Almost four out of ten Kenyans are poor. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, nearly ten million of the remaining 30.39 million are classified as ‘floating middle-class.’ This means that they are one financial shock away from poverty. In other words, a singular financial crisis occasioned by events like a major medical bill or a job loss, would shove them straight into poverty.
Thankfully, a new green dawn has arrived. Trees are at the heart of this green dawn. When we take care of trees, they reciprocate and take care of us. They replenish our health, our relationships, our livelihoods and our spirituality. That’s why we launched the ‘Plant your Age’ campaign more than ten years ago.
The seeds of this campaign were planted after Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai passed on in 2011. To honor her legacy, I called on Kenyans to plant 71 Trees to commemorate her sustainability efforts. Kenyans from all walks of life heeded this call and established ‘Wangari Green Corners’ countywide. Among them was President Ruto who was then a cabinet minister. He oversaw the establishment of the inaugural Wangari Green corner at University of Nairobi, Lower Kabete grounds now Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies accompanied by Prof. Kiama the head of the institution. On 30th April 2012 Former President Kibaki formally launched this initiative which had now evolved to ‘Plant Your Age’ during the National Tree Planting Day held in Kitui. The Plant Your Age Day is now celebrated annually every 14th Day of September and has so far resulted in the growing of hundreds of millions of trees across the country and beyond.
President Ruto’s administration has now set a new ambitious but achievable goal of realizing 30 percent tree cover by 2032. The previous goal of retired President Uhuru’s Administration was 30 percent by 2050 while former President Kibaki’s goal was 10 percent by 2030.
For us to attain the new goal, we must meticulously execute three things.
Firstly, we need a marshal plan to guide national grassroots tree planting. Nothing beats a simplified yet fascinating personalized target like just ‘Plant Your Age’. If each Kenyan planted trees equivalent to their age, we will safely grow a billion trees going by our median age of 20.1. If each corporate through a tax rebate program supported the growing of trees equivalent to the number of customers or products that they produce, then we would easily achieve another 9 billion trees through private nurseries and grassroots movements. If we assign each county a small number of 100 million trees, then they would compete towards planting 4.7 billion trees. Finally relevant Government institutions will seal the 15 billion trees Ruto deal by growing 300 million trees. The Kenya Forest Service supported by a Steering Committee will monitor and evaluate targets.
Secondly, we must roll up our sleeves and work hard in planting and growing these 15 billion trees. We must endeavor to deploy existing green heroes who have tirelessly demonstrated passion over the years at the grassroots level.
To this end tree seedlings must be purchased directly from community-owned tree nurseries not brokers. As I have previously written in this column, I bought my first Mercedes from tree seedlings’ sales, which proves that trees can create wealth.
Finally, we must learn from past experiences especially as regards tree planting vs tree growing. In the past, as many as 90 percent of planted trees never survived. We cannot continue planting trees in unsecured fields. Period. We must strategically facilitate available idle land and water for communities to establish tree growing initiatives. Any other effort that never yielded fruit in the past must be avoided like the plaque. The 15 billion trees Ruto deal must spur unmatched economic empowerment through learning from our past mistakes. Think green, act green!
He is the Founder and Chairperson of Green Africa Foundation, an organization that was founded in the year 2000 that champions Sustainable Development in Africa.