Create economic value out of the 15 billion tree planting campaign


Members of the public plant tree seedlings during the Kaptagat Forest Annual Tree Planting exercise. FILE PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

The forestry department should prepare a structured pathway for the just launched 15 million tree planting campaign to target the creation of national economic value while addressing environmental mandates.

Tree planting interests can be segmented into commercial forestry, agro-forestry, beauty/aesthetics, and environment (carbon sink, water tower cover).

Each one of these segments has varying players who should be fully involved in the planning and implementation of an effective national tree-planting project.

Commercial forestry is a major economic activity with a huge potential for national wealth creation and jobs.

The country needs sufficient availability of affordable timber, both soft and hard, to reduce imports from neighbouring countries while supporting many economic enterprises such as furniture and building construction.

Commercial forestry can also be planned to revive industries to manufacture paper and packaging material to replace imports.

Commercial bamboo farming can be introduced to support paper manufacturing. Private capital, I am sure, will readily invest in commercial forestry if sufficiently enticed with effective policies and strategies.

Agro-forestry is already a major economic activity in fruit agriculture (avocado, mangoes, macadamia) which should be recognised as an environmental venture providing carbon sinks.

Small-scale farmers and homesteads should be encouraged and assisted to plant fruit trees to provide nourishment for their families.

The grevillea (mukima) tree has proved an effective greening tree that easily co-exists with other farm crops while providing domestic firewood and timber.

Grevilia has provided most of the tree cover we see in rural agricultural Kenya.

Then comes biofuels forestry, which is being pioneered by a multinational oil firm, ENI, in Ukambani.

Trees and plants like croton, castor oil and jatropha can create forest cover acreage in semi-arid areas while commercially providing biofuels ( renewable energy ).

Further, I see no reason why road authorities should not line up highways all over Kenya with beautiful trees. The same should be done by cities and towns.

All available spaces in public areas (administration centres, schools etc.) should be populated with trees.

Tree planting should go beyond PR and CSR exercises to become a major green economic opportunity. Corporations should be encouraged to sponsor tree nurseries across Kenya under expert guidance.

Finally, sustaining tree planting campaigns and high-level visibility is not easy, but there is no option if the 15 billion trees target is to be achieved. For impact, counties should participate fully.

George Wachira is a petroleum consultant,

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