Kenya's forests are in urgent need of a boost. After years of exploitation, indigenous trees now cover less than two per cent of the country. This deforestation contributes to soil problems, flooding and habitat loss. When farmers do plant trees, they tend to be fast growing exotics like eucalyptus, which are geared towards a quick financial return - but are bad news for Kenya's biodiversity.

In the Rift Valley, Russell Beard meets a couple who are on a mission to set the country's forests on a road to recovery. Kenya Mutiso of African Forest explains how the loss of trees is not just changing the shape of the once-wooded landscape, but also transforming the entire ecosystem. With no trees to anchor the soil and draw up water from deep underground, other plant species die back and desert plants begin to appear.

The solution African Forest has come up with is to encourage local landowners to plant indigenous, slow-growing trees alongside faster-growing exotics. This way, the exotics can be used for charcoal and timber, and the Kenyan species are left to grow and mature. The idea is that these indigenous trees will provide a renewable and steady income as standing trees, supplying the farmers with non-timber forest products for cosmetic, culinary and medicinal purposes. An alternative revenue stream is crucial if farmers are to make the move to an agriforestry model which does not rely on cutting down Kenya's precious indigenous trees.

Kenya's wife Helen has also enlisted the help of some of the country's many boy scouts. They are adapting their orienteering training to include seed collecting, as well as identification and mapping of endangered indigenous trees. These could be used as seed banks in the future. 

 
earthrise airs each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.

Click here for more on earthrise.

Source: Al Jazeera