The government has set aside Sh1.5 billion for rehabilitation of Mau and Embobut forests. The project will be implemented by the Nyayo Tea Zone Corporation.
Managing Director of NTZDC Peter Korir said they will plant 700 hectares of tea farms around the forests to act as conservation buffers.
The project was given a greenlight by President Uhuru Kenyatta during the official opening of Kipchabo Tea Factory in Kapsabet, Nandi County, last week.
More than 40,000 of hectares in both Mau and Embobut forests have been destroyed by illegal settlers over the years.
NTZDC has established more than 8,500 hectares of tea and tree buffer belts across the country to protect the gazetted forests including Mt Kenya forest, the Aberdare Ranges, Nandi forest and Kakamega Equatorial forest.
Speaking at the event, Deputy president William Ruto said the same value addition activities will catapult the economy as 80 percent of Kenya's tea is exported and imported back in the country as premium foreign products. He said the country needs to embrace value addition and stop exporting the bulk of tea produced in Kenya. He says this erodes the ability to create jobs and maximise profits from quality tea.
"We export our tea to other countries and then it is sold back to us after it has been processed and packaged better. We can also do the same and make the millions of dollars lost through exproting the raw material," Ruto said.
The President and his deputy emphasised on the importance of enhancing forest conservation and protection of the environment for the agricultural sector.
Plans to rehabilitate the forests are in line with the agriculture sector plans. It aims to promote restoration of the forest and create a sustainable basis for its conservation and management, Korir said.
He added that the project will restore vital water catchments and improve the livelihoods of local communities within the Mau and Embobut forests.
During the event, the corporation presented a Sh5 million interim dividend cheque to the government and Kipchabo Tea Factory was awarded the ISO:22000 Food Safety Management System Certificate.