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Kitengela tree planting turns arid lands into modern 'oasis of life'

by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- When Stanley Kariuki bought half-acre land a decade ago in Kitengela, a suburb in southern Nairobi, the first thing he did was to plant trees on the farm.

Some died due to the area’s semi-arid conditions and others were destroyed by Maasai pastoralists’ cattle, but he did not give up.

He planted more.

Today, Kariuki who finally built a house on the land does not regret as the trees have made his home a cool place amid the worsening weather pattern in arid areas due to climate change.

Apart from his family, birds are the other beneficiaries of the micro-climate created by the trees at his home.

"When I was planting the trees, my main aim was to secure land or have something grow there but it has turned out well.

"I feel like I am surrounded by a forest and I love the chirping of the birds that have made the trees their homes," he said.

Kariuki is among a growing number of Kenyans whose love for trees has helped turn semi-arid areas on the outskirts of Nairobi the new "oasis of life" despite climate change.

These areas include Ruai, Mlolongo, Kitengela, Ngong, Ruiru, Njiru, Katani, Syokimau, Utawala and Kamulu.

They are referred to as the bedrooms of the city because the bulk of workers live there and commute daily to Nairobi.

The once desolate lands that were mainly populated by shrubs are now teeming with all manner of trees amid the changing climate.

"When I moved to Katani five years ago, this area was very dusty and strong winds did not make things any better.

"But over the years, people have been planting trees," said Patrick Andero, a resident.

The trees have not only helped act as windbreakers but also trap the dust, with trees dotting every compound in the area as people are building homes to settle there.

At Fred’s Ranch in Isinya, a semi-arid area in Kajiado County, trees have turned the resort into an enviable place for family gathering.

Neatly manicured lawns complement dozens of trees at the resort to create a wonder land amid a desert.

Some of the trees doing extremely well in the semi-arid areas include bottlebrush, Melia Volkensii, Senna siamea and Terminalia brownie.

Residents are also planting pawpaws, mangoes and citrus fruit trees.

Reaping from the tree planting culture in the semi-arid areas are traders selling seedlings.

"Business peaks when rains start, but in other periods, we sell most of the tree seedlings over the weekend.

"Each seedling goes for at least 50 shillings (0.48 U.S. dollars dollars)," said Antony Ngure, who also sells flowers.

He is among pioneer seedlings sellers in Kitengela and over the years, dozens of competitors have emerged but he says there is still business because the market is big.

Beatrice Macharia of Growth Point, an agro consultancy, noted that for many years, Kenyans were mainly tree harvesters but this has changed over time with more people planting trees thanks to increased awareness and government appeals.

"Trees create an ecosystem, a micro-climate at one’s home providing a good habitat for birds and human beings, among other animals," she said.


Kenya set to ban use of gunny bags to package farm produce

NAIVASHA (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation will in two months’ time introduce new regulations that seek to ban the packaging of farm produce using gunny bags.

Mwangi Kiunjuri, cabinet secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, said the regulations target sixteen food crops.

"The new crop regulations will come into force in two months and the move to sell produce like carrots and tomatoes in sacks and crates will be a thing of the past," said Kiunjuri.

According to Kiunjuri, farmers in the country were losing millions of shillings every year due to hazards linked to selling their produce while packaged in bags or crates, given the brokers would buy potatoes using extended bags at low prices while later repackage the potatoes in smaller bag and resell it at higher prices.

He said there was already a ban on use of gunny bags in place targeting seven crops including coffee and potatoes, adding that the new ones will be beneficial to small-holder farmers.

Kiunjuri assured potato farmers that he will soon meet with the governor of Nairobi to ensure that traders transporting the commodity to the capital adhere to the ban on use of gunny bags.

"For the first time in eight years we have been able to have a law protecting potato farmers and it is up to security agencies to ensure the ban on packaging the commodity using gunny bags is enforced to the letter," said Kiunjuri.



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