By Brian Okinda
To many across the country, September 14th passes, perhaps, without any notice; after all it, apparently, is just like any other normal day, without holidaying and fanfair. However, this should not be the case as September 14th of every year marks a day dedicated to the physical act and journey of planting and growing trees equivalent to one’s age.
This date marks the ‘Plant Your Age’ Day, an occasion that gives each one across the country a chance to restore hope, inspire a new generation, replenish health and make the world a better place for all through planting trees.
And this year’s main event will be held in Homa Bay County at Arina Primary School, in Unga Village, Ndhiwa Sub-county. Some 1,881 tree seedlings will be planted across Unga Village of Homa Bay County to symbolize the newly elected Kenyan leaders; from the Members of the County Assembly, Members of National Assembly, Senators, Governors, Deputy President and the President.
The day will also be marked across the country with individuals, corporates, school children and government institutions planting trees in a series of events spearheaded by the Green Africa Foundation and its partners.
Urging Kenyans to embrace and participate in this noble exercise, Dr Isaac Kalua Green, who is the founder and chairperson of the Green Africa Foundation, holds that when you plant a tree, you give life to the living and make it worthwhile for you, your family and future generations.
“The ‘Plant Your Age’ Campaign seeks to enhance and unify tree growing across Kenya, Africa and globally. There are already numerous tree planting campaigns championed by different players and entities, but they are often time-bound and splintered, which makes it hard to track progress, survival and flourish of planted trees,” says Mr Kalua.
He indicates that this tree-planting campaign does not seek to replace or outshine any of these other tree-planting ventures, but rather to enhance and unify tree-growing at individual, corporate and national levels. It essentially complements other key environmental days like ‘World Environment Day’, the ‘International Day of Forests’ and ‘National Tree Planting Day. It only differs from these days because of its resounding call for people to take individual steps on growing of trees.
And while at it, it seeks to ensure that those who plant and grow trees equivalent to their respective ages also replenish their health through healthy nutrition and regular workouts, replenish their relationships through deliberate acts like communicating better and travelling together leading to peace within communities, replenish their livelihoods by starting new entrepreneurships, growing existing enterprises and revamping careers and replenish their spirituality through re-dedication to God.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data, noncommunicable diseases kill about 41 million people annually. This accounts for 71 per cent of all deaths globally. Among these are lifestyle diseases that can largely be prevented through proper nutrition and fitness.
Yet natural landscapes, fresh vegetables and fruits are all key drivers of healthy bodies and minds. Trees play a key role in all these drivers since they provide fruits and underpin natural landscapes. Through agroforestry, they also protect the soil that nurtures vegetables and other crops.
“Every time you grow a tree, you are essentially investing not just in planetary health, but also human health. This September 14th, invest in your health by planting trees commensurate to your age. Let’s all grow trees and harvest health!,” Dr Kalua says.
He notes that the ‘Plant your Age’ campaign provides an opportunity for national and county governments, corporates and individuals to inject innovation into tree-growing by ensuring longterm flourishing of these trees.
It also grants a platform for governments to expand the forest cover of gazzetted national forests by investing national resources into consistent tree-planting exercises within these forests, as well as unlocking multiple opportunities for Corporate Social Investment that will expand not just forests and woodlands, but also trees and better relationships.
The ‘Plant your Age’ campaign was an idea mooted by Dr Kalua when the Late Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai passed on. Dr Kalua, initially urged Kenyans to plant 71 trees each to mark every year of the late Prof. Maathai’s life and to commemorate her efforts in sustainable development, democracy and peace.
Kenyans consequently heeded this call and established the “Wangari Maathai Green Corners” in various parts of the country. The first one was established by then Minister for Agriculture Dr William Ruto and other dignitaries at the University of Nairobi’s, Wangari Maathai Institute in Lower Kabete. This concept later evolved to today’s rallying call “Plant Your Age” Day.
And today, this concept is a global call to action for human beings to plant trees equivalent to their respective ages and ensure the specific trees grow to maturity. It is a personalized commitment to conserve the environment to ensure that wanton deforestation doesn’t result in increasing loss of the most important commodity – water – which is a crucial factor since an abundance of trees is the primary prerequisite for water sufficiency.
The first ‘Plant Your Age’ Campaign was subsequently launched by Kenya’s third President, the Late Mwai Kibaki when we dedicated the Kibaki Green Corner -with 80 trees to commemorate his 80th birthday then- in Kitui during the National Tree Planting Day held on April 30th, 2012 in the county. Kenyans have, thereafter, been planting and growing trees equivalent to their ages at their preferred places.
“Our enhancement is based on the concept of planting and growing trees that correspond to your age, whether that age is biological, product or anniversary related. For instance, during the anniversary of a given corporate’s founding, all staff members can plant trees corresponding to the corporate age in question or number of products they handle. When trees are planted, they are in essence ‘born’ and must be nurtured to full maturity. This is a critical component of the ‘Plant your Age’ campaign. The campaign is not limited by time, geography or sector but is flexible to the needs and capabilities of individuals and entities,” Dr Kalua says,
The ‘Plant Your Age’ Campaign extends a hand of partnership to individuals who are part of a bigger movement that lends longterm significance to their individual tree growing efforts. All participants are required to sign their commitment to plant their age and ensure the trees grow to maturity. They are encouraged to share images of their ‘Green Corners’ and share challenges faced. This is done through online and offline forums. The initiative is meant to move our mindset from tree-planting to green-growing.