Kenya is on course to realizing the United Nations’ recommended standard of 10 percent forest cover following the launch of a joint venture by the National Youth Service (NYS) and the Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) to develop 50 million tree seedlings for planting by May 2019.
Dubbed the Greening Kenya Campaign, the offshoot project was conceptualized from a Memorandum of Understanding signed on October 30, 2018, on collaboration between the two entities across key lines in project management and service delivery.
The initiative was officially launched Wednesday at the Ruiru GK Prison farm by the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth & Gender Affairs Prof. Margaret Kobia, her counterpart in the Ministry of Interior & Coordination of National Government Dr. Fred Matiang’i, and Keriako Tobiko for the Ministry of Environment & Forestry.
Some 12 million seedlings — both indigenous and exotic — are being developed at the facility through the utilization of the resources available in both institutions. Similar nurseries have been set up in 27 other centres in all the regions and ecological zones across the country where 38 million more seedlings will be developed and distributed from.
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The three Cabinet Secretaries jointly supervised the planting of 3,000 trees at the farm to cap the launch, which saw 47,000 more seedlings planted in the other 27 stations.
Prof. Kobia noted that the collaboration between NYS and KPS to execute a project of such a magnitude is testament to the potential benefits that synergy between government agencies and institutions can yield if fully utilized.
“The Government is a system that requires all of us to work together to achieve our targets,” she said, adding that the campaign will not only complement the global efforts to reverse the effects of climate change but also earn Kenya more carbon credits.
She also exuded confidence that the NYS 2018 Bill, which was recently approved by the Cabinet, will help the institution leverage collaboration with other entities in all sectors and align itself to the objectives of H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big 4 agenda.
On his part, CS Keriako Tobiko acknowledged the magnitude of the target and the urgency of achieving and maintaining the constitutional requirement regarding forest cover and called upon other agencies and institutions to come on board with financial and technical support.
To realize the 10 percent national forest cover by 2022, the country must plant at least 500 million seedlings annually. However, the high cost of producing these seedlings, which is currently estimated at Kshs. 20 per seedling, renders the government’s efforts in this endeavor unsustainable.
Tobiko said: “This target is beyond our capacity if we go it alone as the Ministry of Environment and Forestry; if other partners team up with us the way these two institutions [NYS and KPS] have, then we can even surpass our target.”
Under the Greening Kenya Campaign, the conservative production cost will be reduced by almost half. The project lab has enlisted the support of local corporate organizations and companies, which are expected to leverage the benefits of the Kyoto Model Forest and their respective Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects to publicize and sustain the campaign.
Dr. Matiang’i stated that the synergy between the two institutions is timely and pledged to mobilize the necessary financial and human resources to support the government’s forestation drive.
He said: “Our target is to provide at least 50 million seedlings annually for the next four years, but we will build on the lessons we’re learning from the first phase to increase the figures progressively.”
He also directed all National Government Administration Officers (NGAOs), including chiefs and their assistants, to step up the enforcement of the government moratorium on logging activities in public and community forests in their respective areas of jurisdiction. On November 16, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry extended the ban by one year to allow the scaling up of the tree planting campaigns.
The ultimate objective of the Greening Kenya Campaign is to impart agroforestry skills to Kenyans and cultivate a culture of nurturing trees. This will be achieved through the deployment of NYS servicemen/women, prison warders, and National Government Administration Officers (NGAOs) to provide sustained technical supervision to ensure that seedlings are protected to maturity.