“Towards 10% forest cover in Kenya – Too precious to be lost” – Patricia Kombo
An exclusive interview with Patricia Mumbua Kombo an Environmentalist and a climate Justice promoter and the founder PaTree Initiative. Patricia is a 4th-year student at Moi University, Eldoret, pursuing a bachelors degree in Communication and Journalism.
- How Did You Start This Initiative Of Planting Trees To Conserve The Environment?
I work under an initiative called PaTree that was my idea born out of passion and the zeal to help Kenya attain a 10 per cent forest through farmers and school pupils.
In 2019, I toured Lodwar – a town in Northern Kenya – in the company of a few friends. I remember seeing women from the Northern part of Kenya walking a long distance to look for water and herders losing their animals to drought. This served as a reminder to me of what might befall my community if nothing was done to the worsening condition back home.
The suffering of innocent children and their mothers from the adversities of weather triggered a quick action plan. Therefore, I started PaTree as my humble contribution. Months later, I am glad it’s gaining momentum.
- Who Are Your Partners In The PaTree Initiative?
PaTree incorporates primary school pupils in environmental education, awareness and tree planting – for unless they are involved in planting they might never know the importance of having a better livable planet.
I have seen the excitement and enthusiasm that pupils have while participating in the tree planting campaigns. Planting a tree is easy and needs special skills. I remember growing up along the slopes of Mbooni hills, agriculture then, was profitable. I observed students my age were engaged in farming activities through the 4K club – which today is no more.
I also received donations of seed balls and seedlings from various partners such as Kenya Forest Services.
- How Bad Is The Situation As A Result Of Climate Change In Kenya?
Over time, the weather patterns have changed it is no longer consistent nor predictable. This trend worried me. Besides, I saw people deforest and it ached my heart that people were selfishly clearing trees for personal, short term gains.
Hardly a decade later, my community began to feel the impact as agricultural production became impracticable. Then I thought of how I would help reclaim the waning glory. This is how the urge to sensitize farmers on agroforestry and smart agriculture was born.
- What Motivates You?
Watching my fellow Kenyans and especially young ones die due to the effects of climate change – hunger and floods – motivates me to work extra hard and be their voice and train them to act and by extension alleviate their struggles.
I aim at preserving our planet for the future generation. Therefore, educating the masses is the most powerful tool for change and a child without environmental education is like a bird without feathers.
- What Is Your Long Term Goal?
My mission is to reach out to everyone – more so the young generation – and, in my small way, teach them of the need to conserve the environment.
Specifically, my mission is if all learning institutions – primary and secondary level – have environmental clubs/4k clubs. Then, this would translate to a sustainable environment where it is minimal air pollution, more recycling and reuse of environmentally friendly products.
Overall, I want to help my nation attain the 10 per cent forest cover by planting both fruit trees and non-fruit trees.
- What Has Been Your Impact So Far?
I have visited eight schools where I have donated trees and carried out environmental awareness. During the visits, I engaged the pupils in planting trees. The mobilisation this far has seen PaTree Initiative plant about 5,000 seedlings.
Farmers from my village have since planted fruit trees in their compounds. This is so rewarding. And, the invitation extended by the school heads to their schools is overwhelming and humbling in equal proportions.
- Which Environmental Forums Have You Participated In?
As a result of the PaTree Initiative, I received the invitation to be part of Regional Africa week that was to be held in Uganda before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
- What Is Your Call To Government And Fellow Kenyans?
I urge authorities and individuals alike to accord environmental conservation the credence it deserves. Environmental education should be incorporated into the curriculum as this too will turn into a pandemic if overlooked.
Environment conservation and especially planting trees should be given more attention and seriousness by the Government as currently with the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the country is hit by floods that are wiping families and disrupting livelihoods. Look, this too is a disaster. The locusts are here, too, destroying crops and threatening food security. I suppose the leaders should address these crises simultaneously.
- How Are You Spending Your Time During This Time Of Corona Virus Pandemic?
With a lot of time at our disposal, I continue to plant trees – both fruit and non-fruit. I urge all Kenyans to do the same in their compounds to heal the earth. My ultimate goal is to plant at least 5,000 more trees during this period.