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By Andrew Nyamu
Trees are natural sinks for greenhouse gases and natural purifiers for the atmosphere, through the natural process of photosynthesis trees absorb carbon dioxide and store it as carbon and release oxygen. A decrease in vegetation cover over the earth's surface contributes to global warming through the accumulation of greenhouse gases which in return trap infrared radiation leading to increased temperature. Trees provide soil cover that supports in retaining soil carbon hence averting its menace if released to the environment.
Paris Climate Change agreement of 2015 recognized the role of forests in combating climate change. Deforestation and forest degradation produce 70% of tropical land use emissions and account for 11% of net global greenhouse gas emissions. The Kenya Constitution Article 69 (1) b requires the country to increase and maintain forest cover at a minimum of 10% of the total land area. Kenya Forest Service has set a target of 10% forest cover by 2022, although this hasn’t been achieved, there has been a gradual increase in forest cover for the last five years.
Kenya has witnessed a paradigm shift where tree seedlings are being retailed widely both in a rural and urban settings and attracting substantial demand. This is manifest in the population being considerate of their environment, future generations and conscious of climate change-attributable menace emanating from the destruction of forests. During the ongoing short rains, crates full of tree seedlings are visible at market centers, bus stops, road junctions among very many strategic places where potential customers can be easily wooed to purchase.
Local seed breeders have arisen to complement the work of the Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI), Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and other private companies which have taken up bulk seedling propagation. This offers income generation while at the same time preserving the dignity of the country, protecting endangered tree species while at the same time conserving the Environment from possible threats associated with the degradation of vegetation cover.
Public utility spaces have benefitted from this noble practice. Schools, Churches, administrative units and health facilities have had different stakeholders coming up and supporting the greening exercise. The initiative has been boosted by urge by community members, professional units, alumnae organizations and lately by WhatsApp groups who have offered to give back to the community while being sound stewards for the future generation.
Community Forest Associations (CFA), Water Resource Users Associations (WRUA), Self Help Groups, Faith Based organizations, Community Based Organizations are among the key pillars that are spearheading the campaigns to attain the constitutional 10% forest cover. These organizations have seen the rehabilitation of degraded environments whose results have seen an increase in arable lands, reviving of water springs and wetlands and the restoration of previously dried-up rivers. County governments and National government have a big stake in the whole debate. On many occasions, both levels of government have led tree-planting exercises which has a tremendous outcome. Rehabilitation of the country’s water towers has remained a priority to the government a clear indication of its desire to restore the lost glory of the nation.
Nobel Peace prize winner (2004) Prof Wangari Maathai once said no need for a diploma for one to plant a tree, in the same perspective, no stringent requirement to sell a seedling or buy a seedling. This offers a kind opportunity for society to stand and take care of nature because its non-forgiving once limits have been stretched.
Andrew Nyamu is the Manager Sand Conservation, Utilization and Compliance at Makueni County Sand Conservation and Utilization Authority