Make planting trees affordable during all seasons

President William Ruto, Quintine Gitau and First Lady Rachel Ruto planting trees at Kiambicho forest in Muranga County. [PCS]

As Kenya mourns at least 240 people killed in recent floods, the idea to plant trees in their honour could not have been timelier.

Honouring the dead is personal, which leans on traditions, faith and other pillars.

But trees have a way of uniting humans. And even as the government gave a day for tree planting, it must make this practical, with better strategy. Did people have tree seedlings to plant? Where were they to plant them?

What would be the motivation to buy one tree seedling, let alone the suggested 50, when majority of those affected by floods cannot afford basic needs? The state should have mobilised funds and bought seedlings, and distributed or deposited them at provincial administration offices/chief camps, churches, police stations, schools, and institutions of higher learning for citizens to collect.

Meanwhile, others in desert and savanna areas where the ecosystem may not require more trees should have been given something else to do for the good of the environment. More civic education on which trees to plant in specific areas was also missing.

Where I live, speakers were louder yesterday, as people, grateful for the long weekend, had fun with families. There were barely any trees planted. More volunteers and donors should help the government achieve the goal of planting these millions of trees.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change repeatedly warns of more disasters, including through its Sixth Assessment Report in 2023, which recognised the current widespread impacts of climate change on people and ecosystems, and anticipated higher risks as global warming intensifies.

Kenya is in the Global South, where a lot of these climate disasters are most devastating, and can expect more floods, heat waves, and drought, which affect economies in many ways.

Already, schools open for the second term two weeks later than scheduled, amid fears of waterborne diseases, especially in waterlogged facilities. There are many losses and damage, and funds that could have been put to other use are redirected to repairs and build resilience. Food security is sensitive to extreme weather and for economies such as Kenya, whose backbone is the agriculture sector, it will not be too long before hunger strikes.

Planting trees to pay homage to the departed is perfect. It will never bring them back, but may offer solace, renewal, a sense of hope, and continuity. Trees are some of the most resilient living things, always trying their best to rise again even in harsh conditions.

Trees are symbolic. In some cultures, deeper significance, including belief in the presence of the deity near such trees as Mugumo for the Agikuyu. Some have ancestral connections.

In the Bible, right at the centre of the Garden of Eden, stood a tree of wisdom, which opened man’s eyes to the consequences of sin. Tree branches and leaves would later work for man and wife as they suddenly realised they were naked.

Just like them, we eat fruits, use wood fuel, and some of our clothes are made from trees. Trees are a source of medicine and perfumes. They are a shelter for wild creatures and humans, besides offering furniture, even unto death - coffins.

Planting trees is a sign of stewardship, as God gave man dominion over the earth. It is a great way to give back to society, as they help mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration and prevent soil erosion besides enhancing water cycles and controlling surface runoff.

Yes, we want to honour the departed by doing this one right thing – planting trees. However, the state must apply practical strategies that adequately build and increase resilience, even as mitigation efforts are made.

- The writer advocates climate justice. [email protected]