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Nurture a young generation of passionate tree lovers to partake of tree planting activities across Kenya Arid and Semi-Arid counties



Kenya Arid and Semi-Arid areas bear most of the cataclysmic effects of climate change, which manifest in the form of short or even prolonged drought. This condition has led to ecosystem and land degradation, which leads to food insecurity in the region. The humanitarian interventions of the Kenyan government and of course the loving Kenyan populace has seen food in the form of maize, beans, flour and other goodies taken to the region. The joy and excitement in the faces of the occupants of these areas is undeniable through such divine interventions. However, these noble acts are not sustainable solutions to help the people from such areas grow into resilient communities and environments. In the same region, there are farmers, striving so hard to ensure agricultural productivity, but face challenges brought about by poor degraded landscapes caused by drought.

There is need for a sustainable model of helping these communities mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change and become resilient through sustainable land restoration practices, especially tree planting initiatives. In line with this thought, the Youth for Trees Initiative (YOTI) will seek to empower the people from these communities to restore the degraded landscapes and thus increase soil productivity and boost food production through tree planting. The initiative will also act as convening and organizing platform for young Kenyans interested in learning more about and building knowledge and capacities in the field of landscape restoration in ASAL regions through grants and funding, thereby making it the first of its kind. YOTI will be a student-driven initiative, harnessing on potential partnerships with relevant stakeholder organizations, thereby creating a space for university students to volunteer their skills and passion, and lead a land restoration revolution in the ASAL areas through planting and nurturing of diverse well-adapted exotic, native and fruit trees.

Is this proposal for a practice or a project?


What actions do you propose?

Proposal for the establishment of the Youth for Trees Initiative 

This initiative will be student-led, and will incorporate students from different institutions to volunteer their skills through tree planting activities in the ASAL counties. The Kenyan youth, especially students, have shown commitment and passion towards initiatives that seek to impact the lives of the vulnerable communities. Thus, YOTI will provide a robust platform for youth involvement in restoring degraded landscapes in ASAL areas through the following ways:

Tree planting, nurturing and training of small holder farmers
This will be the core mandate of the initiative. Rather than laying specific preference on Grevillea and fruit trees as before, the initiative sees value in adopting both exotic, native and fruit trees. The initiative will partner with One Acre Fund, a social enterprise, that works with more than 800000 small holder farmers in Sub-saharan Africa to alleviate hunger and poverty. Since its founding in 2006, it has managed to work  with small holder farmers in Kenya and Rwanda to plant over 21 million trees by 2018. With the expertise and guidance sourced from the organization, the initiative will ensure a participatory approach by examining farmer and local community's tree preferences. Importantly, of the tree species, the initiative would also encourage community members and farmers to consider grevillea tree as one of the well-adapted trees. According to the study conducted by One Acre Fund, Grevillea, as compared to others, require less water and land. The trees grow fast. With the consumption of less water, this will be easier to nurture in these areas with scarce water supply. The initiative will also focus on planting of fruit trees, with the core objective addressing food insecurity in the near future. Trees play a very significant role in restoring degraded landscape.
However, a question raised is that when it comes to the early years of fruit trees and of course any other trees, how would community members invest their time and limited water resources to nurture the trees? The initiative seeks to adopt an incentivizing model of awarding community members who have been receptive of the trees and have shown the intention of looking after them. Other than appreciating such community members with tokens such as tins of maize, rice or beans, we would provide the specific households identified with water harvesting vessels that they would use for water storage. This would be motivation enough for them to see value in the project idea that the initiative sells. The initiative would also make a point of seeing into it that these community members are empowered and made to understand that these trees are not for the initiative’s benefits, but rather for their short-term and long-term benefits such as provision of medicine, shade and even food. The initiative will ensure that the women and children from most of these households are more empowered because they have always shown more inclination towards caring for the environment. This is not to mean that the initiative will sideline men. Rather, it will adopt an inclusive framework, through which more is placed emphasis on the role of women and children, and acknowledging the role of men. Emphasis will be laid on tree growing and not tree planting. Long term stewardship and husbandry of these trees ought to be seen as creating viable assets for the communities and farmers.
In specific regions, the initiative would also establish tree nurseries that are operated by local unemployed youth and women. Sustainable tree growing has significant impacts on both poverty alleviation and on the environment. This would also be a motivation enough for encouraging community members to embrace the change. 
Aside from planting and nurturing these trees in schools, especially primary schools, the initiative will also establish tree nurseries within these schools. This will help give rise to a generation of children who will inculcate a green culture of land restoration and environmental sustainability and thus propagating more green generations to come. For the most supportive and receptive schools, a water harvesting tank would be provided to help act as motivation enough for the noble cause. The initiative would work with the schools in building the capacity of these children on the significance of the trees and the urgency for planting and nurturing them. Trees planted would be allocated to pupils to nurture them. There would also be small token incentives such as short story books and snacks for children who have properly tended to their allocated trees for a specified number of weeks. Educating these children through provision of these short story books would serve as a model of nurturing a young generation of educated and well-informed children.
For farmers in the region partaking of agricultural activities, they will be encouraged to practice agro-forestry and free trees donated to them for planting. This will help boost soil and food productivity in their farms, as it enhances mixed farming. According to a study by One Acre Fund, about 80% of Kenyans derive their livelihoods from agriculture and most of them are smallholder farmers who produce food for their households. Accordingly, it is observed that farmers are willing to engage in agroforestry when given access to seedlings and trained how to care for them. The main challenge to these farmers has been access and affordability of the tree seeds and seedlings. Interestingly, the initiative acknowledges this challenge and brings a solution to their doorstep: free seedlings and free training. This would enable farmers to passionately embrace the initiative. The initiative will partner with One Acre Fund to offer seedlings and training to these farmers, all supported by the initiative. The initiative will also leverage on the close ties with the African Center for Technology Studies (ACTS), a top Climate Change Think Tank, to mobilize for partnerships and resources from relevant stakeholders, courtesy of the ACTS’ networking and fund-raising capabilities. Also, the initiative would constantly liase with community chiefs to hold weekly or monthly barazas to promote tree planting and share best practices.

