Kenya: Patricia Kombo - the Tree Planter On a Mission

17 January 2020

Climate change is one of the most vexing global policy problems in the world today. In the last few years, many parts of the world, including Kenya, have experienced rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns. This has been blamed on gas emission, and it now poses a big threat to the present and the future generations.

Patricia Kombo, 23, is a climate change activist, and she has decided to do something to salvage the situation. Her ambition is clear -- to create a stable ecosystem by increasing the forest cover in Kenya. Patricia says that she has felt the effects of climate change first-hand, and that she is worried about the fate of future generations. This is what fuels her resolve to conserve the environment.

The Fourth Year journalism student at Moi University is the founder of PaTree Initiative, an organisation that partners with various primary and secondary schools in the country to grow fruit and non-fruit trees in their learning centres. She also plants trees regularly in the gazetted public forest lands.

"My plan is to plant non-fruit trees to conserve the environment, and fruit bearing trees to alleviate hunger among disadvantaged populations. Kenya currently boasts of 7.4 per cent forest cover, but I want to help my country attain the minimum forest cover of 10 per cent that is recommended by the United Nations.

So far, we have planted more than 10,000 trees in various parts of the country," the environmentalist says and adds:

"It is time for young people to participate in efforts to conserve the environment because most of them will be around to suffer the effects of natural calamities that could come as a result of climate change."

Patricia spends her spare time on social media, on Twitter and Facebook specifically, to raise awareness and mobilise youth to play an active role in protecting the environment.

She first felt the urge to start campaigning against environmental degradation in 2006 when she was a Standard Four pupil at Utangwa primary school in Mbooni, Makueni County. Her parents shared her ambition and encouraged her to follow her passion.

"My mother was a maize farmer, but since 2012, she has been complaining of reduced yields because of the unpredictable weather patterns. She has since turned to drought-resistant crops such as cassava because water has become scarce," she says.

One of the challenges she faces is insufficient funds to purchase seedlings. For instance, last year, two primary schools in Nairobi invited her to preside over a tree planting ceremony, but she did not have enough money to buy the seedlings, so she did not honour the invitation.

To overcome this challenge, she has set up a tree nursery back home with 15,000 grevillea seedlings.

"I plan to set up more satellite propagation centres in various counties and plant more trees," she says.

During the World Environment day in 2019, Patricia led tree planting exercises in two schools in Makueni in a bid to encourage the pupils to take care of the environment.

"We hope to involve the 4K clubs in various schools to raise awareness and make youth aware of the importance of environmental conservation," she says.

Her organisation has partnered with others such as Still-a-Mum, whose members sometimes accompany her to tree planting events, but she is dismayed that few political leaders have shown keen interest in her campaign.

"I don't hear our politicians talking about the need for environmental conservation. Yet climate change affects all of us," she says.

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