December 10, 2023

The Kenyan government has announced a surprise public holiday on 13 November for a nationwide tree planting day, part of its ambitious plan to plant 15bn trees by 2032

The interior minister, Kithure Kindiki, made the announcement via an official notice posted to social media.

“The government has declared a special holiday on Monday 13 November 2023, during which the public across the country shall be expected to plant trees as a patriotic contribution to the national efforts to save our country from the devastating effects of climate change,” said Kindiki.

Kenya’s forest cover stands at about 7% but the government has set aside more than $80m (£65m) this financial year as part of its effort to increase it to more than 10%.

Trees store carbon, one of the main drivers of global heating. In contrast, deforestation accelerates climate change: it halts plant photosynthesis so trees are no longer taking up carbon. It is also often accompanied by burning, which releases large amounts of carbon dioxide.

The climate crisis is causing worsening droughts in the Horn of Africa, including Kenya, where rains have failed for five seasons in a row.

The Kenyan environment, climate change and forestry ministry said it would provide tree seedlings for what it said was “an unprecedented show of commitment by the government towards our climate action obligations”.

“It is a moment for Kenyans to stand in solidarity in the defence of our environment, it’s a ‘hummingbird’ contribution day, all of us pulling together to fight back the climate change crisis,” said the environment minister, Roselinda Soipan Tuya.

William Ruto has made the national landscape and ecosystem restoration programme a priority since assuming the presidency in September 2022. His plans drew praise from King Charles III, who was in Kenya last week for his first visit to an African nation since he ascended the throne last year.

“Having been planting trees for most of my life, I thought I was doing rather well, but your ambition for planting 15bn trees makes me admire your efforts,” he said at a state banquet.

While in the country, Charles planted a tree at the State House in Nairobi and at the Karura forest, which is associated with the late environmentalist and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.

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