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Kenya launches national landscape restoration program

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya has launched a national forest and landscape restoration program aimed at restoring the degraded forests and landscapes, a senior government official has said.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Professor Judi Wakhungu said on Thursday that the program is also aimed at addressing climate change, conservation of biodiversity and improving food security.

“We are driven by the urgent necessity to restore ecological integrity and functions of degraded forests and landscapes which has significantly lost their capacity to support livelihoods, environmental conservation and economic development,” Wakhungu said.

The launch makes Kenya the first African country to have comprehensive national restoration opportunity assessment.

It is expected that the move will inform commitments to the Bonn Challenge that is aimed at restoring 150 million hectares of land around the world by 2020.

Kenya’s move is widely seen by experts as an opportunity towards meeting the African Resilient Landscapes Initiative, an initiative that targets to promote integrated landscape management by adapting to and mitigating climate change.

According to Wakhungu, Kenya has already committed 5.1 million hectares of deforested and degraded forests and other landscape restorations by the year 2030.

This target is expected to increase Kenya’s total tree cover by nine percent, bringing the total tree cover of the country over the constitutional mandate.

There are also plans for afforestration, rehabilitation of natural forests buffer zones along water bodies and wetlands and planting of commercial trees and bamboo plantations in unstocked forests that will be done on 7.6 million hectares of land.

Under this scenario, carbon sequestration potential is expected to increase by more than 260 Mt CO2 by 2063.

According to Dr. Kitty Van Der Heidjen, Africa Director of World Resources Institute, an independent think tank on environment, land degradation is hindering Africa’s sustainable economic development and its resilience to climate change.

He however said that the trend can be reversed since the continent has 700 million hectares of degraded land that is the largest restoration opportunity of any continent in the world.

“We have to make decisions based on scientific evidence to help reverse and restore landscapes,” she noted.

Mohamed Sessay, senior programs officer at the United Nations Environment Programme disclosed that the Global Environmental Facility has earmarked 53 million U.S. dollars to support Africa’s Sustainable Development Goals and environmental conservation efforts.

He called on countries to honor their international environmental commitments to be able to attract additional funding.



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