Life is a long journey, and if you have an idea of where you are going, finding the right mentor or platform can be a gamechanger. I recently got hitched to one which changed my perspective for the foreseeable future; a 3-day stakeholders convening by UNDP that sought to engage young people in the environmental space on Redd+ readiness and nature-based entrepreneurship. Gladly, I would say sometimes an ember is all we need. A trigger of some sort, a spark. Somehow, we became more confident of the possibilities of the future.
The forum was largely centered on the environmental ecosystem, biodiversity, and entrepreneurship in nature-based businesses. Youth entrepreneurship, investment in the forest value chain and incentivizing climate action as a business were drummed up as a possible buy-in for the youth. Top of the objectives was to scale up climate change projects ran by young people and make them commercially viable. To that end, various partners including Ministry of Environment, Kenya Forests Research Institute, Kenya Forests Services, Net Fund Green Innovation and Youth Enterprise Funds were netted in to demonstrate the massive scope of potential and opportunities that were up for exploitation by young people. Sadly, despite the youth being the future of our country, youth remain absent in the environmental sector or at best limited.
There is need to challenge the idea that Africa’s extraordinary biodiversity and wildlife is a diminishing resource that needs to be protected because conservation efforts need to generate wealth for local people from sustainable businesses based on natural products.
World over, climate change is set to become the most fatal crisis of our time! While climate change remains irrefutable, we are not too late to stem the tide, and this requires fundamental transformation in all aspects of our society. From how we power our economies, use our land, grow food and the transportation modes we adopt. Trees are finally getting the international recognition they deserve, thanks to their potential as a natural climate solution for absorbing carbon, restoring vital ecosystems, and helping humans adopt to a rapidly changing climate. In a perfect storm that includes Covid-19 and the intertwined crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, we need bold moves to build back better. Conserving, restoring, and growing one trillion trees all over the world by 2030 can help anchor our recovery, delivering equitable environmental progress and livelihood opportunities for the people who need them most.
In Kenya, forests remain the best opportunity to mitigate climate change. The Kenyan government aims at achieving a 10% tree cover by 2022, a rather ambitious fete. That means a whooping 1.8 billion trees must be grown, not planted. Statistics have it that only 10% of the trees planted survive. Tree growth, being an enabler of the Big 4 agenda, is an opportunity for young people to create green jobs through activities such as seed bulking, nurseries establishment, reforestation, afforestation, agroforestry, and sustainable forest management. Another sector to benefit massively from forestry is manufacturing as Kenya is a net importer of forest products. Plantations of Bamboo, Melia tree, sandal wood, and jojoba remain lucrative options for young people in considering forestry as a business. The future of forests in our country lies in investing in commercial forestry outside the gazzetted forests. Honey farming and butterfly farming are other worthwhile projects that promise decent livelihood opportunities for young people.
You see, nothing makes happy than being part of a resilient community that works too hard to fight for mother earth. A clarion call by the young people who attended the UNDP Stakeholders Forum was that time was nigh to swim with the sharks in the climate action. The youth do not know enough to be cautious and therefore they should attempt the impossible-and achieve it, generation after generation. The key to 1.8 billion trees? Many hands. This ambitious goal can only count on power players to deliver the actions that are needed. We must get all hands-on deck, including community groups and the young people of our beloved nation. This dream will require us to dig deeper than we ever wanted, always a little further! 10% tree cover can become a reality.
It became our audacious dream. We are the ones we have been waiting for!
By: Marvin Kimani, ELF