(PSCU)— Fifty-four tree growers and conservationists were today recognized for their passion and effort during an inaugural ceremony that hopes to encourage tree planting across the country.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, herself a passionate conservationist, presided over ceremony where the 53 awardees were fetted under the Tree Growing and Forest Conservation Award Scheme organized by the Kenya Forest Service.
The awardees, described as champions of conservation, received recognition certificates and plaques. They included individuals, schools, pastoralists, farmers, civil organizations, community groups , state agencies, tea factories and some counties.
The beneficiaries were drawn from all the 47 counties to appreciate their efforts towards tree planting and conservation initiatives in different geographical regions.
The First Lady was recognized for her continued support in tree growing in schools and other conservation initiatives she is involved in.
The Tree Growing and Forest Conservation Award Scheme has been inaugurated when the country is experiencing a declining forest cover that currently stands at 7.4 per cent against the globally accepted 10 per cent national cover.
The scheme also coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).
Speaking at the ceremony at ceremony held at KFS headquarters in Karura Forest, Nairobi, the First Lady said the survival of human beings in highly dependant on the sustainability efforts of the entire ecosystem.
She however said human actions, short term and sometimes selfish motivations had negatively impacted, threatened or endangered our fragile forest cover.
“This ceremony will remind us that we are all dependent on the environment and that the role our ancestors have played in the past, the role we play today, and the role our children will play in the future is extremely vital to our human survival”, she said.
The First Lady congratulated the awardees because they have discovered the intricate balance of appreciating the true potential of the forests and reconciling their economic efforts with sustainability values.
She cited the huge benefits and the various roles that forests play all over the world including being sources for the critical carbons, fuel and contributing towards poverty reduction in the rural areas. The forests also play a key role to balance nature.
“Forests are what has been described as the ‘lungs of the earth’ – purifying the air we breathe, regulating our climate and protecting the soils from destructive erosion”, she said
In Kenya, said the First Lady, we have many protected forests that are a home to a broad diversity and variety of plant and animal species. These forests have become key tourist and recreational sites, including human health spas.
“As such, we must ensure that we have policies and programs that can create a meaningful impact on food security, incomes and human wellbeing both at the household and national levels”. She added
The First Lady said she had learnt from the Beyond Zero experience that positive solutions and success to any programs can only happen if vulnerable communities especially women, children and youth have access to accruing social and economic benefits from these programs.
She said the Beyond Zero success story and the passionate experience of today’s awardees in tree planting and conservation efforts confirms that it is possible to find innovative solutions to the challenges of sustainable development and social economic wellbeing.
Our success in forest management and conservation, said the First Lady, will depend on our collective resilience and resolve to recover what has been wiped out through human actions and by the devastating impact of climate change.
“It will depend on the policies and actions that truly grasps the realities of communities living in or adjacent to forests”, she said
Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Prof. Judi Wakhungu said the greatest pressure on our forests was being exerted by the 70 per cent of Kenyans who depend on fuel wood.
Timothy Lidjodi Luvongo from Kakamega County was declared the overall winner of the Awards Scheme besides being the best individual in tree planting and conservation.
Others at the ceremony included KFS board chairman , Peter Kinyua, Chief Conservator of Forests Emilio Mugo, representatives of various development partners and and the chair-person of the Parliamentary Environmental Committee, Amina Abdalla.