Kenya is one of the least forested countries in Africa, with only 7% tree cover. That equates to just 67 trees per person, compared to the global average of 420. Agricultural expansion, timber harvesting and charcoal burning led to massive deforestation in the 20th Century.
Today, the remaining forests are vital resources locally, nationally and regionally. Dubbed ‘Water Towers’ because of their vital role in conserving rivers, lakes and drinking water, the five remaining highland forests are in need of restoration to bring them back to their former glory.
As we are nearing 100 years old, it’s fitting that our Centenary Campaign takes us back to where our story began, in Kenya – 1922.
20 Million Trees for Kenya’s Forests remains close to ITF’s values of working in partnership with community based organisations and listening to local community needs.
Our Centenary Campaign takes a holistic approach to environmental restoration and economic development through three pillars of work. Forest restoration is the first pillar of our approach. With local groups, we aim to restore 20,000 hectares of land in and around the five highland forests.
Agroforestry is the second pillar: improving the livelihoods of 50,000 rural households living close to the forests through planting trees on farms.
The third pillar aims to engage the next generation in environmental stewardship through our programme with school children ‘My 20 Trees and Me – Growing up Together’
The campaign forms part of a wider strategy by the Kenyan government to meet reforestation targets under the COP21 Paris Climate Summit and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Starting on Mount Kenya, we are working with two local partner organisations to plant native trees on degraded forest sites. In Embu County, Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation are working with 21 women groups and self-help groups to raise and plant seedlings in a severely degraded area of Mount Kenya Forest
known as Magaca.
In Meru County, Mount Kenya Trust are working with 13 women groups and self-help groups to plant trees and restore the Lower Imenti Forest and Karuri/ Ontulili Forest through the ‘Tree Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Scheme’.
Our partners work in close cooperation with the Kenya Forest Service, which identifies and sets aside suitable degraded land for planting, and with the local Community Forest Associations. We are committed to building capacity, and our partners also receive expert technical advice on forest restoration and indigenous seed collection from Botanical Gardens Conservation International.
Trees support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people worldwide. In Kenya, most of the rural communities collect firewood and animal fodder from the forest. There is often an over-reliance on the forest, which can lead to over-exploitation of natural resources.
20 Million Trees for Kenya’s Forests supports households to plant trees on their own land through agroforestry. Agroforestry is a method of integrating trees into farming systems, improving soil structure and fertility, increasing crop diversity and productivity and creating income generating opportunities.
Another method enabling households to earn additional income is the ‘Tree Establishment Livelihoods Improvement Scheme’. Farmers are temporarily allowed to grow crops on small plots of deforested land whilst simultaneously planting and caring for trees to restore the forest.
‘My 20 Trees and Me: Growing up Together!’
As part of the move to include young people in agroforestry and reforestation in Embu County, a parallel program has been launched in primary schools.
‘My 20 Trees and Me: Growing Up Together!’ involves primary school pupils in tree planting. Each child plants and takes care of his or her trees until they leave school. More schools will join the programme each year.
Mount Kenya is the first of five Water Towers being targeted by the campaign. Future projects will take place in the Aberdares, Mount Elgon, the Cherangani Hills, and the Mau Complex – as well as Kakamega Forest, Kenya’s only rainforest.
Each tree planted will save an estimated 4kg of carbon each year – so that 20 million trees will eventually save 80 thousand tonnes of carbon every year.