Makueni — President William Ruto has called for concerted efforts in environmental protection to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The President appealed to Kenyans to support the government's tree-planting exercise to increase the country's tree cover.
"We want every Kenyan, from every part of the country, to plant trees. That is why we have set aside this day to plant trees,"
President Ruto urged Kenyans to cease encroachment on the nation's wetlands and forests, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding water catchment areas.
This, he explained, will ensure the country has better climatic conditions, a better environment, regular rains and adequate rains to support agriculture.
"If there is a programme that will make a meaningful impact in the attainment of our food security goals, and address the cost of living, it is environmental protection," he said.
The President made the remarks on Monday during the National Tree Growing Day at Kiu Westland in Makindu, Makueni County.
During the event, 150,000 seedlings were planted as part of a national campaign aimed at utilising the short rains to grow 100 Million seedlings across the country.
Present were First Lady Rachel Ruto, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, his spouse Pastor Dorcas, Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya, Makueni Governor Mutula Kilonzo Junior, and Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku.
Others were MPs Mwengi Mutuse (Kibwezi West), Nimrod Mbai (Kitui East), Joshua Mwalyo (Masinga), Vincent Musyoka (Mwala), Yakub Adow (Bura), James Murango (Kirinyaga), Tabitha Mitinda (Nominated), Reuben Kiborek (Mogotio) and Former Makueni Governor Prof Kivutha Kibwana.
The President said the government will gazette all wetlands in Makueni County and protect them from encroachment.
The Head of State said the government will step up efforts geared towards protecting and rehabilitating over 10,000 wetlands in the country.
"We will continue to protect our environment and ensure we leave behind a nation that the future generation will be proud of," he said.
The President also inspected Kwa Venge Springs, Makindu intake, which has faced a significant reduction in water production over the years as a result of climate change, leading to a water deficit in Makindu and its environs.
He observed that Makueni County had 23 rivers, however, due to human activities only one river, Makindu, is still running.
"Climate change is a reality we can no longer wish away," he noted.
Mrs Ruto called on Kenyans to not only grow trees but also nurture them to maturity.
Mr Gachagua said the government is keen on addressing water challenges in Ukambani and other parts of the country.
Ms Tuya said environmental conservation will restore economic activities in agricultural regions that have been affected by climate change.
Mr Kilonzo called on the government to give Kenyans fruit seedlings to complement the tree planting exercise and also enhance their incomes.
Mr Lenku attributed climate change to human activities resulting in the destruction of the environment in search of farming land and settlement.
"Let us take care of our environment by growing and nurturing trees," he said.
Mr Mwengi observed that climate change has affected water catchments and reduced agricultural productivity in the region.
Mbai said President Ruto-led administration has an elaborate water project that will address water challenges in Ukambani.
Mr Musyoka called on the government to take stern action to tame the encroachment of forests to mitigate the effects of climate change.
He also called on Kenyans to play their part and contribute to the country's climate action. "Climate action is a collective responsibility," he said.