President William Ruto through his Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said the drive is part of the government plans to grow 15 billion trees by 2030. The aim is to increase forest cover in the country to at least 10% from the current 7%.
“That will be a patriotic contribution to save our country from the devastating effects of climate change,” Kindiki said in a statement.
Scarcity of tree seedlings is a major hindrance to the success of the program, says Lamech Opiyo, an environmentalist. He adds that the government is encouraging Kenyans to buy their own seedlings, yet most citizens are facing financial hardship.
The government cannot tell Kenyans to cut down trees, and then announce a holiday requesting them to plant more trees.
“I’m afraid it might end up being a public relations exercise and an opportunity for top government leaders to take photos on Monday. The majority of Kenyans are not prepared for this,” Opiyo tells The Africa Report.
A target of 100 million seedlings are expected to be planted on Monday, according to Soipan Tuya, the environment, climate change and forestry minister.
“It is a moment for Kenyans to stand in solidarity in the defence of our environment,” she said, noting that this is part of the target to grow at least 1.5 billion trees per year.
“I encourage Kenyans to sacrifice and travel to their villages to plant trees,” she told Kenyans ahead of the holiday.
During his recent visit to Kenya, King Charles III hailed President Ruto’s tree-planting initiative.
Ruto’s inconsistency criticised
While Ruto has been pushing his green agenda since arriving in office, his announcement in July to lift a logging ban that has been in place since 2018 cast doubt on his sincerity on wanting to preserve the environment and fight climate change.
“The government cannot tell Kenyans to cut down trees, and then announce a holiday requesting them to plant more trees. That shows the leadership is not clear on what it wants,” says Opiyo, who expresses doubts about the consistency of the tree planting project in future.
Although environmentalists moved to court to challenge the lifting of the ban on logging, Ruto insisted that the decision was made in good faith and is also for the benefit of unemployed youths.
“We can’t have mature trees rotting in forests while locals suffer due to lack of timber. That’s foolishness,” he said at that time.
Mixed reactions from Kenyans
Tree planting is positive, but creating a holiday was unnecessary, Rodger Abura, a teacher in the coastal city of Mombasa, tells The Africa Report.
“Kenyans should be planting trees every time. More civic education is required,” he says, adding that it will not be possible for him to travel to his rural home, which is almost 800km away, to plant a tree and then return to Mombasa.
What is a tree planting holiday? I plant trees every time. I even did it today
Others say the tree planting idea is a good move in theory, but a difficult task without the supply of seedlings from the government.
“Our region is dry. I will buy two seedlings to plant on our farm, and hope the situation will change,” Irene Mwende, who lives in Makueni, the eastern part of Kenya, tells The Africa Report.
Others find the Ruto tree plan an empty exercise. Shopkeeper John Wando, who lives in Mwiki, east of the capital, Nairobi tells The Africa Report he doesn’t trust the government, and he will not participate.
“This is hypocrisy. Ruto allowed tree harvesting. How can he now persuade us to plant trees now? Monday will be a wasted day,” he says.
Opposition lawmaker Otiende Amollo has also criticised Ruto.“What is a tree planting holiday? I plant trees every time. I even did it today,” he said on X.
Environmentalists believe that Ruto, who hosted the inaugural Africa Climate Summit in September, is championing conservation and fighting climate change on the global stage, but doing the opposite at home.
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