Kenyans get tree-planting holiday to plant 100 million seedlings

Kenyans have been granted a special holiday dedicated to planting 100 million trees, aligning with the government’s ambitious plan to plant 15 billion trees over the next decade.

The initiative, spearheaded by Environment Minister Soipan Tuya, empowers each Kenyan to contribute to the cause by planting at least two seedlings, aiming to reach the 100-million target.

The government is facilitating the initiative by providing approximately 150 million seedlings through public nurseries, available for free at forest agency centers. Additionally, citizens are encouraged to purchase two seedlings for planting on their private land. President William Ruto is taking a hands-on approach by leading the tree-planting effort in Makueni, with cabinet ministers deployed to various regions alongside county governors.

To monitor progress, an innovative Jaza Miti app has been introduced, allowing individuals and organizations to record tree-planting activities, including plant species, quantity, and planting dates. Minister Tuya reported an overwhelming response, with two million registrations on the app by Sunday.

However, challenges have been noted, particularly in the flood-stricken north-eastern region, where planting activities are postponed due to the ongoing heavy El NiƱo rains causing casualties, displacements, and infrastructure damage. While the tree-planting initiative has received broad support, environmentalist Teresa Muthoni emphasized the need for better organization to accommodate those who must prioritize their livelihoods.

Muthoni raised concerns about the predominance of exotic trees among the 150 million available in public nurseries, emphasizing the importance of planting suitable species in appropriate locations. Criticisms have also been directed at the government for lifting a logging ban, but Minister Tuya clarified that the decision only affects forests designated for commercial purposes, comprising about 5% of the total.

Defending the move, she asserted its necessity to meet local wood demand and generate employment, while assuring ongoing efforts to combat illegal logging in other forests. Minister Tuya highlighted the broader impact of the initiative, addressing food security and serving as a climate change mitigation strategy against the cyclical droughts and floods in the country. Anticipating a continued impact beyond the special holiday, she expects 500 million trees to be planted by the end of the rainy season in December.

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