Plant Your Age initiative makes strides in achieving forest cover

Green Africa Foundation chair Isaac Kalua (left) and Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana plant a tree at Kwa Kathoka grounds in Wote, Makueni. [Philip Muasya, Standard]

What started as an idea to celebrate the life of Kenya’s environmental activist and Nobel Laureate, Prof Wangari Maathai has seen millions of trees planted across the country.

The call to honour the Nobel Laureate by planting 71 trees, commensurate with her age, was started by the founder and chair of Green Africa Foundation Dr Isaac Kalua in September 2011, following the demise of Maathai.

Soon after, a conservation initiative dubbed ‘Plant Your Age’ took root. The initiative seeks to encourage Kenyans to plant and grow symbolic trees equivalent to their age.

When the conservation campaign began, Kenyans responded by establishing ‘Wangari Maathai Green Corners’ in various parts of the country, where approximately 15.7 million trees were planted within one year.

And on April 30, 2012, the initiative got a boost when retired president Mwai Kibaki officially launched the ‘Plant Your Age’ campaign in an event that saw 80 trees planted at Kibaki Green Corner at the Green Africa Gardens in Kitui County.

This was to commemorate the president’s 80th birthday.

Ever since, Dr Kalua, a reputed environmentalist, says the initiative has achieved remarkable milestones in increasing the country’s tree cover through afforestation and re-afforestation, while at the same time combating the runaway effects of climate change.

The event is celebrated on September 14 every year.

On Tuesday, Makueni County hosted this year’s celebrations under the theme ‘trees enhance health’, where Dr Kalua joined Governor Kivutha Kibwana at Kwa Kathoka grounds in the outskirts of Wote town, and more than 100 trees were planted.

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and his wife Nazi water a newly planted tree at Kwa Kathoka grounds in Wote, Makueni. [Philip Muasya, Standard]

In lower Eastern, where trees have been lost due to uncontrolled charcoal burning, Makueni County has taken the lead in afforestation and re-afforestation strategies.

In the last one year, the county has planted about 400,000 trees, bringing the total tree cover in the county to 13.6 per cent, way above the national’s target of 10 per cent forest cover.

Speaking during the event, Kibwana said the county targets to achieve 15 per cent tree cover by 2022 through school greening programmes and rehabilitation of county forests.

“We have had several tree planting activities held in different areas within Makueni, and we will continue to campaign for tree planting. Our target is to plant one million trees, and another one million to be planted under the South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc,” said Kibwana.  

The South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc (SEKEB) brings together the counties of Makueni, Machakos and Kitui.

To continue with the greening programme, the governor said his administration has established a Climate Change Fund Board for oversight and resource mobilisation.

Ward Climate Change committees have also been established for project prioritisation, monitoring and evaluation.

To ensure expertise in tree husbandry, Dr Kalua said they were working closely with government agencies such as the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) and Kenya Forest Services (KFS) to determine what type of trees thrive in particular areas of the country.