ITF’s biggest ever campaign – 20 Million Trees for Kenya’s Forests – will be officially launched in Embu, Kenya tomorrow.
The campaign, planned 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 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.
The launch ceremony will take place at Irangi Forest, Embu, at 12 noon on Thursday, April 14.
The first trees will be planted by VIPs representing the Kenyan government – and by schoolchildren from surrounding villages taking part in “My 20 Trees and Me Growing Up Together,” a special initiative for children to care for trees they have planted in the forest.
ITF will work closely with Mount Kenya Environmental Conservation (MKEC) and other partners and community groups.
The Kenya Forest Service is identifying and prioritising degraded land for restoration within the forests and technical assistance is being provided by Kenya Forest Research Institute and Botanic Gardens Conservation International
The Campaign is being fully supported by the Kenyan Government, which has stated it will play a vital role in helping to reverse deforestation and meeting international commitments for sustainable development.
Only seven per cent of Kenya’s land is covered by trees – which equates to 67 trees per person, compared with a global average of 420 – with many upland forests encroached on or severely degraded.
As well as helping to increase forest cover, the 20 Million Trees campaign will help combat climate change, protect forest habitats for many species including endangered birds and mammals – while improving food security for some of Africa’s most vulnerable people: Around a quarter of the trees cultivated will be planted on surrounding farmland – to provide food and resources, stabilise soils and increase crop yields.
At the London launch last month Kenya’s Ambassador to the UK, Mr Lazarus Amayo, said the Campaign would play a vital role in helping Kenya to meet its reforestation targets.
The 20 Million Trees campaign 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.
Phase one of the campaign is being spearheaded by MKEC. Their founder and chair, Paulino Mugendi Damiano, who will be speaking at the launch, said: “This project is of vital importance to people in Kenya because from the 1970s to the late 1990s a lot of forest was cleared and destroyed for charcoal burning and timber.
“Destruction of forests, combined with climate change, has led to reduced rainfall and increasing soil erosion – and this has caused food scarcities and hardship for people living around the forests.
“There is no more deforestation taking place now – and that is why we need this campaign now to restore this land through tree planting.”
The “20 Million Trees “campaign will target degraded areas in all five of Kenya’s Water Towers, upland forests which are vital for rivers and water supplies. These are Mount Kenya, the Aberdares, Mount Elgon, the Cherangani Hills, and the Mau Complex. Kakamega Forest, Kenya’s only rainforest, will also be targeted.
ITF’s Chief Executive, Andy Egan, said: “This is probably the biggest and most ambitious campaign in our long history – but is as much Kenya’s campaign as our campaign. Our role is to mobilise support and bring together an array of partners to provide local communities with the resources they need to make it happen.
“We need to raise £4 million to achieve our target of 20 million trees. This may sound like a lot of money but is actually only 20p per tree – our community-led model means that there is a much higher chance of the new trees being cared for and protected long into the future”.
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