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Planting 15 Billion trees: Kenya's path to climate resilience

Health Opinion


As Kenya embarks on the ambitious goal, it is crucial to comprehend trees’ profound role in mitigating climate change. Let us delve into the science of it.

In the early years of our education, we learned the fundamental principle that trees inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. However, the intricate workings of trees go far beyond this elementary concept. While humans breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide, trees do the opposite: they absorb carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight through photosynthesis, converting these elements into sugars that nourish the tree and emit life-enriching oxygen. This vital process, known as photosynthesis, enables trees to effectively remove climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making them invaluable allies in our fight against climate change.

A single mature tree can absorb up to half a metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent in a year. Therefore, the 15 billion trees initiative holds immense promise. A substantial forest cover beautifies our landscape and acts as a powerful carbon sink, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions from various sources such as vehicles, industries, and power plants. This process of capturing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through trees is “sequestration.”

Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, can absorb and re-radiate heat, contributing to global warming. Human activities have significantly elevated carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, leading to a 2-degree increase in our global average temperature. This rise has triggered severe consequences, including extreme weather events, melting ice caps, and altered ecosystems.

However, the effectiveness of forests as a carbon sink in Kenya is under threat. Factors such as prolonged droughts, extensive human development, climate change, and deforestation have encroached upon our forested areas. As real estate developments and human settlements expand, the capacity of forests to sequester carbon dioxide diminishes, exacerbating climate change.

Planting and nurturing 15 billion trees presents a unique opportunity to enhance our forests’ existing carbon sequestration capabilities. 

Sequestration, through tree planting and forest conservation, is not merely an option; it is the way forward. Mother Nature has consistently rewarded us when we have nurtured her well. It is time to repay the debt and safeguard our planet for future generations. 

The writer is a climate action enthusiast and a development communication specialist

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