The Kenya launch of the 20 Million Trees for Kenya’s Forests Campaign was marked by spirit of celebration last week, with singing, dancing, poetry recitals – and the symbolic planting of the first 100 trees.
More than 450 people attended the launch on 14 April, including representatives of national and regional government, Kenya Forest Service, members of local community groups and children from nearby village schools.
The rains have started in Kenya but the sun came out for the launch party, organised by campaign partners Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation (MKEC) and Kenya Forest Service at Thambana post in Irangi forest, on the eastern side of Mount Kenya. This is close to the Magaca region where MKEC will spearhead the first phase of the campaign; which aims to mark ITF’s centenary with the planting of 20m trees in Kenya’s most important forests.
Speeches were led by Josphat Muriuki Kithumbu from Embu County Governor Office who said the county government had set aside 19m Kenya shillings for capacity building and another 6m to develop a large community nursery at Irangi Forest Station.
He also said the county had launched a Green Schools initiative to promote environmental awareness and action.
The first trees were planted by school children and then, for the ceremonial launch, by a school child and ITF Chief Executive Andy Egan,
ITF Programme Manager Paul Laird and Kirsty Shaw, representing Botanical Garden Conservation International.
Another 90 trees were planted by community volunteers and boys and girls from four local primary schools taking part in the “My 20 Trees and Me Growing Up Together” initiative, under which children will promise to care fore trees they have planted in the forest.
Among other speakers were Augustine Njiru, MKEC co-founder and vice chairman, who said: “We have been relying on our forests for a long time for many forest products such as honey, fuel wood, fodder leaves, water and many more others but we don’t give back to the forest.
“We can only give back to the forest through restoring degraded forest lands and also participating fully in protection.
“The time is ripe now to join hands with all interested stakeholders to do two things that are closely linked.
“Firstly we are glad to help local community members living around the forest to increase tree planting on farms so that they can obtain benefits from trees close to home rather than having to take from the forest.
“Secondly we are proud to work with community members to help restore the forest to its former glory for us and our future generation.”
Andy Egan stressed the importance of empowering local communities to provide for themselves through agroforestry.
“Forest restoration and agroforestry go hand in hand in restoring healthy and productive ecosystems and landscapes,” he said.
“It is essential that the local communities who will restore the natural forest will also be able to benefit directly from the restored primary forest – as well as from agroforestry – to improve agricultural sustainability and the nutrition and health of their families and their livelihoods.”
Samuel lhure, Head of Conservancy for Kenya Forest Service’s Eastern Region, said KFS would work closely with MKEC and ITF in restoring degraded areas of Mount Kenya through tree planting, particularly in the Magaca area. He said Magaca was also being targeted to help communities monitor and care for trees, as well as cultivation of food crops.
Entertainment was provided by a women’s choir and a “Fight the Devil” display by schoolchildren, symbolising the commitment to oppose people who seek to destroy natural forests.
After the speeches there was a vote of thanks by the Irangi Community Forest Association (IRACOFA) before all guests were invited to lunch.
Among stakeholders represented were MKEC, IRACOFA, the Embu Ecosystem Conservator, community members and volunteers.
The schools represented were St. Helena Primary School, Kathuniri Primary School, Kagumori Primary School, Gatema Njigi Primary School and St. Peters Kagumori Secondary School.
The 20 Million Trees Campaign, launched in the build-up to ITF’s centenary in 2024, aims to plant 20 million trees in and around Mount Kenya and other highland forests known as Water Towers – because of their vital role in conserving the country’s rivers, lakes and fresh drinking water.
It will be led by local community organisations who will set up tree nurseries, and plant and protect the trees. As well restoring primary forest with indigenous trees, communities will plant trees on their farms to restore soil fertility, provide shade for other crops, and produce fruits, nuts and medicines.
The campaign forms part of a wider strategy by the Kenyan government to increase tree cover, restore degraded land and contribute to global efforts to tackle climate change under the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals.
Read more about the campaign here