Kenya’s commitment to plant 15 billion trees over the next decade is a bold and crucial step towards addressing deforestation, habitat conversion, water scarcity and biodiversity loss.
But the monumental agenda rests not solely on the government but also on the power of partnerships and collaborative engagement.
Africa faces significant challenges with 65 per cent of its land already considered degraded, yet 70 per cent of its population depends on agriculture, meaning urgent action is required.
In addition, the decline of freshwater species, an 84 per cent decrease since 1970, should be a wake-up call to all Africans. By official records, Kenya’s forest cover is at 8.83 per cent, and considering the prevailing climatic conditions, at risk of further decline.
But through an accelerated implementation of large-scale, low-cost water security interventions crucial to sustaining billions of people, we can mobilise various stakeholders to tackle climate change, protect lands and waters and provide sustainable food and water solutions.
Water Funds model
One proven approach is the Water Funds model, pioneered at The Nature Conservancy Africa (TNC) 23 years ago in Latin America.
This model brings together diverse water users from the public and private sectors to jointly invest in targeted, scientifically guided conservation interventions that protect the water resources they rely on. First tested in Africa in the Upper Tana catchment, it incorporates over 80,000 small-scale farmers and landowners.
Now, almost seven years later, we have planted over 3.8 million trees, including 1.3 million avocado trees that provide both food and income. The drive around avocado in collaboration with the Murang’a County government, in particular, has positioned Kenya as one of the world’s top five exporters of the crop.
Additionally, farmers have seen benefits from cultivating French beans and green peas, increased milk production and access to renewable energy sources such as biogas cookstoves.
The pitch is very simple and pocketbook: By improving water quality and quantity, increasing income and livelihood benefits for farming families, promoting reforestation and enhancing the health of freshwater ecosystems, we can make significant strides toward a more sustainable future.
The other key issue is scale. We must engage in partnerships that can snowball nationally. This is also why TNC is partnering with First Lady Rachel Ruto through the Mama Doing Good in her 500 million commitment to the President’s global target with an ambition of increasing her target to one billion.
The new Plantamilli campaign in Iten, under the Eldoret-Iten Water Fund, targets five million trees and a million in the key source water locations of Jumuiya ya Pwani in Coast, Yala River/Nandi catchment and the Upper Tana projects.
Protection of our forests can only be achieved through empowering the communities that eke out a livelihood in the catchments.
Mr Ajagbe is the regional managing director at The Nature Conservancy Africa. [email protected].