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‘It was incredible to see’: Kenyans dig deep on first national tree planting day | Kenya

Geoffrey Mosoku and his two daughters have been digging a seedling deep into the ground of the Ngong forest in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

“It can become part of Kenyan culture to do environmental work,” said Mosoku, as he and his daughters tapped the tree into place in the natural forest a few kilometres from the city centre. The trio were one of hundreds of people who showed up at the forest on Monday to plant saplings for Kenya’s first national tree planting holiday despite heavy morning rains.

The public holiday, announced last week, is part of a government initiative to plant 15bn trees by 2032 to tackle the climate crisis and deforestation amid worsening impacts such as a severe drought in the country and the wider Horn of Africa region.

Government officials led tree-planting activities in different areas of the country and the environment minister urged the public to participate rather than use the holiday “to attend to other private and social obligations”. Seedlings were available to the public through local forest agencies and chiefs’ offices across the country.

“Conservation of the environment is the urgent and collective responsibility of our time,” the Kenyan president, William Ruto, who launched tree-growing activities in Makueni county in eastern Kenya, said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Students plant tree seedlings at a school playground in Nairobi during the nationwide tree planting public holiday on 13 November.
Students plant tree seedlings at a school playground in Nairobi during the nationwide tree planting public holiday on 13 November. Photograph: Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images

While the government’s tree-planting initiative has been widely welcomed, Ruto has faced some criticism for what environmental groups see as double-speak on conservation issues. He removed a six-year logging ban earlier this year, allowing old trees to be cut down for economic activity, saying that a number of old trees were wasting away. Environmental groups opposed the lifting of the ban, saying

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