President William Ruto on Wednesday launched a tree restoration program at Ngong Hills Forest to kick start his plan of planting 15 billion trees by 2032.
The President also planted 56 trees to mark his 56th birthday, as other counties held similar functions that saw a total of 560,000 trees planted.
Speaking during the launch, the President said the initiative will help combat the effects of climate change, which has unleashed calamities such as droughts, floods, unpredictable rainfall patterns and disease and pest outbreaks.
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Climate change, he said, has also burdened other sectors, including health and infrastructure, as well as disrupting local and international supply chains.
“To a considerable extent, these adversities are the direct and indirect consequences of human failure to observe its ecological imperative. Instead of preserving the integrity of the planet’s vital systems to enhance the earth’s livability for all of creation, we have embarked on thoughtless exploitation and the insidious pursuit of prosperity in ways that do not take environmental costs into account,” he said.
“70 per cent of Kenya’s livestock and 90 per cent of our wild game inhabit our rangelands. At the same time, over 90 per cent of the country’s landscapes are, regrettably, undergoing one form of degradation or another. Of these endangered landscapes, 61 per cent face high intensity degradation, while 27 per cent are under severe degradation,” he added.
The solution, he posed, is to plant trees to reduce greenhouse emissions, to stop and reverse deforestation so that the human race is saved from the climate catastrophe. While at it, he explained that the government is restoring 5.1 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes under the African Landscape Restoration Initiative.
He also disclosed that the government has launched a program to distribute 1, 000 tonnes of seeds to 18 seed centres established by the Kenya Forestry Research Institute across the country.
The centres will also produce 15 billion seedlings between now and 2032.
“The seedlings will be grown on 10.6 million hectares of degraded forests and rangelands. This will take our total national tree cover beyond 30 percent, surpassing all our present obligations and placing us firmly on course to restoring ecological integrity,” said the President.
“Over the next 10 years, 320,000 direct jobs will be created in seedling production, tree planting and maintenance, thinning and pruning, maintenance of forest roads and fire breaks, community scouts, forest rangers and foresters. Chiefs, assistant chiefs and nyumba kumi leaders will be required to keep off politics and mobilise their communities to plant trees,,” he explained.
To further protect the environment, the president commissioned a test run of biodegradable potting tubing bags to replace plastic tubing bags. The move is a fulfillment of the plastic [pollution resolution that was adopted by the United Nations member states during UNEA 5.2 in Nairobi.
Besides, the president said that he is planning to launch an application called #JazaMiti that every Kenyans and institutions will use to document their tree planting and to monitor, over time, the growth of trees.
“If we were to plant 15 billion trees potted in plastic bags, it would mean 15 billion pieces of plastics in our environment, a nightmare of huge proportions. I, therefore, urge the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry to oversee a process, through NEMA, towards a plastic potting tubing-free environment and give way to biodegradable materials,” said President Ruto.
Soipan Tuya, the Cabinet Secretary explained that if every Kenyan plays their part, each would only have to plant 30 trees per year, or 300 in 10 years.
“15 billion trees will be planted in two phases. In the first phase, we will plant five billion trees, between now and 2027, then plant 10 billion trees from 2027 to 2032. ``My plea to Kenyans this festive season is not to cut trees for use as Christmas trees, but instead decorate the trees in our backyards, and to plant and grow others to maturity,” said Soipan.