The invasion of the Mathenge tree in the Tana Delta, Tana River County has dealt a blow to the normal livelihoods of communities residing in the area.

Scientifically known as Prosopis Juliflora, the tree has proved to be a hazard to residents as it has rendered useful flora in the area to disappear due to its rapid spreading.

Mathenge was initially introduced to provide fodder for animals besides helping to control soil erosion in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) but it has not only taken over food crops and pasture land, but being deeply rooted, Mathenge can easily blocks roads and change flow of rivers.

It has also led to lifetime injuries on both human beings and domestic animals in Tana Delta and some residents have linked it to high blood pressure and tetanus conditions.

However, the local community at Lailoni and Madingo villages and students from Hashaka secondary school have started a Mathenge eradication campaign that aims at wiping out the trees in the area.

They have put up a tree nursery at the school and the tree seedlings are in turn planted in the school compound and in the villages.

The students and parents cut down and uproot the Mathenge tree for firewood, construction and for charcoal burning and in their place they plant exotic and indigenous tree species to help restore the ecosystem.

According to Chengo Said and Mercy Akinyi, both form three students at the school, the Mathenge tree has led to negative effects on the environment and caused a scarcity of pasture for animals.

They claim that no other plant can grow alongside the Mathenge tree since it is toxic and that it spreads so fast.

“The Mathenge tree has led to loss of water in the farms since it absorbs all the water around it and it also spreads so fast when cut and that is why we uproot it to discourage multiplication,” said Chengo.

Mr Benson Namongo, a teacher at the school, said that the Mathenge tree had become a problem in the area and that many students have been injured after being pricked by its thorns.

“We collaborate with the community and it also helps us bring about unity and from our nursery, we produce tree seedlings for distribution to homes and the neighboring area,” he said.

He added that due to the hot climatic conditions, 40 percent of the tree seedlings end up dying after planting.

“We water the tree seedlings but the climatic conditions here are very harsh and most trees end up drying but we are pushing on with the program,” he said.

Mr Jilo Abajila urged the government to declare Mathenge a national disaster due to its negative effects on the environment.

He said that locals have suffered from injuries sustained by the tree and that many animals have died after consuming a lot of the leaves from Mathenge.

“Mathenge is a national disaster that the national government should declare and problems started 20 years ago when the tree was introduced in this area and it ended up eradicating any other useful plants and crops on its way,” he said.

He also urged the state to sponsor more tree planting programs in the area so that the Tana Delta can be restored to its original form where there was plenty for human beings and animals.

By Treeza Auma

Treeza Auma is a Digital Content Producer and founder of KTMN She is also Television journalist at Kenya News Agency and Leadership Accelerator at Women in News.

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