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Kenya to plant 7.6 billion trees to check deforestation

Reuters    Translate This Article
12 August 2009

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya said on Wednesday it would plant 7.6 billion trees over the next 20 years to redress decades of chopping down forest cover, the effect of which is now being felt in acute water and power shortages.

Just 3 percent of land in the agriculture-based east African economy is covered by forests that are protected by the authorities, compared with a government target of 10 percent.

'We will have to plant 4.1 million hectares in order to make a percentage that is internationally acceptable,' Environment Minister John Michuki told reporters.

'You are talking about 7.6 billion trees,' he said. 'In my estimation, it is going to cost us $20 billion over 20 years.'

That amount is nearly twice the government's annual spending, which will be about $11 billion in fiscal 2009/10.

By comparison, the authorities in Nairobi expect to spend just over $650 million this year on the country's crumbling roads, and around $400 million on energy projects.

The impact of forest destruction is being felt by Kenyans, with rivers drying up and hydro-electric power generation, farm production and tourism all suffering as a result.

Kenya's biggest forest, the Mau, has lost a quarter of its 400,000 hectares in recent years to unchecked human settlement, illegal logging and the burning of charcoal.

A report released by Prime Minister Raila Odinga last month showed that politicians had been allocated large parcels of Mau land by corrupt officials, mostly during the 1990s.

Michuki was speaking at the launch of a solar-charged mobile phone handset costing just 2,999 shilling ($39) by Safaricom, the nation's leading mobile operator.

There are some 18 million active SIM cards in Kenya. But only about 18 percent of its 36 million people have electricity in their homes. Mobile users in rural areas not linked to the national grid often have problems charging their phones.

(Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

($1=76.65 Kenyan Shilling)

Copyright 2009 Reuters. Reprinted with permission from Reuters. Reuters content is the intellectual property of Reuters or its third party content providers. Any copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Reuters and the Reuters Sphere Logo are registered trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world. For additional information about Reuters content and services, please visit Reuters website at www.reuters.com.  License # REU-5918-MES



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