NAIROBI-First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has called for urgent, bold and decisive actions to restore and protect the country’s diminishing forest cover.

She said it will require the collective resolve and resilience of all Kenyans to recover what has been wiped out through human actions and the devastating effects of climate change.

This is no longer a waiting game. Our actions require urgent, bold, decisive response from all stakeholders, both private and public to promote behavioural change to address the threats posed by our human actions, said the First Lady.

She spoke at Kibiku forest, Ngong in Kajiado County today where she joined scores of female members of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and Ministry of Environment officers in planting thousands of trees to restore the 125ha forest.

Kibiku forest is among five conservation areas adopted by the KDF for restoration. The others are Ngong Hills, Thogoto and Oloolua forests and Mareba Wetlands.

Under the KDF Environmental Soldier Programme (ESP), the security officers have so far planted over 23 million trees in various forests across the country including Kamae, Kipipiri, Mount Kenya, Suam, Mount Elgon and Mau Eburu.

This financial year alone, together with its partners, the KDF has planted 1.7 million trees and the ongoing activity targets to plant 3 million seedlings by the end of the current long rains, specifically in Kibiku forest.

Today’s tree planting activities were a precursor to the National Tree Planting Day scheduled at Moi Forces Academy on Saturday.

The First Lady said the country has witnessed the adverse effects of environmental degradation including decline and extinction of thousands of animal and plant species, phenomenal drying up of rivers and receding water levels in our water reservoirs, and widespread crop failure that threatens food security.

As a nation, as a community and as individuals we need to do more to find solutions to the growing social, economic and development challenges caused by climate change, she said.

The First Lady congratulated the Ministry of Defence for coming up with the ESP and called for continued engagement of the soldiers in the restoration of Kenya’s degraded forests.

She said the country can no longer ignore the scientific consensus clearly demonstrating the expensive consequences of climate change that puts at jeopardy our livelihoods and those of future generations.

The First Lady singled out efforts by the KDF female soldiers under the ESP saying women play an important role as key drivers in achieving environmental sustainability.

There is no doubt that as women, our collective voice, influence and reach is critical to delivering the kind of resolute action required to transform our environment innovative solutions, said the First Lady.

Defence Cabinet Secretary Amb. Raychelle Omamo who hosted the First Lady said the 600 (KDF) female soldiers and 70 non uniformed officers were the key drivers of the tree planting programme.

She however said all Kenyans had a crucial role in the protection of the environment.

Her Environment counterpart Keriako Tobiko said his Ministry had planted another 20 million trees since March and the country hopes to meet the 10 per cent , globally accepted tree cover by 2022.

He said there is a direct connection between the environment, livelihoods and security, hence the involvement of the KDF in conservation efforts.