African Arguments, a pan-African platform for news, investigation, and opinion, has poked holes in one of President William Ruto’s climate projects.
In an article by Brock Hicks on Thursday titled ‘President Ruto is not Africa’s Mia Mottley‘, the outlet argued that Ruto’s goal of planting 15 billion trees posits devastating challenges to the environment including worsening drought.
According to Hicks, who is based in Nairobi, running a tree planting programme requires a sophisticated design to ensure that the wrong trees are not planted in the wrong environments.
“The problem with tree planting programmes is that without a sophisticated design that prioritises natural forest regrowth and ecological restoration over tree plantations and false metrics like the number of trees planted, they often do more harm than good,” the outlet explained in detail.
A photo of tree logs awaiting transportation to a timber mill in Kenya.
“Planting the wrong trees in the wrong places can reduce biodiversity, accelerating extinctions and impairing ecosystems’ resilience. Trees also struggle to survive in the wrong environment, and even disturb the soil, releasing carbon instead of storing it. This is particularly true in drylands like those found in most of Kenya, where tree planting can also devastate wildlife.”
The outlet, which is managed by the Royal African Society, a charity organisation founded in London, UK, 100 years ago, further highlighted the negative effects of Environment CS Soipan Tuya’s appeal to all Kenyans to plant at least 30 trees every year.
If seen to fruition, the project will be hampered by a lack of resources as well as the destruction of soil by planting the wrong trees.
“More obviously, a large proportion of seedlings often die before reaching maturity,” added the analysis.
“With no details on what tree species will be planted where, how sufficient seeds will be sourced, how they will be grown to maturity, or how they will be monitored and protected, planting 15 billion trees is just another of Ruto’s hustles.”
The outlet also questioned another of Ruto’s decision to lift the logging ban while still promoting expanding forest cover which it claimed risked reversing efforts Kenya has made in recent years.
Ruto launched the 15 billion tree plan on December 21, 2022, as he celebrated his birthday. He indicated that the plan would increase the forest cover in the country under the #JazaMiti campaign.
A month later, he directed the over 1,900 administration police graduates to plant at least 30 trees in their homes as a commemoration of their graduation.
President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto planting a tree at the Groove of Nations at Jerusalem Forest on May 9, 2023.