Church joins restoration of Maragoli forest

Forest officers, locals and religious leaders during the recent tree planting exercise at the 1000-acre dilapidated Maragoli hills Forest in June. 

Photo credit: Derick Luvega | Nation Media Group.

The Catholic Church has joined ongoing efforts to reclaim the degraded 1,000-acre Maragoli Hills forest in Vihiga County, after it promised to spend Sh20 million to bolster restoration plans.

Through the Mother Earth Network led by Fr Hermann Borg, the church said it would start planting at least 300,000 seedlings in the water tower over the next five years beginning in September.

Fr Borg said he expected positive results from the organisation, which has roots in Germany and has vast knowledge on environmental conservation and restoration.

Similar past efforts by the Vihiga County government, the national government and Equity Bank achieved little success, and Mother Earth Network hopes to do better.

It will focus on replanting a portion of the degraded area of the vast forest that was destroyed in the early 1990s and led to the drying up of at least 20 rivers and streams that originated in the hills.

Fr Borg said the church responded after Vihiga officials sent a proposal to Mother Earth Network.

He exuded confidence that the efforts would help breathe new life into the water tower, citing similar work in restoring forests in Subukia in the Rift Valley.

"We ran a smaller programme in Subukia and we have successfully grown more than one million trees that restored back a degraded area and affected the climatic conditions of a vast area," he said.

Subukia success story

He added: "What we did in Subukia will be done here in Vihiga and we are going to explore all the possibilities we have. We will bring in Sh20 million to start off the programme that will be undertaken in phases during the stipulated five years."

During the five-year period, the organisation will work to restore the environment by involving local communities and schools.

Late last month, the Nation reported that Vihiga had established an office block in the forest as part of rehabilitating the 1,000-acre water tower.

The offices were set up at Egago. Governor Wilber Ottichilo said his administration was keen to maintain the forest cover achieved in the last five years.

He said Vihiga had attained 35.9 per cent forest cover following his administration’s efforts to plant at least 60,000 seedlings in the water tower.

But those efforts faced resistance from some locals, who kept uprooting the seedlings.

The personnel who will operate the seedlings will operate from the offices.

At least seven villages – Muguga, Idabwongo, Buhane, Inavi, Lodonyi, Liavora and Kisingilo – sit on 40 acres of the land but residents do not have title deeds and have been accused of stalling efforts to restore the forest.

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