the commissioning of Improved Melia volkensii Seed Processing and Distribution Unit at KEFRI DERP – Kitui on 30th November 2016. The event also marked the launch of a booklet “Guidelines on Production and Distribution System for Improved Melia Seeds and Seedlings in the Drylands of Kenya”.
This Guideline provides information on appropriate practices in tree breeding; seed collection, propagation of improved Melia seedlings; distribution and marketing of improved seed and seedlings for Melia. Target beneficiaries of this Guideline include; County Government’s, opinion leaders, extension agents, public and private institutions involved in natural resource management activities. The guideline will also be useful to producers of improved Melia tree seed and seedlings, and tree growers, hence promoting improved Melia volkensii as a tree enterprise in the drylands.
“KEFRI in partnership with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Forest Tree Breeding Centre of Japan (FTBC) have been implementing a breeding programme of developing drought tolerant and improved Melia volkensii through the Project on Development of Drought Tolerant Tree species for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Drylands of Kenya,” said Dr. Bernard Kigomo, Senior Deputy Director in Research and Development, KEFRI.
“The 5-year project, which started in 2012 and end in June 2017 has attained significant milestones and achievements including development of 22 hectares of improved seed orchards in Kitui and Kibwezi trial sites. These orchards are producing approximately 500 Kg of seeds currently, and is expected to rise to production of 2000 Kg in the near future. These production capacities have afforestation potential of 1,600 ha at the moment, and a future potential of 6,400 ha per year. This will go a long way in meeting rehabilitation and reforestation targets outlined in the recently launched Forest Landscape Restoration Opportunities in Kenya,”added Kigomo.
“In addition, the project will support Kenya in fulfilling its international obligations under the Multilateral Environmental Agreements and specifically, in achieving Kenya’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of rehabilitation and reforestation of 5.1 million ha in support of the Bonn Challenge,” said Gathaara.
The breeding Project in partnership with Farmer Field Schools (FFS), NGOs and public institutions have established more Melia Progeny Tests in Kitui, Tharaka, Embu, Makueni and Taita-Taveta Counties. It is commendable to note that training for users and distributors of improved Melia have commenced and will continue as a means of diversifying stakeholders and dissemination strategies. Women and youth in these counties has benefited with trainings on forest-based enterprises being periodically conducted by KEFRI to provide job opportunities and support socio-economic development.
Kenya is a low forest cover Country and efforts to increase forest cover has been met by several challenges. For instance, in the past forestry interventions have relied on exotic species and mostly in the highlands and expansion of forestry in humid areas is constrained by numerous factors, including intense competition for land between food production and forestry.
“For this reason the increase of forest and tree cover are prioritized in our national development blueprint “Vision 2030” and the Constitution of Kenya 2010. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has operationalized both Vision 2030 and the Constitution through the National Forest Program 2016. The program has prioritized forestry development in the ASALs out of the realization that there is limited potential for forest expansion in the humid areas” Mr. Gathaara added.
Fortunately, the project which is unique, and a pioneer in the region if not in Africa, has developed befitting technology for drylands forestry in Kenya that will assist the nation to realize its 10% forest cover by 2030. Hon. Makali Muli representing Member of Parliament for Kitui Central pledged her County Governments support in tree planting; sensitization of the youth, communities and private sector in her wards to take advantage of Mukau tree and the processing facility.
Mr. Peter Nduati from KFS noted that KEFRI has made a breakthrough in domestication of improved Melia volkensii, one of the most highly valued indigenous tree of dry lands which has been on the verge of extinction due to over exploitation. Data derived from the trial sites will help in elimination of inferior germplasm. Mr. Nduati called upon more stakeholders to join the networks in awareness creation, and marketing of the Improved Melia for large-scale contribution to save Kenyan forests and environment.
At the Melia tree orchard progeny trial in Tiva site, Mr. Gathaara pronounced that tree breeding research by KEFRI indicates a high preference of forest establishment in the drylands within four years. JICA representative Ms. Miharu Furukawa and Kitui Deputy County Commissioner Mr. Otieno Odidi said Japan Government and Kitui County Administration respectively will support the project initiatives.