Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese Establishes Tree Nursery in Response to Laudato Si’

The Model Tree Nursery by Kenya's Kakamega diocese. The project is in response to Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si'.
Credit: CJPC Kakamega/ Facebook

The leadership of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) in the Diocese of Kakamega in Kenya has initiated a tree nursery project, initially with 12,000 seedlings, as a response to Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’, a CJPC official has told ACI Africa.

In the Letter, the second Encyclical of Pope Francis, the Holy Father calls on all humanity to care for creation, a call that is captured in the subtitle of the document, “on care for our common home.”

“In Laudato Si, Pope Francis regrets that humanity has irresponsibly made use of the goods that God has endowed us with,” the Programs Officer of the CJPC in the Diocese of Kakamega, Arnold Ambei told ACI Africa Friday, August 7.

He added referencing the Holy Father, “He proceeds to invite not just the Catholic faithful but indeed the whole human family to engage in a new dialogue towards finding sustainable options of development that duly acknowledge the centrality of nature to our wholesome human experience.”

“The establishment of this tree nursery is therefore our way of acknowledging the prophetic voices of our Popes whose words are well captured in the Encyclical and also responding to the appeal made by our current Pope to ‘work together in building our common home’," the CJPC Kakamega official said.

Established using the diocesan Lenten Fund and  supported by the environmental charitable foundation, the Global GreenGrants Fund, the nursery is expected to have at least 20,000 seedlings by mid-September, Mr. Ambei told ACI Africa.

At the tree nursery, the leadership of CJPC Kakamega is propagating both exotic and indigenous trees such as Cypress, Caliandra, Mahogany, African Cherry (Prunus Africana), Markhamia Lutea and Whistling Pine, the Programs Officer said, adding, “We plan to further propagate bamboo, grevillea and some fruit trees as we approach the last quarter of this year.”

“You realize despite the popularity of the Blue gum tree, we have not included it in this project,” Mr. Ambei said and explained, “This is a deliberate decision made by the Diocese based on findings that have associated the unregulated planting of the species to adverse effects on the environment.”

The trees nurtured at the nursery will be distributed to approximately 500 diocesan institutions for planting, the CJPC official told ACI Africa and added in reference to the trees, “They will contribute to the ideal world of clean air and water. They will be used to rehabilitate waste lands in the Diocese. Every single tree is nurtured with the care of our common home in mind.”

Dubbed “The Model Tree Nursery,” the project has been established on the diocesan farm as one of the undertakings of the 42-year-old diocese “to participate meaningfully in dialogues and actions that result in a well conserved environment,” Mr. Ambei said.

The diocese, which currently has 41 Parishes also runs the Catholic Diocese of Kakamega School Based Environment Program (CDOK-SBEP) that was launched last year on the International Day of Forests, March 21 by the Local Ordinary, Bishop Joseph Obanyi, Mr. Ambei told ACI Africa during the August 7 interview.

The Program saw the leadership of the Kenyan Diocese partner with the government agency tasked with the sustainable management of forest resources, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) as well as the local County Government in sensitizing communities and school going children “on the need to conserve the environment by managing waste and planting trees.”

The community members and children participating in the program use seedlings from the Model Tree Nursery, the CJPC official told ACI Africa.

“Our primary objective is to achieve a transformation in attitudes towards the environment,” Mr. Ambei said and noted, “Indeed we realize school going children are really impressionable hence our focus on school going children with the tree planting and nurturing initiative.”

“We seek to achieve a generation whose second nature is care for the environment. We also seek to improve capacity and linkages with both state and non-state actors working for the benefit of our common home,” he further said.

Through CJPC, the leadership of Kakamega Diocese, which is situated in Western Kenya is in the process of establishing Forest Watchers Committees (FWCs) in all Parishes neighboring Kenya’s only tropical forest, Kakamega Forest, a resource that “is threatened by over exploitation and illegal logging,” Mr. Ambei said.

Through these FWCs, he further said, “community members will be put in the forefront when it comes to protecting the forest. They will, apart from educating the community on the importance of conserving the forest, be expected to note and report any cases of logging and other harmful practices to the Diocesan CJPC Office for onwards engagement with relevant offices including KFS and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).”

“The care for our environment in the words of our Bishop Rt. Rev. Joseph Obanyi Sagwe is not a political decision, rather it is a sacred direction and therefore beyond convenience. We, therefore, take up this initiative as both a duty and a responsibility,” Mr. Ambei told ACI Africa.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
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