According to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2020, 2030, 2050 and 1.5°C are four numbers everyone needs to have in their minds. Party to adequate funding, the initiative targets a total of 10 million trees by 2030. By 2050, over 50 million trees would have been planted, and this will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by monumental proportions. The ASAL counties would be transformed to green lands. It will also help attain Kenya’s target of 10% tree cover.

Organizing and convening platform for young Kenyans interested in land restoration
As part of the suggestion raised by the contest judges, the initiative has in deed seen value and sense in increasing the scope of its role from just tree planting to acting as an organizing and convening platform for young Kenyans interested in learning more about and building their capacities in the fields of landscape restoration, and support some through grants and funds. This would be one great way of distinguishing the initiative from any ordinary tree planting campaigns and movements within the country. Of course, the unique feature of the initiative’s model is having the youth at the center of the entire program. Additionally, increasing the scope of the initiative to the afore mentioned role would make it the first of its kind in the country, which would be a very monumental milestone. The initiative would create a space for youth engagement in specifically land restoration practices, enterprise and innovation. With the innovation and ideas that are bound to be generated from such a platform, the initiative, through forging of partnerships, will link various ideas to grants and donors, and party to availability of funds, will fund certain innovation around land restoration practices.
With this role, the initiative must consider ways of massively mobilizing resources from more donors and funders. With notable partnerships with United Nations Climate Resilience Initiative, Global Partnership Resilience and the African Center for Technology Studies which may be one of the ideal organizations to host the initiative, the initiative will massively mobilize for financial and technical support to help ensure that this broad objective is also a priority.

Youth volunteerism
The initiative would rely on the passion of the youth to drive transformative land restoration change in the ASAL areas. The initiative would seek to work with as many student volunteers as possible. However, a question was raised on how reliable the university labor would be? How will students stick to the project throughout? 
Worth noting, is the fact that the project author has a standing and ready team of 30 students who are committed to sustainable development and related projects. All of them being members of the University Sustainable Development Club that the author founded recently, the team has partaken volunteerism initiatives in slums and within the institution. In slums, we have committed to volunteering our teaching skills in underserved schools. The team has proven effective and it is the team that will be charged with the responsibility, deriving from its success in volunteerism. The team consists of majority freshers and second year students, who invest their time to partake of such initiatives. Furthermore, this is a proposal that the team has endorsed, and indeed, there is certainty that the project would be fully implemented, as labor is available and reliable. Moreover, we have embarked on thorough recruitment of students with preferred values, and who have shown desire to stick around as the project is will be implemented. Students' transportation and meals will be catered for during occasional field visits which will serve to monitor the progress and growth of trees.

Who will take these actions?

