President Ruto’s Reforestation Plan Sparks Environmental Concerns in Kenya

In a scathing critique of President William Ruto’s climate initiative, African Arguments, a pan-African platform known for news, investigation, and opinion, has raised concerns over the potential adverse impacts of his goal to plant 15 billion trees. In an article penned by Brock Hicks on a Thursday titled ‘President Ruto is not Africa’s Mia Mottley,’ the outlet argues that this ambitious reforestation project could pose devastating challenges to the environment, including exacerbating drought conditions.

Hicks, who is based in Nairobi, emphasized that running a tree planting program of this magnitude demands a sophisticated design to ensure that the right trees are planted in the appropriate environments. Planting the wrong trees in unsuitable locations could have dire consequences, including a reduction in biodiversity, an acceleration of extinctions, and a disruption of ecosystems’ resilience. Moreover, in arid regions like most of Kenya, tree planting efforts could disturb the soil, releasing carbon instead of sequestering it and potentially devastating wildlife.

African Arguments, managed by the Royal African Society, a charitable organization established in London, UK a century ago, went on to underscore the negative implications of Environment CS Soipan Tuya’s call for all Kenyans to plant at least 30 trees annually. This call, though well-intentioned, may face significant obstacles, primarily stemming from resource constraints and the environmental damage that could result from planting the wrong trees.

The article also points out a critical issue: “More obviously, a large proportion of seedlings often die before reaching maturity.” This highlights a practical challenge that needs to be addressed to ensure the success of such an extensive tree planting project.

Perhaps the most significant criticism lies in the absence of detailed plans. The article states, “With no details on what tree species will be planted where, how sufficient seeds will be sourced, how they will be grown to maturity, or how they will be monitored and protected, planting 15 billion trees is just another of Ruto’s hustles.” Without clear and well-thought-out strategies, the project’s success is in doubt.

Furthermore, the article questions another of Ruto’s decisions: the lifting of the logging ban while concurrently advocating for expanding forest cover. This move, according to African Arguments, poses a substantial risk of reversing the progress Kenya has made in recent years in protecting its forests.

President Ruto officially launched the 15 billion tree planting initiative on December 21, 2022, as part of his birthday celebration. The plan, operating under the banner of the #JazaMiti campaign, aims to significantly increase the forest cover in the country. However, it is evident that without careful planning and consideration of environmental factors, such an ambitious reforestation effort could have detrimental consequences.

President Ruto’s laudable goal of planting 15 billion trees to enhance Kenya’s forest cover has come under intense scrutiny from African Arguments. The concerns raised by the outlet regarding the potential environmental risks, lack of detailed planning, and contradictory policies surrounding forest conservation demand serious attention if the project is to succeed in its mission to combat climate change and promote a sustainable future for Kenya.


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