Wednesday, September 28, 2022

According to a report by the Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI), the plant was introduced in Kenya in the 1970s, among other species from South America to rehabilitate the Arid and Semi-Arid Areas (ASALs), due to its resilience, fast growth rate and its many uses for fodder, honey production, shade, windbreak, firewood, building poles among other uses.

On establishment, the tree aggressively invaded areas of indigenous vegetation, and manifested negative impact on rural landscapes as well as on human and livestock health. The largest biomass of Mathenge in Kenya is found in Tana River,Turkana and Baringo counties according to the report. Other areas where it is found are Taita Taveta, Malindi, Samburu, Isiolo, Mandera, Marsabit, Wajir, Kajiado and Migori Counties.

Among other uses apart from those mentioned before, Prosopis pods are valuable source of carbohydrates, sugar and proteins for livestock and, occasionally human population during dry seasons.

Although the plant provides all those benefits, if left unmanaged, it has direct and indirect negative impacts to man and the environment which includes: – Colonization and devastation of critical grazing land, farmlands and rangelands, Blockage of roads, footpaths, human settlement, irrigation canals, river banks and water points and other habitats, death of livestock through over eating of pods (causing indigestion) and occasional tooth decay (due to high sugar content of pods) among others.

Studies of Prosopis growth in Kenya have shown that its invasive, gregarious and powerful colonization characteristics are best manifested in conditions of high water table in such areas as ravines floodplains and swamps. This leads to serious conflict with human activities.

Some of the important wetlands already invaded or with high potential of invation include River Tana Delta, (Tana River County) Lorian Swamp (Isiolo/Garissa Counties) Lengurruahanga swamp (Kajiado) among others.

The potential ecological disaster caused by prosopis invasion on the wetlands ecosystem is demonstrated by the near impossible complete eradication of the species once established.

Kenya Forestry Service KFS and KEFRI have taken numerous measures to address the prosopis menace among them;- Undertaking a National survey to determine the status and impact of prosopis species on livelihoods and on environment, developing a national strategy for the management of prosopis which underlines the management of prosopis through utilization, Soliciting technical support from Food and Agricultural Organization for the United Nations (FAO), (successful pilot project undertaken in Baringo County), to empower local communities in affected areas in mechanical control  through thinning and pruning and killing of stumps, utilization (making various products) and trials in biological control.

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry Keriako Tobiko while visiting some of the most affected areas in Garissa County, advised local residents to tap the benefits from the tree for economic gains and better livelihoods.

Out of the sensitization tour by the CS, local farmers from Fafi and Ijara Constituencies in Garissa County led by their legislators Abdikarim Osman and Sophia Abdi shall be visiting Baringo County, for a familiarization and learning experience on an integrated management and control of Prosopis.




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