NEW-YORK, United States Of America, February 11th, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA) /-When Zipporah Matumbi was growing up, she loved the way the forest in her village in East Kenya had a dense canopy. As an adult, she noticed that with extensive logging, the forest was disappearing. So she gathered a group of women to start tree nurseries, using their own time and money, to save the forest around them and make a difference.
“We wanted our children to be able to grow up in a healthy environment,” she says. “We had seen how the river flows had started to be low and we wanted to bring the water back by taking out the eucalyptus which consume a lot of water and replacing it with bamboo native to Africa.”
Matumbi became part of the Tree Establishment for Livelihood Improvement Scheme, a system that plants indigenous trees for conservation in degraded forest areas. Although similar in name, it is different from Plantations Establishment for Livelihood Improvement Scheme which is about establishing plantations of exotic trees.
Matumbi’s group of women volunteers has grown substantially over the years; she is currently in charge of some 12 different groups. During that time, she has noticed that many forests struggle to grow indigenous trees because of a colonizing shrub introduced from the American tropics called lantana camara.
“Lantana camara has beautiful flowers, but this adaptable plant is highly invasive and causes problems in many tropical countries, crowding out the original flora and even increasing fire risk in dry forests,” says Lera Miles, Principal Technical Specialist for Climate Change and Biodiversity at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
It is also affecting smallholder farms, livestock pasture and roadsides.
So Matumbi and her group started voluntarily helping the Kenya Forest Service dig up the lantana by their roots to suppress their regrowth and prepare the area for rehabilitation by introducing indigenous trees. The indigenous trees don’t grow very fast, but when they have enough space and are carefully pruned, they can do well.