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BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — The goal: to help increase Kenya’s forest cover from the current 7 per cent to the 10 per cent recommended by UN Environment.
The means: the Green Initiative Challenge, or GIC, a 10-year program that aims to enroll 1,000 schools to green a total of 460 acres with 324,300 tree seedlings as well as 113,956 fruit seedlings.
Back in 2012, the Kenya Electricity Generating Company, which produces about 80 per cent of the country’s electricity, established the KenGen Foundation to invest in long-term programs dedicated to sustainable environmental conservation and promote a tree planting culture within the organization.
In partnership with Better Globe Forestry and Bamburi Cement Ltd. (which famously reclaimed old limestone quarries near Mombasa to create the ecological wonder Haller Park), in 2013 the KenGen Foundation launched GIC.
The program targets schools around the Seven Forks power stations in Embu, Kitui and Machakos counties in south central Kenya, vulnerable communities living near power plants, as these are the most affected by socioeconomic and environmental impacts of the plants’ installation.
The project enlists the help of primary school pupils and aims to spread a culture of reforestation and conservation of natural resources. The pupils are rewarded for growing small woodlots and forests around their school area as part of the region’s conservation effort, as well as for their own commercial and domestic use. The project focuses on primary school students in order to nurture an environmental friendly attitude and behavior from an early age.
Each school — about 400 are now participating — is provided with 150 trees for economic use and 50 wood trees for fuel. Winning an award depends mainly on the survival rates of the seedlings, which include Terminalia brownie, Senna siamea and Melia volkensii. This means that the initiative must get the maximum support and acceptance from parents, teachers, pupils, board of management and other stakeholders. The best schools benefit from scholarships, infrastructural developments, water tanks and cash rewards among others.
The project also contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases through carbon sequestration, and controls soil erosion by increasing topsoil infiltration and reducing run-off.
Water, of course, is essential to the success of the project and the health of locals. Provision of clean accessible water for communities neighbouring its power plants has been one of KenGen’s key Corporate Social Investment programs since 2005.
Some of its notable water projects include:
Sondu Miriu: This project includes a water treatment plant, bore holes and water kiosks, catering to 50,000 community members.
Kivaa-Kaewa: This includes a water distribution system (piping), water tanks and water kiosks serving 15,000 community members.
Susan Maingi, Bamburi Cement’s sustainable development director, says GIC is a source of inspiration to Kenya’s youth.
“It ensures that they learn through commitment in finding solutions and implementing them to make a difference in their society,” she says. “It also supports the nation’s agenda of reviving our tree-forest cover and therefore supports not only the national goals but promotes commitment to reversing the climate change effects in arid and semi-arid areas in Kenya.”