A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they shall never sit in.
This quote is written in Gnomolgia (1732), a compilation of 6496 adagies and proverbs that Thomas Fuller an English physician had collected from various sources. In its introduction Fuller Wrote, “it hath been my constant Custom to note down and record whatever I thought of myself, or receiv’d from Men or Books worth Preserving”. One story that I came across recently was a version of words from the late seventeenth-century minister and physician Thomas Fuller who talked about planting seeds and made the comment that “he who plants trees loves others besides himself.” When trying to impress upon the importance of doing good deeds or “good works” in my father’s language, he often told me the story about an old man planting an acorn. According to my father, an old man was standing in front of his front yard planting an acorn, diligently digging up the earth. A stranger came by, noticed the hardworking, sweaty old man and questioned him,”What are you doing?” The old man said, “I am planting an acorn so I can grow an oak tree.” The stranger laughed at the old man and told him that it would take that acorn a long time to grow into a tree and that the old man would be dead. The old man responded, “I am not planting this acorn for myself, I am planting it for others,” My father would say these words with emphasis and emotions, nodding his head to the side as he often did when passing along wisdom,” leave some footprints in the sands of time” and I believe he did that.
Forests Influence on Climate Change
The U.N climate change conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya, renewed the world’s attention to what is commonly known as global warming, which most scientists say is caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions largely coming from rich countries.
Forests influence climate change largely by affecting the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When forests grow, carbon is removed from the atmosphere and absorbed in the wood, leave and soil. Because forests and oceans can absorb and store carbon over an extended period of time, they are considered “carbon skins”. This carbon remains stored in the forest ecosystem, but can be released into the atmosphere when forests are burned. Quantifying the substantial roles of forests in absorbing, storing, and releasing carbon is key to understanding the global cycle and hence climate change.
“It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.” The late Nobel Laurette Prof Wangari Maathai who fought tooth and nail against deforestation. The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the next best time is today.
Nairobi, 5 November 2012 – Deforestation deprived Kenya’s economy of 5.8 billion shillings ($US 68 million) in 2010 and 6.6 billion shillings in 2009, far outstripping the roughly 1.3 billion shillings injected from forestry and logging each year, according to a joint Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report.The ongoing work of the KFS, together with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and international partners, says that the contribution of forests is undervalued by 2.5 per cent, putting the estimate of its annual annual contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at around 3.6 per cent.
The value of the Mau Forest’s ecosystem services to the Kenyan economy previously calculated by UNEP has already catalyzed a response to conserve and rehabilitate this vital resource,” he said. “This shows we have already acknowledged the importance of forests. However, this new report quantifies the massive scale of the economic damage deforestation brings and shows much more needs to be done nation-wide.”Kenya’s five water towers – Mau Forest Complex, Mount Kenya, the Aberdares, Mount Elgon and Cherangani – feed filtered rainwater to rivers and lakes and provide more than 15,800 million cubic metres of water per year, which represents over 75 per cent of the country’s renewable surface water resources.
These forests store water during the rainy season and release it slowly, thus ensuring water flow during dry periods. The forests thus provide resilience to seasonal environmental and economic changes and long-term economic hazards like climate change. Aside from timber and fuel they also bring benefits to the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors; the electricity and water sectors; the hotels and accommodation sector; and the public administration and defense sector.
a satellite image of Kenya showing forest cover
Kenya is on the right track towards achieving 10 percent of forest cover from the current 7 percent, according to Kenya Forests Service (KFS) Director Emilio Mugo.“Forests have a big role to play in our environment especially the diversity for animals, and people have to take care of them “. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) signed a bilateral agreement, ”support to sustainable private Forest Development in Kenya” project. Approximately Sh114 million has been set aside for the project which started with the pilot areas of Nyandarua and Kericho between 2015 and 2018 then spread all over Kenya. The project seeks to support sustainable private forest development in Kenya through establishment of private small and medium scale forest owner’s associates. The move is to enhance the development of private forests and their sustainable management for the benefit of Kenyans.
Currently, about seven per cent of Kenya’s total land area is covered by forests. Stakeholders in forestry initiatives have endorsed a new plan that outlines specific measures to be undertaken across sectors to increase Kenya’s forest cover to 10 per cent in the next 15 years. They have adopted the National Forest Programme (NFP) covering the period 2016-2030, to guide the country’s management of trees. NFP is a national framework involving stakeholders from across sectors, in the development and coordination of forest conservation.
What can history tell us about the future?
In a recent interview I was asked by Unilever whether zero deforestation is possible. I said it was possible, but certainly not easy. I think these reports support that.
I do think there is enough evidence in this to suggest the brakes are being applied to deforestation despite economic and demographic pressure for the opposite. Progress is being made, but it’s slow, stuttering and varies from place to place. Of course, there remains a long way to go, but it’s worth recognizing this progress because otherwise there is a temptation – particularly among the public – to assume the decades of discussion, campaigns, finance etc around deforestation has not led to change.
Kenya is today underlining its determination to be among a group of pioneering countries putting its nature –based assets at the centre of its sustainable development ambitions.
There is still more that we can do to increase the forest cover and change begins with each one of us as an individual. One tree by each family means one billion trees on earth.
James Ngila is the Author of this post. He is an Open Data Fellow at the ICT Authority and helps government institutions make sense of the data they consume and produce. Write to info [at] opendata [dot] go [dot] ke or on twitter @jnkyule to get in touch