President Ruto commissions Thiba Dam, announces a 5 billion tree planting plan

President William Ruto has declared his government’s intention to plant at least 5 billion trees in order to boost water catchment and counteract climate change.

Speaking in Kirinyaga where he officially commissioned the discharge of water from the newly constructed Thiba Dam to rice farms, Ruto urged every Kenyan to plant at least 100 trees saying it was the surest way to climate change mitigation.

“As a country, we have made a policy change decision that we must plant at least 5 billion trees. Every Kenyan must plant at least 100 trees. Either in your compound, in your farm or in an other place you find,” Ruto said.

Climate change, according to Ruto, has caused the present drought, the worst in 40 years, as well as a lack of efficient water conservation.

According to the National Drought Management Authority, the early end of the 2022 long rain season has exacerbated the drought situation in 19 of the 23 arid and semi-arid (ASAL) counties that were already suffering from the effects of three prior failed seasons. This is the fourth straight dry season since the short rains of 2020.

Laikipia, Mandera, Marsabit, Wajir, Isiolo, and Samburu counties are in the alarm drought phase, while thirteen other counties are in the alert drought phase. The decline in livestock prices, increase in cereal prices, and an overall increase in most consumer goods prices continue to erode household purchasing power, aggravating food insecurity.

The flow of water from the reservoir into the Thiba river is intended to ensure a steady supply of water for the Mwea rice irrigation scheme throughout the year. Since the beginning of September, the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) has been testing the discharge of water from the dam after it filled up.

The dam, which has a capacity of 15.6 million cubic meters, cost about Sh 7.8 billion to build and is expected to save 30,060 acres of the Mwea irrigation network as well as flood an extra 10,000 acres for rice farming.

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