Kenya’s First National Tree Planting Day: A Day to Remember

national tree planting month

The Ngong forest in Nairobi, Kenya, witnessed a remarkable sight as Geoffrey Mosoku and his two daughters enthusiastically planted a seedling as part of Kenya’s first national tree planting day. Despite heavy morning rains, hundreds of people like Mosoku and his daughters gathered at the forest to contribute to the government’s initiative of planting 15 billion trees by 2032. This initiative aims to combat the climate crisis and deforestation, which have led to severe droughts in Kenya and the wider Horn of Africa region.

A Nationwide Effort for a Sustainable Future

Government officials spearheaded tree-planting activities across different areas of the country, encouraging the public to actively participate in this noble cause. Seedlings were made available to the public through local forest agencies and chiefs’ offices. The initiative received widespread support, and Kenyan President William Ruto emphasized the urgency of environmental conservation, branding it “the urgent and collective responsibility of our time.”

Students plant tree seedlings at a school playground

A Call for Responsible Conservation

While this tree-planting initiative was a commendable step, environmental groups criticized President Ruto for his alleged double-speak on conservation issues. Earlier this year, he lifted a six-year logging ban, which environmentalists argued would contribute to illegal logging. However, the overwhelming support and participation in Kenya’s national tree planting day demonstrated the growing recognition of the importance of conservation efforts.

From Muddy Grounds to City Streets

As the rain subsided, Nairobi’s roadsides and forests buzzed with activity. Cyclists pedaled along various routes, pausing to plant trees alongside major roads and cemeteries. Families, environmental groups, students, government officers, and forest rangers worked together, braving the muddy grounds of the Ngong forest with saplings in hand. Landscapers dedicated nearly a week to prepare for this event, engaging in forest clearing and digging.

Members of the National Youth Service receive instructions

A Sustainable Tradition in the Making

Some Kenyans felt caught off guard by the impromptu holiday, as they were unable to plan ahead or travel to their village homes for the occasion. However, others, like Mosoku, expressed their hope that the tree-planting holiday would become a regular event, similar to Rwanda’s monthly national cleanup days. Mosoku, hailing from the Kisii highlands, has witnessed how changing rainfall patterns and the planting of water-consuming eucalyptus trees have affected his community’s food security and the depletion of rivers. He and many others believe that this initiative will be a step towards a more sustainable future.

Harnessing Technology for Environmental Impact

The government set a target of planting 100 million seedlings on this national tree planting day. Although official counts have not been released yet, the government plans to plant several hundred million more before the end of the short rainy season in December. To monitor and encourage participation, an app called JazaMiti (“fill with trees” in Swahili) was launched. This app enables users to document their planting activity, access real-time updates on nationwide tree-planting efforts, and find information about reforestation dates, regions, nearby nurseries, and organizations involved.

According to a November 2023 government report, app data will be verified every four months, and exceptional tree planters will receive awards and certificates of green conduct.

A Collective Responsibility for a Greener Future

Elizabeth Wathuti, an environmental activist who joined the tree-planting activities, emphasized that everyone has a role to play in environmental conservation. She was delighted to see numerous individuals actively seeking opportunities to plant trees and acquire seedlings. Wathuti believes that the success of this initiative lies not only in planting trees but also in nurturing them to maturity. She stresses the importance of adopting trees and fostering a culture of responsible environmental stewardship.

Tzuriel Kipngeno plants a casuarina tree

Addressing Environmental Inequalities

In Mathare, one of Kenya’s largest informal settlements, community members utilized the tree-planting holiday to advocate for environmental justice. While planting trees in the Mathare green park, they chanted slogans demanding equality in environmental access. These local groups have been actively involved in greening efforts throughout the year, such as clearing designated areas for small community parks. However, they face significant challenges due to limited space for tree growth.

Muchangi Nyaga, coordinator of an ecological justice campaign at the Mathare Social Justice Centers, explained that their aim is to give people hope for a more dignified life. Despite the constraints they face, they continue to plant trees near sewer lines and garbage lots, using this opportunity to raise awareness about the existing inequalities.

Kenya’s first national tree planting day was a resounding success, demonstrating the nation’s commitment to environmental conservation. The overwhelming turnout and enthusiasm displayed by individuals, communities, and government officials showcase the growing awareness of the need for sustainable practices. It is through collective efforts and initiatives like this that Kenya can create a greener, more resilient future.

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