First Lady launches initiative to plant 500 million trees by 2032

First Lady Rachel Ruto plants a tree at Kaptagat forest on June 9, 2023. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

First Lady Rachel Ruto on Tuesday launched an initiative to plant 500 million trees by 2032.

The exercise will be done through the First Lady’s Landscape and Ecosystem Restoration Strategy and implementation plan.

The strategy will fast-track the actualisation of the vision by President William Ruto, which was launched in December 2022 with an aim to plant 15 billion trees by 2032.

The implementation plan incorporates women, youth and learners.

It advocates for green financing to bridge funding gaps in restoration activities, incorporates agroforestry, promotes green jobs and nature-based enterprises, and encourages women and youth to participate in green and circular economies.

The testing and validation process of the strategy has so far seen approximately 3 million trees planted in forests and in learning institutions.

The First Lady has additionally adopted 200 hectares (500 acres) in Kakamega Forest, Shikusa Block for restoration.

This set the stage for similar adoptions by spouses of county governors and Members of Parliament across the country, with technical support from the Office of The First Lady and the Kenya Forest Service.

“I urge all like-minded stakeholders to form a united front in support of Kenya’s tree-growing efforts. Connecting with like-minded organisations and individuals strengthens our impact and fosters a shared vision for a sustainable future,” said Mrs Ruto.

“By joining hands, we can amplify our impact on a national scale, maximise resources, leverage the strengths of our partners, and create a domino effect that propels us towards our ambitious goal of growing 500 million trees,” she added.

Environment, Climate Change, and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya, lauded tree planting for regulating global temperatures through the sequestration of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“The Kenya Kwanza government’s Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) is further prioritising the growing of fruit trees and woodlots on farmlands and in institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities, with a target of having 30 per cent of the 15 billion trees as fruit trees that can lead to improved nutritional and food security, create employment, and spur social-economic development,” she said.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) also lauded the tree planting saying it is a huge boost to Kenya’s National Landscape and Ecosystem Restoration Programme.

“Such efforts are hugely important to slowing the triple planetary crisis: the crisis of climate change, the crisis of nature and biodiversity loss, and the crisis of pollution and waste. And they are a huge contribution to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which is supporting global commitments to restore one billion hectares of land,” said Ms Andersen.

“This global agenda is about restoring green spaces, reviving oceans and restoring farmlands. All of which will slow climate change, bring back biodiversity, increase food security, and create resilience, jobs and better health. Kenya well understands the need for such action, as millions are being affected by environmental degradation in the Horn of Africa,” she added.

To end the triple planetary crisis, she said we will need leadership, financing, solidarity and coordination.

“Today, the First Lady and her office are demonstrating all these qualities. I hope to see the trees being planted grow strong and tall, and serve as a symbol that change is not just possible, but inevitable,” she said.

Other guests at the event were Leila Benali, President of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), State Department for Forestry Principal Secretary Gitonga Mugambi and Kenya Forest Service Chief Conservator of Forests Alex Lemarkoko.