Life On Land

Israel Brings Tree Technology to Kenya

The KKL-JNF (Keren Keyemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund) has historically been the official Keeper of Israel’s Forests and green spaces, even before the establishment of the State. In recent years the KKL-JNF has even succeeded in expanding its efforts globally.

Last summer, at a ceremony at the “VIP Planting Grove” at the Yad Kennedy memorial just outside Jerusalem, the KKL-JNF and the Kenyan government signed a memorial of understanding, agreeing to three years of exchange trips sharing knowledge and expertise about planting forests in dry climates.

In Kenya, about 80% of the land is considered arid or semi-arid. Seeking solutions to this problem, in 2014 officials from the Kenyan Forestry Service started conducting a series of visits and meetings with the KKL-JNF. Large Kenyan delegations have been attending forestry conferences at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, with a focus on conservation and forestry in desert climates.

While Kenya has public forest land approximately the size of the entire country of Israel, and a tree-planting culture to boot, the need for “tree technology” – improving soil conservation, capturing rain runoff, monitoring precipitation – is evident. According to a study from the UN Environment Programmed, deforestation from illegal logging and charcoal production is threatening many of Kenya’s highland forests to the tune of more than $68 million per year. The Kenyan government aspires to create forest land guidelines as well as engage the public with forest conservation.

Dr. David Brand, chief forester and head of the forestry department at KKL-JNF, has even higher hopes for Kenya. “Part of our goal is to enlarge the overall forestry in Kenya so people can use that wood for their needs and take the pressure off of natural forests that we need to protect,” says Brand. The KKL-JNF likewise plans to improve Kenya’s existing agricultural technologies.

Even Israel’s and Kenya’s leaders – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Uhuru Kenyatta, respectively – have prioritized collaboration between Israeli and Kenyan forestry groups. This initiative was highlighted during their visits to Kenya and Israel. On Israel’s Independence Day this year, Kenya dedicated an “Israel Forest” in Kiambu County, north of Nairobi, with the hope that every Israeli who visits Kenya will plant a tree, in true Israeli forest-saving spirit.

Read more about the memorandum of understanding.

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