Kenya announces public holiday for nationwide tree planting in reforestation drive

The Kenyan government has declared that Monday will be a “special holiday” in which people nationwide will be expected to plant trees to help with the country’s land restoration efforts.

Kithure Kindiki, cabinet secretary for the Interior and Administration of National Government in Kenya, made the announcement in a post on X on Monday in which he wrote, “the public across the Country shall be expected to plant trees as a patriotic contribution to the national efforts to save our Country from the devastating effects of Climate Change.”

Posting an official notice declaring November 13, 2023 to be National Tree Growing Day, Kindiki added that those with national exams that day “shall proceed normally.”

The exercise will form part of Kenya’s Landscape and Ecosystem Restoration Programme, which aims to grow and nurture 15 billion trees by 2032 to restore and conserve 10.6 million hectares of degraded landscapes and ecosystems, according to the notice.

There will be a national venue and 47 county venues dedicated to the tree planting, “where all Kenyan citizens and the general public will be expected to participate,” the notice said.

Kenya’s forest cover decreased from 12% to just 6% between 1990 and 2010, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In 2022, the figure went up to 9%, according to the Kenya Forest Service, which said in a post on X on Monday that it “welcomes all Kenyans to mark the celebration” by planting trees.

Yet rising demands for timber and charcoal to fuel infrastructure and population growth continue to contribute to the unsustainable harvesting of forests. Although the country depends on less biomass energy than neighboring Tanzania and Uganda, fuelwood still makes up around 70% of Kenya’s energy needs.

Deforestation and land degradation threaten vital ecosystems and lead to conflict and the loss of biodiversity, particularly amid increased droughts due to climate change and poor water management, according to FAO.

In May, ten lions were killed in human-wildlife conflict that worsened following Kenya’s worst drought in more than 40 years.

The Kenyan government wants forest cover to reach 30% in order to better conserve biodiversity, sustain livelihoods and the environment, improve climate resilience and improve social-economic development, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

At the two-day Kenya Restoration Forum in Nairobi last month, Martin Mulama, manager of the Southern Kenya Programme at WWF Kenya, said, “At the center of the ambitious 15 Billion Trees initiative are communities – the first-line custodians of our landscapes and ecosystems. They should be included, engaged, and involved in the implementation and benefit from the National Landscape and Ecosystem Restoration.”

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