President Ruto reaffirms bid to plant 15 billion trees in a decade

 William Ruto

President William Ruto (right) and Finance PS Chris Kiptoo during Kaptagat Forest annual tree planting campaign in Elgeyo Marakwet on July 1, 2023.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto has reiterated the government’s commitment to plant 15 billion tree seedlings by 2032 to realise forest restoration and tackle the effects of climate change.

This, even as his allies, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot termed as economic sabotage a court order stopping the implementation of the Finance Act, 2023, which Dr Ruto wants to be used to raise Sh200 billion this financial year.

“It is true that the Judiciary must be independent, and it is also true that its independence is guaranteed within the Constitution. But it is also, important that the Judiciary becomes alive to what we call public interest. Public Interest should always be taken into account when courts are pronouncing themselves on certain key matters,” said Mr Mudavadi. 

Mr Cheruiyot, on the other hand, said: “As the Senate Majority Leader, I have spoken with the Speaker of the Senate, Amason Kingi. The Speaker has confirmed to me the steps were undertaken under the law between him and the National Assembly Speaker as far as the Finance Act issue is concerned. There was a 100 per cent consensus. Senator Okiya Omtata in his personal capacity, is not the Senate. Omtata wanted to be consulted as who on this matter?”

Justice Mugure Thande directed the State not to implement the new law pending a mention of an application filed by Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah on Wednesday.

The Head of State, who avoided the tax law talk, said his administration has tasked Kenya Forestry Research Institute to 18 tree seedling stations to enable the government to plant trees countrywide.

“The plant is now climatic risk. We now have cyclones, floods, heatwaves, drought and as a result, we have lost livestock and recurrent food shortages,” said President Ruto.

He made the remarks in Elgeyo Marakwet County during a series of events, including a thanksgiving ceremony for Treasury PS Chris Kiptoo.

He called on counties and regions to distribute tree seedlings for planting along escarpment areas to curb mudslides.

“We want to involve all departments, including the Kenya Defence Forces, Prisons, police, National Youth Service, Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service, among others, in this ambitious tree planting programme,” said Dr Ruto.

He said his administration was committed to having 30 per cent of the 15 billion tree seedlings — five billion as fruit trees to improve forest cover and tackle food security.

“We receive over Sh1 billion annually through tourism because tourists want a good environment and, for the first time, we did water trucking because our wildlife were affected by severe drought and I want to state that planting trees is now a necessary imperative,” added Dr Ruto.

He said his administration would not import goods and products that can be manufactured locally to protect the local industries and create jobs for the youth.

“In our budget, we propose not to import steel products or cement yet we can locally produce them. Our youth need jobs,” said the Head of State.

He said the Kenya Kwanza plan is to ensure that the manufacturing sector contributes 20 per cent up from seven per to boost the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the next 10 years.

To salvage public universities from heavy debts, the government, he said, has doubled financial allocation from Sh44 billion to Sh84 billion to enable learners from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue further education.

“We have provided Sh3 billion to set up 400 markets in every constituency to lock out brokers who exploit farmers by offering low producer prices,” said Dr Ruto.

He asked the opposition to play constructive politics instead of inciting the public to engage in acts of violence.

“We have no problem with the opposition, we want constructive opposition to oversight us. They don’t have to engage in violence or destroy property,” said the President.

Dr Ruto said permanent military camps would be set up in Kerio Valley to crack down on bandits and contain further attacks and killings.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said they would not accept pay raise for State officers who are already earning hefty salaries.

“Let us first stabilise the economy before we think about our pay rise and if there is any Cabinet secretary who is not comfortable with our choice to tender resignation,” said the Deputy President.

Earlier in Nairobi, President Ruto unveiled measures to transform cooperative societies into vibrant bodies to contribute to economic growth in line with Kenya Kwanza’s bottom-up agenda.

Among the changes include harmonising laws governing cooperatives to make them efficient and expand their credit services to generate more income for members.

He said the government would fast-track the Sessional Paper Number 4 of 2020 on national cooperatives policy, which aims to transform cooperatives for socio-economic growth.