According to the Kenya Forest Service, since 2004, the world has suffered a net loss of 37 million hectares of forest and according to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, Africa lost 64 million hectares of forest between 1995 and 2005, showing the greatest decline on any continent during the same period.
As well as exacerbating climate change which affects every living creature on the planet, it also strips the landscape of its precious biodiversity and has a negative knock-on effect for any community that has made a home in the forest.
Much of the deforestation that has taken place in the Coastal Province of Kenya in recent years, has been done to make firewood and charcoal, and been used to build hotels for tourists in nearby resorts like Malindi.
Arguably, one of the most dramatic planetary impacts of deforestation, is the loss of habitat for millions of species of flora and fauna. As 70% of our land animals and plants live in forests, many have been simply unable to survive the mass destruction of their home. Far too many now teeter on the edge of extinction; the endangered species list in Kenya includes the African lion, Grevy’s zebra, black rhinoceros, African elephant and the cheetah.
Reforestation in this region is vital, as is better education of forestry management skills if the trees are to survive and improve the ailing health of our planet and ensure the survival of the indigenous communities; we are tackling both of these issues, head on.
We have been working with very capable partners in the Coastal Province for the past few years and our trustee Ru Hartwell, has been doing so for a decade. We know precisely what needs to be done to develop new nurseries, source good tree seed, train the local villagers to be good environmental caretakers and to plant and protect the trees.
The improvements that have been seen in the community around Kundeni Primary School, have been remarkable and it is our intention to consult with other communities in the region, many of whom are aware of our work and to develop a similar model according to their needs. We pride ourselves on listening to what the villagers need, not telling them what we’re going to do for them; the former creates a recipe for multi-faceted success.
Measuring the Impact
Once again, this is a difficult one to quantify precisely, however, the new Word Forests we are going to plant in Kenya will clean the air we breathe by taking in carbon dioxide through their leaves and locking it into the wood. This will improve global air quality, as the by-product is of course oxygen, a fundamental requirement for humans and other creatures. Each tree absorbs approximately 240kg of CO2 and because their location is very close to the equator, they’ll grow incredibly quickly there and the roots will hold the soil firmly in place around them, preventing erosion which will have the additional benefit of keeping the waterways cleaner; Kenya is indeed a perfect location for planting trees for many reasons.
Trees are responsible for climate amelioration, they help conserve water and encourage rainfall, which will be of particular benefit to the Kenyan communities, as they regularly suffer drought. Trees are incredibly effective evapotranspirers, the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation of rainwater on leaves for example, and it accounts for the great majority of inland rain. The new forests will also have an enormously positive impact on levels of wildlife in the area, as biodiversity begins to flourish once more.
Once the forests reach maturity, which can happen within a short handful of years, their commodities can be sold at market which will relieve poverty too. Our goal of planting trees have far wider implications than meet the eye.