This past weekend Kenya joined the rest of the world in marking the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, a day in which we promote public awareness about desertification.
Desertification is the process by which fertile land becomes desert, typically as a result of inappropriate agriculture, drought or deforestation. It poses an immediate threat to Kenya, considering 80 per cent of the country is classified as arid and semi-arid land.
Tree planting has been touted as one of the most effective ways of ending desertification. However, it is lamentable that, for many people, tree planting has been reduced to a photo opportunity, a mere public relations (PR) exercise. We have consequently lost an appreciation of the critical importance of tree planting, explaining the rapid deforestation in the country.
According to the State of East Africa 2012, Kenya’s forest cover in 2010 was 32 million hectares, down from 39 million hectares in 1990. The catastrophic loss in forest cover is partly attributable to charcoal burning and illegal logging. The lack of proper sensitization on the importance of tree planting is equally to blame.
Tree planting not only offsets the losses incurred by legal and illegal logging, but also helps create a culture where people are more appreciative of the value of conservation. This is critical in combating desertification.
To ensure that tree planting becomes part of the Kenyan culture, we need to target school going children who are still impressionable.
As Wrigley East Africa, we are working closely with organisations that help promote tree planting in schools. One such organisation is the Kenya Organization for Environmental Education. As part of their activities, they organised for 15 schools (Primary and Secondary) to converge at Cheleta Primary School in Runda this past weekend to plant more than 1000 trees.
Besides tree planting, another critical preventive measure is creating awareness about climate change. This is another area that Wrigley is committed to.
The 2030 global agenda for sustainable development draws a direct link between environmental degradation and climate change, which has led to more erratic weather patterns in recent years.
The cruel irony is that Africa is the continent that contributes least to climate change but suffers most from its effects. Adverse weather conditions, especially erratic rainfall patterns, have become more common in the continent.
Scientific studies by the United Nations (UN) in West Africa indicate that Lake Chad, which spans Chad, Niger and Nigeria, is estimated to have shrunk by as much as 95 per cent between 1963 and 2001. Similarly, 82 per cent of the ice that covered Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has vanished since it was first surveyed in 1912.
Kenya has also been affected, and the recent drought is a clear testament. The drought affected over 1 million people in 13 counties. It not only impacted food security, but also the broader economy by pushing food prices upwards and consequently fueling inflation.
If we do not confront climate change with the resoluteness it demands, things will only get worse. Droughts will be more persistent.
As stakeholders we need to partner for collective action in order to deal climate change a decisive blow. Climate change affects all of us and therefore demands our united efforts.
Tree planting is good place to begin because it sends a strong message; that we can all be part of the solution. Everybody can participate in tree planting, especially school going children. This will help bring up a generation that is acutely aware about the importance of conservancy in this era of sustainable development.
Through tree planting we will not only take good care of our common home, the earth, but also confront the widespread environmental degradation that poses an ever greater threat to our future as humanity.