What you need to know:
- The name Wangari Maathai comes to everyone’s lips when trees are mentioned. Her fight saved the Karura forest and built a beauty of nature’s escape right in the heart of Nairobi.
If you look up from your breakfast plate at the Stanley Sarova in Nairobi, you will likely be staring at a long and winding tree, shooting through the roof and spreading its leaves through the Nairobi streets.
It has letters on it that go back 30-40 years preserved for the purpose of telling the importance of the tree and the role trees play in the environment. It is, in itself, an act of defiance. It stands tall in a city that has become a concrete jungle.
It whispers loneliness to trees in Karura forest and the upper areas of Muthaiga. Kenya has had its war with forest conservation. The name Wangari Maathai comes to everyone’s lips when trees are mentioned. Her fight saved the Karura forest and built a beauty of nature’s escape right in the heart of Nairobi.
And yet, Kenya – and Uganda – have plundered their forest resources. Kenya has about 8.8 percent of its land forested and Uganda 8 percent. Both countries, only a decade back, had over 25 percent forest cover.
The aggressive scale of deforestation in East Africa has its bad sides. The first and most immediate is that it reduces the rainfall coming down our alluvial soils and the second yet less spoken about is the death of the biodiversity that encourages pollination that is at the heart of farming.
There are countless academic works showing the aggressive decline of bat, bee and butterfly populations in cities across East Africa. There’s also the painful exposure that the continuous plunder of ecosystems puts cities under with viral diseases that threaten health systems coming under strain.
East Africa’s mindless urbanization swapping trees for concrete, shorting swamps for bars and washing bays, drying out streams to make way for tasteless architecture will yield the result that other cities like Lagos are now reaping; floods, deaths and unlivable estates.
The problem with the solution is also that it is too simple for people to comprehend. Planting trees. Many will say they have no land, others will claim to have no seeds/nurseries and a few will tell you they can’t find the right trees to plant for the soils they have. I suppose that is all good English. I know this because, just as I had my breakfast at Sarova, I later met a young girl [10 years old] in Kenya, Karen Wanjiru who, for her 10th birthday that weekend was leading her friends to plant 100 trees in Karura forest. The trees were coming from her nursery. At 10, if one can keep a nursery bed of trees and plant them, surely, adults, read the room!