While small actions can help fight global warming, the best efforts are those coordinated on a larger scale with support from the government. A great example of this has taken place in Kenya, where they just celebrated their first National Tree Planting Day on November 13. Like the name suggests, this special holiday aimed to bring all Kenyans together in planting 100 million trees.
This is just the first step in the Kenyan government's plan to plant 15 billion trees in 10 years. To reach the target set for this first event, officials called for all citizens to plant at least two trees on their own land. On top of freeing up people's time with the establishment of the national holiday, 150 million saplings were made available in tree nurseries around the country. “Conservation of the environment is the urgent and collective responsibility of our time,” wrote Kenyan president, William Ruto, on Twitter.
Since the holiday was announced just a week prior to the date, many didn't get to learn about where to pick up saplings or find planting areas in time. However, those who managed to partake in the activities, did so in huge numbers. The Guardian reports that the forests around the capital city of Nairobi were buzzing with activity. “Families, environmental groups, students, government officers and forest rangers plodded through muddy grounds in the Ngong forest with saplings in hand,” writes reporter Caroline Kimeu. Even cyclists roamed through different routes, stopping to plant trees along the roads.
To keep a record of the tree-planting efforts, the government has launched an app named JazaMiti (which means “fill with trees” in Swahili). There, Kenyans can find real-time updates on nationwide tree-planting efforts, information on the species that best suit the local ecosystem, and the location of nearby tree nurseries. Users are also asked document their own planting, which will be verified every four months each year. Those who plant the most trees will receive an award for being “outstanding tree planters.”
However, despite the positive reactions this endeavor has had, local environmentalists have called out the government for the two-faced nature of the endeavor. Recently, Ruto lifted a six-year logging ban, allowing old trees to be cut down for economic activity. Environmental groups expressed their concern, saying it would increase illegal logging in the area.
Still, the tree-planting holiday offers a glimmer of hope in a country that has been hit by extreme weather lately. “The environment is everyone’s responsibility—everyone has to make a contribution,” said Elizabeth Wathuti, an environmental activist. “It was incredible to see so many people asking where they could plant trees or get seedlings. It shows that more people are beginning to take the issues of conservation seriously, and having a national tree planting holiday shows political goodwill and intentionality.”
Kenya just celebrated their first National Tree Planting Day on November 13.
— William Samoei Ruto, PhD (@WilliamsRuto) November 13, 2023
This special holiday aimed to bring together all Kenyans in planting 100 million trees, with the longterm goal of planting 15 billion in 10 years.