Last month, to celebrate the International Day of Biological Diversity commemorating the adoption of the Convention for Biodiversity in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, the Clinton Climate Initiative, the Green Belt Movement, and the Kenya Forest Service came together for a tree planting at the Wangari Maathai Corner in the Karura Forest. This site was selected for its significance in the history of Kenya’s environmental movement. It was on this corner in Karura forest that Professor Wangari Maathai fought for environmental justice against developers who were bent on excising parts of the forest for housing projects due to its proximity to a growing city. The tree planting paid homage to this special site, and it also celebrated the continued efforts of the local communities around the forest in conservation and restoration.
Every year, the theme for International Day for Biological Diversity changes, focusing on different types of biodiversity and their importance. This year’s theme, “Biodiversity for Sustainable Development” is one we are particularly passionate about. This theme is important as the world establishes a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a critical step in the UN Post 2015 Development Agenda.
Three of the goals focus on sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystems, including oceans and forests. These goals can be achieved by conservation, management and designing of production and consumptive patterns that ensure natural resources are made available for present generations without compromising the needs of future generations.
Trees play an essential role in these efforts. As repositories for terrestrial biodiversity, trees provide diverse habitats for plants and animals, which are the basis of goods and services. Therefore, in order to achieve sustainable development, forests have to be protected and preserved.
The Clinton Foundation, in collaboration with the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and the SoS Sahel Ethiopia in Ethiopia, is committed to supporting efforts to restore critical landscapes. For example, our REAL (Restoring Ecosystems and Landscapes) program helps local communities plant trees to build climate resilience and biodiversity conservation.
Community members play a crucial role in the conservation and protection of forests as they are the custodians of natural resources, living in forests and relying on the land to provide food, medicines, and energy for their subsistence. It is therefore impossible to imagine driving sustainable development without making sure that local communities are involved.
CCI’s tree planting event sought to recognise this, bringing together community members, NGOs, and representatives from the Government to speak together with one voice. The event began with speeches from Charles Mwangi from Green Belt Movement, Rose Akombo from Kenya Forest Service, and Jackson Kimani from the Clinton Foundation. The speakers emphasized the need to protect our forests for the benefits it provides. A special appreciation was given to representatives from the Mutamaiyu Women’s group who raised the seedlings that were planted during the event. Jackson encouraged all in attendance to continue play their part in contributing to restoration of forests for sustainable development.
Ceremonial trees were planted by the Clinton Climate Initiative, the Green Belt Movement, and Kenya Forest Services. And everyone in attendance—representatives from eight institutions—was given a chance to grab a tree or two to plant and a total of 100 trees were planted. It was a truly fitting way to celebrate biodiversity.