Wednesday, October 23, 2019

National Youth Service Director General Matilda Sakwa (Left) and Food and Agriculture Organization Country Representative Dr. Gabriel Rugalema when they launched a tree planting exercise at the NYS Gilgil

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) , will partner with the National Youth Service in training 60,000 recruits on growing trees on farms that can provide farmers with food, income, fodder and medicines as well as enriching the soil and conserving water.

Speaking during a tree planting exercise at the National Youth Service Training College at Gilgil in Nakuru, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Country Representative in Kenya, Dr. Gabriel Rugalema, noted that, such an improved understanding, will be essential for formulating strategies towards biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture in the country, saying that, his organization will be working closely with NYS to ensure the youth are equipped with agro forestry skills, in bid to promote fruit tree plantations of mangoes, avocadoes, guavas among others,  which are a source of food and self-employment saying that,forests provide vital ecosystem services across the country and safeguarding them for future generations is of paramount importance.

The FAO Country Representative, who was accompanied by National Youth Service Director General, Matilda Sakwa observed that, policy makers should not place agriculture and forestry in opposition to each other, noting  that, in many political and scientific spheres within the continent, the role was misunderstood, under-estimated and not adequately considered in policy decisions that are related to food security and nutrition, and called on Policy makers to place special emphasis on the role of forests in supporting food security and nutrition, saying that, with food security and nutrition high on the agenda in Kenya, it is crucial to understand the contribution of forests and trees to a food secure and nutrition-sensitive future.

Speaking during the same function, the National Youth Service Director General, Matilda Sakwa observed that, forests and trees help to mitigate climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and storing carbon. They also help to reduce the vulnerability of people to climate change by providing food and other ecosystem services during critical periods of climate driven food shortages, noting that, without forests, the vital ecosystem service provided by birds and insects would be diminished, resulting in increased food security concerns.

Spelling out the primacy of trees, Ms. Sakwa observed that, in some areas in the country, forests were important to the survival of forest-dwellers, particularly many indigenous peoples, saying that, forests are important in providing ecosystem services, including maintaining or restoring soil fertility, protecting watersheds and water courses, and pointed out that, for most of the year, herders in arid and semi-arid lands depended on trees as a source of fodder for their livestock, and noted that, sustainable management of natural resources could transform forests into direct source of food, fuel, employment and cash income.

In support of the clarion call by the Government to surpass the 10 percent tree cover by 2022, the NYS Director General noted that, her institution had planted 10 million trees in its 22 training and holding units countrywide, and said that, the NYS was working on a joint collaboration with FAO to put up a programme, that will encourage youth self-employment in agribusiness, aquaculture and animal husbandry ventures towards improving food security in the Country. “At the Gilgil Training College we planted 10,000 tree seedlings to support the National government’s greening program. In future, we intend to rope in health facilities, schools and county governments in the tree planting program that we started last year,” she said.

“Food security also means improving purchasing power of Kenyans, so that they can be able to put a meal on the table. NYS is committed to empowering the youth to have skills that will enable them to be self-employed and empower them financially,” she stated. The DG noted that, the challenge facing Kenya today is how to meet the mounting demand for food from a growing population with a diminishing resource base and said the NYS would continue partnering with FAO in improving agroforestry systems in the country that contribute to food security, nutrition and livelihoods.

 

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