NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 7 – The government has launched an ambitious project aimed at increasing the country’s forest cover from the current 7 per cent to 15 per cent by the year 2022.
Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko made the announcement on Wednesday when he launched a national tree planting exercise along Nairobi’s Southern bypass.
“The weatherman has issued his predictions and guided by those we have decided to commence a series of tree planting activities. We intend to plant a total of 10,000 trees today alone,” Tobiko briefed the media shortly after leading the tree planting exercise at the Ngong Forest.
He said the government was working on modalities of setting aside a national tree planting day in a bid to create awareness on forest conservation.
In order to achieve United Nations recommended 10 per cent forest cover, Tobiko said about a million trees will be planted annually in each of the 47 counties nationwide.
According to National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Director-General Prof. Geoffrey Wahungu, some 235 million seedlings will have been planted by the year 2022 to realize the 15 per cent forest cover ambition.
The tree planting campaign follows the unveiling of a taskforce charged with the mandate of reviewing forestry management at Deputy President William Ruto’s official residence in Karen on Monday.
The taskforce headed by the Green Belt Movement Chairperson, Marion Wakanyi Kamau, was gazetted by Tobiko on February 26 following Ruto’s declaration of a three-month moratorium on timber harvesting on February 24.
Other members of the special task force which was given two weeks to present a report are Environment Institute of Kenya Vice Chairperson, Linda Munyao, Rhino Ark Charitable Trust Executive Director, Christian Lambrechts, Kenya Association of Manufacturers chief executive Phyllis Wakiaga, and Kenya Water Towers Agency Chairperson, Isaac Kalua.
Also serving as members of the taskforce will be prominent corporate lawyer and Kenya Commercial Bank Director, Adil Khawaja, Kenya Private Sector Alliance Environment, Water and Natural Resources Sector Board Chairperson, Duncan Kimani, Central Trade Union official Ernest Nadome as well as lawyers Faith Waigwa and Gideon Kilakoi.
The task force is expected to recommend measures through which an estimated half a million acres of land in water catchment areas will be reforested to protect the country’s water sources.
The country is currently operating on 350 cubic meter per capita water deficit annually, studies putting the current water supply at 647 cubic meters per capita annually.
The globally recommended threshold is 1,000 cubic meters per capita.
The state of affairs is attributed an alarming rate at which forest cover has been diminishing in the past.
According to the Kenya Natural Resources Alliance (KeNRA), the national forest cover grew from 5.3 per cent in 2013 to 7 per cent in 2017.
Former Environment CS Judy Wakhungu attributed the growth at the time to the rehabilitation of over 400,000 hectares of degraded public land, part of the government’s anti-desertification campaign at the time.