President Ruto Leads Historic Tree-Planting Holiday, Aims for 150 Million Trees in a Day

In a monumental nationwide initiative, President William Ruto is set to spearhead a massive tree-planting effort in Makindu, Makueni County, today, November 13. Occasioned by a public holiday declared by Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki on November 7, 2023, the country’s peoples have been rallied and mobilised to attempt an ambitious fete to plant a staggering 100 million to 150 million trees in Kenya by the end of the day.

This initiative is part of a broader plan to plant an impressive 15 billion trees over the next decade, with various Cabinet Secretaries taking charge of similar exercises across different counties. More than 20 high-ranking officials from the Kenyan government are actively involved in leading this extensive tree-planting effort.

To ensure the success of the project, Environment CS Soipan Tuya emphasized the government’s reliance on scientific guidance to determine the types of trees to be planted. The incorporation of new-age technology, including aerial seeding, is also on the agenda to enhance large-scale planting efforts.

The tree-planting campaign is designed to span all 47 counties in Kenya, with Cabinet Secretaries and Governors overseeing the process, encouraging widespread citizen participation.

File photo of First Lady Racheal Ruto planting a tree November 2022. Photo courtesy: PCS

A special holiday has been granted to Kenyans to plant 100 million trees, aligning with the government’s overarching goal of planting 15 billion trees within the next decade. According to Environment Minister Soipan Tuya, this holiday allows “each and every Kenyan to own the initiative.” Each citizen is encouraged to plant at least two seedlings, contributing to the 100-million target. Public nurseries have made approximately 150 million seedlings available, and the government will provide them for free at its forest agency centers for planting in designated public areas.

Notably, Kenyans are also encouraged to purchase at least two seedlings to plant on their private land, fostering a sense of individual responsibility for environmental sustainability.

President William Ruto is actively leading the tree-planting exercise in Makueni, with Cabinet ministers dispatched to various regions to lead parallel efforts alongside county governors. The entire process will be closely monitored through an internet app called Jaza Miti, enabling individuals and organizations to record activities such as plant species, quantity, and the date of planting. This app will also assist in guiding people to plant appropriate seedlings by matching the site with the most suitable species.

Despite the widespread enthusiasm for the tree-planting initiative, challenges and criticisms have emerged. Environmentalist Teresa Muthoni commended the idea but noted concerns about the lack of organization ensuring widespread participation. She highlighted the economic challenges faced by many citizens and emphasized the importance of planting the right trees in the right places, especially given that a significant portion of the available seedlings in public nurseries are exotic.

The government has also faced criticism for promoting tree planting while seemingly struggling to curb illegal logging in public forests. However, Environment Minister Soipan Tuya defended the decision to lift the logging ban, stating that it only affected forests designated for commercial purposes, constituting about 5% of the total forested area. She asserted that this was necessary to meet local wood demand, create jobs, and clarified that the government was taking action against illegal loggers in other forested regions.

Addressing concerns about the timing of the initiative amidst heavy El Niño rains causing floods in the north-eastern region, Minister Tuya confirmed that planting activities would not take place in the affected areas.

Kenyans have embraced the tree-planting initiative, viewing it as a positive step towards environmental conservation. However, some challenges persist, and the government is actively addressing them to ensure the success of this monumental effort.

As of Sunday night, the Jaza Miti app has seen an astounding two million registrations, indicating widespread interest and participation. The government’s commitment to plant 15 billion trees over the next decade aligns with global efforts to combat climate change and promote environmental sustainability.

File photo of tree-planting exercise by Kenyans in Kenya. Photo courtesy: PCS

In an effort to encourage broader public engagement, the government has declared November 13, 2023, as a special holiday dedicated to nationwide tree planting. Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki officially announced this holiday, emphasizing the patriotic contribution of every citizen in saving the country from the devastating effects of climate change. The initiative is part of Kenya’s Landscape and Ecosystem Restoration Programme, aiming to grow and nurture 15 billion trees by 2032 to restore and conserve over 10.6 million hectares of degraded landscapes and ecosystems.

Kenya has faced challenges in maintaining its forest cover, which decreased from 12% to 6% between 1990 and 2010. While the figure increased to 9% in 2022, demands for timber and charcoal continue to threaten sustainability. The government’s commitment to reaching a 30% forest cover aligns with global conservation goals, aiming to conserve biodiversity, improve climate resilience, and enhance socio-economic development.

President William Ruto, prioritizing the National Landscape and Ecosystem Restoration Program since taking office in September 2022, has received praise from global figures, including King Charles III during his recent visit to Kenya. The monarch commended Kenya’s ambitious tree-planting goal of 15 billion trees, emphasizing the importance of such efforts in combating climate change.

As Kenya moves forward with its tree-planting holiday, the government anticipates a significant milestone of 500 million trees planted by the end of the rainy season in December. Despite challenges and criticisms, the initiative represents a united effort to address environmental concerns, combat climate change, and secure a sustainable future for the nation.


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