The Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund for the Environment (PSAKFE) is the center for environmental activities of the Aga Khan Development Network. David Boyer, Senior Director of PSAKFE, reports on its ambitious tree-planting campaign:

On this Earth Day 2011, I ask you to think about the importance and role of forests to humanity. Forests provide not only environmental protection, but also significant income and livelihood options globally for more than one billion forest-dependent people. Trees provide a wide range of products (timber, fruit, medicine, beverages, fodder) and services (carbon sequestration, shade, beautification, erosion control, soil fertility). Without trees human life would be unsustainable.

Forests and trees are symbolically important in most of the world’s major religions. Trees symbolize historical continuity; they link earth and heavens and for many traditions, are home to both good and bad spirits and the souls of ancestors. In some cultures trees are a symbol of fertility and provide hope for couples wanting to have children. Trees preside over community discussions and marriages. They are planted at the birth of a child and at burial sites.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has planted over 100 million trees in Asia and Africa over the last 25 years. In recognition of the 2011 United Nations International Year of Forests AKDN, through the Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund for the Environment, has committed to planting 10 million trees over the coming years. AKDN schools and agencies in Kenya are rising to this challenge:

FRIGOKEN (an agro-industrial project of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development) with the Maragua Town Council planted 20,000 tree seedlings on April 16, 2011 at Malika Dam – an important water tower for the town. They won the 2010 Total Eco-challenge Award for training unemployed young people to produce tree seedlings. Over half a million seedlings were planted in village nurseries.

AGA KHAN HIGH SCHOOL, MOMBASA will plant at least 4,500 tree and help at least 20 farmers create woodlots on their farms and adopt agro-forestry as part of their farming culture.

Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa – The student-run Green Gang will develop a tree nursery and botanical garden in the school compound, raising 2,000 seedlings by August 2011 in support of the Mombasa Municipal Council and the Government Afforestation program.

Aga Khan Academy, NAIROBI – Students are preparing a unique guide on the history, beauty, and biodiversity of Karura Forest.

Coastal Rural Support Programme of Aga Khan Foundation has planted 21,400 seedlings in 70 tree farms on 50 acres in coastal Kenya.

The Serena Hotels Group (an AKDN project company) has planted over 1 million trees in the Mt. Kenya National Park and the Amboseli National Park in the Planting a Tree for Africa program.

The Nation Media Group, with other Kenyan companies, started the Save the Mau Fund. As part of the adoption of Eburu Forest, the Fund will plant and care for approximately 1 million young trees to rehabilitate about 2,500 acres of degraded indigenous forest.

Just as you make a New Year’s resolution, consider making an Earth Day resolution this year. Ideas include riding a bike to work, carpooling, planting a community garden, and using energy-efficient bulbs and biodegradable products. As we are planting trees in Kenya, take this opportunity today to make the commitment to contribute to a greener future.