President’s new tree cover pledge a real deal-breaker

KWS officers planting trees.

KWS officers planting trees.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

On May 27, I was privileged to be part of a team that joined President Uhuru Kenyatta in a roundtable for development partners and private sector actors in the forestry, environment and climate change sector. 

There, a signature Tree Growing Programme and Fund, designed co-creatively by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and four UN Agencies (UNDP, Unep, FAO and UNCDF) and managed by the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund was unveiled. The President articulated his legacy in this critical area and set the tone for Kenya’s greener and cleaner future.

But what was more remarkable about the meeting was the announcement that Kenya had managed to meet and surpass the constitutional 10 per cent tree cover target. President Kenyatta unveiled the country’s first ever “National Forest Resources Assessment Report 2021” by the Kenya Forests Service.

Powerful satellite imagery

This research, which utilised powerful satellite imagery never applied before in Kenya, found that the tree cover is around 12.13 per cent while the forest cover grew from 5.9 per cent in 2013 to 8.8 per cent last year. This is remarkable and encouraging.

The presidential directive for a 30 per cent tree cover target demonstrates the scope of ambition expected to drive the country’s accelerated forestry restoration agenda. It is a real deal breaker with numerous tremendous benefits for Kenya, its people and its globally renowned pristine flora and fauna.

For a long while, Kenya has been at war with its natural resources. From a forest cover as high as 20 per cent at Independence to a low of even three per cent around 2000, our history is bedevilled by a strange addiction to land, especially public land. Whole tracts of forest were annexed in the guise of settling the landless only to be allocated to powerful individuals and curry favour with the ruling elites.

The Kenyatta administration has maintained the Kibaki government’s philosophy to recover lost lands. Within these two regimes, many important water towers—like the Mau, Kirisia, Mt Elgon and Mt Kenya—are supported to regenerate after a tumultuous past. Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko has led many tree planting exercises.

It is possible

The government has also worked to slightly increase budgetary allocations for the sector while leading a raft of legal and institutional reforms that are now just beginning to bear fruit.

The aspirational goal for a future that is greener and cleaner is, indeed, possible, if we all ramp up our efforts towards this vital sector. With the launch of the Tree Growing Programme and Fund, that will leverage on the private sectors’ commitment of around Sh6 billion worth of tree seedlings, as well as the Government of Japan’s agreement to kick-start the initiative with $2.6 million through UNDP’s Forestry and Land Restoration Actions for Kenya’s NDC (FLaRAK) Project, the next phase of conservation in Kenya appears to be quite exciting.

Mr Omedo, a sustainable development specialist, is the portfolio analyst at UNDP Kenya. [email protected]


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