Rehabilitation of over 7,000 hectares of Aberdare and Mt Kenya forests destroyed by fire will begin at the end of March as officials warned that recovery could take years.
Fires in two of the country’s major water towers that mostly affected the moorland part of the forest also burned down indigenous forest, which usually take years to grow.
Over the last three months, bush fires have ravaged the highland forests putting both wildlife and the nation’s water catchment at risk.
The first fire was reported in January and it took three days to contain it leaving the damage at over 6,000 hectares. Officials have since blamed the cause on illegal human activity, which was worsened by prolonged drought.
Nyeri Kenya Forests Service (KFS) Zonal Manager Muchiri Mathinji told the Nation that a rehabilitation programme has already been laid out and will begin at the end of the month.
“Rains are expected at the end of the month and we will begin replanting in the parts that have been destroyed,” said Mr Mathinji.
The service will be depending on tree seedlings at its forest stations.
“Water levels have been low which was expected but efforts were made to have seedbeds at every forest stations and also water storage tanks. At the moment we have enough seedlings for the destroyed parts,” added the KFS boss.
Nevertheless, reclamation of the lost indigenous forest according to the official will take years as some of the trees destroyed by fire were over 80 years old.
“It is a bit hard to quantify the recovery time but indigenous trees take many years to grow. Some were over 80 years old but the plan is to ensure that the seedlings are plated under the right conditions and given proper care,” said Mr Mathinji.
He said KFS will put the areas to be rehabilitated under lockdown from external and human interference to provide optimum conditions for growth of the trees.
“Once we plant the tree seedlings we will put the areas under protection from human interference and just let nature take its course under natural conditions,” he said.
The KFS boss noted that some of the indigenous tree seeds form the destroyed mother plants have since germinated on their own. Most parts of the moorland that consists of mainly grass and shrubs have already began growing back.
“In the moorland the vegetation is light and grows faster and most of it have regrown. These areas will be reclaimed in a matter of months,” he said.
The forest service has also urged Kenyans to plant trees in their homesteads to mitigate drought.