On 13 May 2020, the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) mobilised communities to plant giant bamboo seedlings across the Mt. Kenya East region. At least 100,000 tree seedlings were distributed and planted in strategic areas, particularly riparian areas, to help build resilience against the effects of climate change.
The activity, which was a pilot of a larger project – the Mt Kenya East Regeneration Partnership - seeks to strengthen nature-based ecosystems, and is expected to be scaled up to other areas in collaboration with PACJA's membership.
The tree planting was launched in a webinar that hosted several participants from around the world and is in line with Kenya's contributions to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) where the country seeks to achieve 10 per cent tree cover.
Speaking when the exercise was launched virtually and streamed live on local TV and radio stations, Dr. Mithika Mwenda, who is also the PACJA Executive Director, said the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic had turned everything upside down was not an excuse not to continue the fight against the climate emergency.
Business, education, political and environment stakeholders and the local community that were involved in the exercise that is expected to spread to other regions, hailed the efforts by the team that conceived the idea and ensured its implementation.
“We want to see this kind of action, not just talk. We want to make tree planting part of us. This is a god way to conserve the environment while at the same time giving the local community economic muscle because of the goodness of bamboo tree,” said Cecilia Mutembei, a local woman who was glad to have had the opportunity to plant several trees on a riverbank near her farm.
Speaking at a primary school in Meru County, where the seedlings donated by several organisations, PACJA included, had been kept, Dr. Mwenda lauded the like-minded organisations such as Bidco Oil Company, the county governments that had put in place policies to help mitigate effects of the climate crisis and increase adaptation.
“We are grateful that the Bidco Oil Company, the Mugwe Community, Caritas Kenya, AWECA as well as the county governments are actively involved in this initiative to conserve the environment while at the same time improving the economic status of the locals, because bamboo tree serves both purposes so well,” added Dr Mwenda.
Governors H.E. Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi County) and H.E. Kiraitu Murungi (Meru County), speaking through their representatives, emphasised the role of the county governments in environmental conservation, catchment rehabilitation, especially promotion of the right varieties of trees in alignment with the Water Forum Resolutions 2019.
Gacheri Muthuri, who is the Chair of the Mugwe Community Development Organisation, urged communities to play their role in ensuring their surroundings were safe dwelling places by planting as many trees as they could.
PACJA has been actively mobilising communities such as SMEs, women's groups, youth groups, to mention a few, to take up climate action in the grassroots. This saw a huge turnout for the tree planting exercise. The Alliance has also supported many communities in several countries by providing resources as well as linkage to local and county level governments, government agencies such as the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), among others.
The teams chose the giant bamboo tree because it is a fast-growing plant and provides several benefits, particularly with many advantages for the environment and livelihoods of communities.
According to environmentalists, the bamboo tree can resist pests more than any other plant besides not being on top of the food list for deer, rabbits and several other mammals.
“The tree is also rarely bothered by insect pests, with the exception of bamboo mites, which may be a problem in dry climates,” reads a statement sent out to newsrooms by PACJA.
The bamboo tree has been found to absorb greenhouse gases and release oxygen into the atmosphere, as well as prevent soil erosion. Its other uses range from medicinal, infrastructural, textile, utensils, musical instruments and food.
The exercise launched yesterday targets riparian and watershed areas degraded over the years, in order to stabilise riverbeds.
John Kariuki, who represented the Bidco Oil Company in the webinar said in spite of what is happening (COVID-19 pandemic), “we must continue to take care of the environment”.
He said Bidco would plant a million bamboo trees in the Mt Kenya region.