In the last three two years, students and staff of Chuka University in Tharaka Nithi County have been on a mission to plant tree seedlings of species carefully selected according to the specific benefits they bring to the environment and the local populations.
A majority of these seedlings planted in the county’s three constituencies are planted on surrounding farmland to provide food and resources, stabilise soils and increase crop yields.
The target is to plant 800,000 seedlings this year. Vice-Chancellor Prof Erastus Njoka said in 2019 the institution planted 200,000 trees and 500,000 more last year.
On Wednesday, the don launched planting of 200,000 trees in Kiera Hill in Maara constituency in a bid to recover lost forest.
Deforestation has depleted the hill of vegetation.
"We are targeting to plant 200,000 trees in this hill, in order to bring back the forest," said Prof Njoka
According to him, trees address some of the most threatening issues Kenya is facing including pollution, species extinction, climate change, desertification, deforestation, floods, poverty and malnutrition.
“Our aim is to plant 800,000 trees across Tharaka Nithi County this year and we will have surpassed our one million trees goal by the end of next year. Planting trees is a critical part of the solution and both individuals and communities can get involved and play their role in the fight for a more sustainable future,” said Prof Njoka.
He said the university, which has a niche in environmental conservation and renewable energy, opted to take the initiative after realising that the region was turning semi-arid due to rapid deforestation.
The don said the campaign, in which they are collaborating with other institutions such as banks and government offices, is aimed at encouraging the residents to develop a culture of planting trees “for a better environment”.
Restore forest cover
He said years back, the region, which borders Mount Kenya Forest, used to receive enough rainfall enabling adequate bumper harvest but due to deforestation, people are now suffering from hunger due to scarce rainfall.
Prof Njoka said they are mainly planting trees in public lands such as schools, hills and chiefs’ camps as well as distributing seedlings to members of the public to plant on their lands.
He noted that the exercise was one of the institution’s corporate social responsibility and urged other public and private institutions to emulate to redeem nature.
Kenya's ambitious tree-planting initiative is part of steps by the government to restore depleted forest cover.
The government has also banned logging and charcoal trade, with the ban that is currently in place having started in February.