Factors influencing the destiny of trees in school tree enclosures within Kajiado county, Kenya
Ndukula, Vuna Chris
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Achieving minimum international recommendations regarding tree cover is a challenge in Kenya, particularly in Kajiado County. As the region faces severe land and forest degradation, planting and managing trees inside school compounds can contribute to improving tree density. This study was therefore aimed at assessing the factors that influence the density of trees in school tree enclosures within Kajiado County, precisely Kajiado North, East, West and Central sub-counties. The four specific objectives of this work were to determine the influence of (i) school management; (ii) availability of water; (iii) collective action and (iv) climatic factors on the density of trees in school enclosures within Kajiado County. The target population consisted of 892 primary and secondary (private and public) schools. Twenty three (23) schools with tree enclosures were purposively selected for the study. A random sample size of 324 respondents including students along with teachers was considered as well. A semi-structured questionnaire coupled with observations and measurements were used for data collection in the study area. This study followed the ex-post facto design while data collected were analysed through descriptive and inferential statistical methods performed with the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS version 26) software, and all ethical and legal practices were respected. This study revealed that the majority of schools had tree densities ranging from 51 to 100 trees per hectare (ha) of school tree enclosure. Acacia xanthophloea was the dominant tree species distributed across school enclosures. Moreover, the density of trees was significantly influenced by the school management (β=0.899, p< 0.001); availability of water (β=0.946, p< 0.001); collective action (β= 0.869; p< 0.001) and climatic factors (β=0.907, p<0.001). The findings of this study are critical to school community members (teachers, students, and board of management) and other environmental stakeholders such as policymakers, government officials, and donors. The study recommends the setting up of small pieces of land in school compounds to implement tree enclosures as affordable and sustainable ways of improving tree cover in degraded landscapes. The study also suggests the use of Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) techniques such as Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) from rooftops of school buildings along with the digging of pits lined with plastic to collect runoffs as some of the mitigating measures against the low availability of water for tree planting and management in enclosures.