Proposal authors: drafting the initiative’s programmes and organizing for field visits. The authors will also give guidance to the project, and lobby for financial and technical support. The authors will also give prospective budgets for the implementation of the project
The University SDG Club/Student volunteers: volunteering skills, though availing themselves to plant trees in the identified ASAL areas, and conducting occasional visits to check on the state of the trees
UN Climate Resilience Initiative, Global Resilience Partnership and MIT Climate CoLAB: funding and technical support
Local community members and farmers: planting, nurturing and adoption of trees. The trees will be planted in homes, farms, schools, river banks and any land availed by community members or the county government
County governments: the initiative will also seek to forge partnership with the county governments, who may collectively engage in the project through planting, and offering degraded lands that can be used. There are huge tracts of unused bare land in these areas. With the support of the county government, these can be provided for use
One Acre Fund, Kenya Forestry Institute (KEFRI) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS): mentorship and training on proper tree planting and maintenance. Provision of tree seedlings.
African Center for Technology Studies (ACTS): help with financial mobilization to help meet the projects financial requirements.

Where will these actions be taken?

These actions will be taken  in the Arid and Semi-Arid counties of Kenya. The trees will be planted in homes, schools, river banks, farms and any other land issued by county government or willing community members.

In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.


Country 2

No country selected

Country 3

No country selected

Country 4

No country selected

Country 5

No country selected


What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

A tree can absorb approximately 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. It can also sequester 1 ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old.

The initiative will depend on funding availability from its partners to help ensure availability of trees for planting. Countries such as UK have already set targets to ensure net zero emissions by 2050. Thus 2020, 2030 and 2050 are the commitments. Party to adequate funding, the initiative anticipates to have planted 1 million trees by 2020, 10 million trees by 2030 and 50 million trees by 2050.

By 2050, the ASAL areas would be transformed to absolute green lands. A lot of CO2 would also be sequestrated within these years.

NB: Not good with calculations. Would need some support in that.

What are other key benefits?


Environment: Reduced soil erosion, reduction in GHG emissions, land restoration, climate change mitigation and adaptation

Economy: income from selling timber or firewood, sales of fruits

Society: food availability, fodder for cattle, shade, firewood and medicine


What are the proposal’s projected costs?

Costs January- December 2020
A one-year old grevillea tree costs USD 0.3 and a two-year cost USD 1. A fruit tree roughly costs USD 1.5.
The target is to plant 200,000 trees by 2020. Using the 1-year old grevillea tree seedlings, the cost for 100000 of such would be USD 30000.
Using the 2-year-old grevillea tree seedlings, the cost for 50000 of such would be USD 50000.
Using the fruit trees, the cost of 50000 of such would be USD 75000
Total price for 20000 trees to be planted by 2020 is approximately (30000+50000+75000) = USD 155000
Facilitation of students’ transportation/travel annually would rough up to USD 10000
Emergency Fund for the student volunteers up to USD 5000
Overhead costs up to 15000 USD
Mentorship and training up to USD 5000
Incentives up to USD 10000
Total: USD 200000
This is a rough estimate; we plan to have a more accurate budget by the end of the year.

Possible Challenges
Most university students have no temporary source of income. So, this would hamper movements. However, with provision of some transport stipend, this would be addressed. As pertaining to availability of labor, there is an established team of 30 students, who I have worked with before in other initiatives, and they have a proven track record of delivery and passion.
To address the challenge of letting trees die, as mentioned earlier, the initiative will adopt an incentive model to encourage the community members and farmers to invest their time and water resources.

A similar youth movement, though not student centered, refered to as Meforest initiative had sought to embark on tree planting activities across Kenyan counties. The target in 2018, was to plant 1 million trees in these counties. However, the initiative was not as successful due to the failure to forge strategic partnerships, financial constraints and lack of a training organization to help train the students, thus creating knowledge gaps.



Short-term: In 5-6 years, 5 million trees would remove over 25000 tons of CO2.

Medium term: In 15-50 year, the ASAL areas will enjoy food security brought about by fruit production. One mango tree for instance, produces at least 200 mangoes. This would create surplus flow of food and of course economic engagement. By 2050, the initiative targets 50 million trees.

Long-term: Beyond 50 years, ASAL areas would be some of the most productive regions and with   minimal or no GHG emissions 

About the author(s)

Finney Israel is an undergraduate student at the Technical University of Kenya, studying Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Diplomacy. He is passionate about Sustainable Development Goals. Finney is the current President, Net Impact, Technical University of Kenya Chapter and the Founder and President of SDG Club at the Technical University of Kenya. Finney has also worked with the African Center for Technology Studies as a Research Intern. He is passionate about youth innovation and enterprise that seek to address persistent global challenges like food insecurity and climate change. 

The author acknowledges and appreciates the moral support and guidance provided by the Technical University of Kenya SDG Club.

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UNFCCC Tweet, 23rd June, "2020, 2030, 2050 and 1.5°C are four numbers everyone needs to have in their minds"