Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt movement and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, criticised many forestry projects this week.
She was giving the keynote address at the second World Agroforestry Conference in Nairobi and her concern was that imported tree species often became invasive and when they did so, two things happened. Either the trees took over the ecosystem and then, when they were felled, left nothing behind, or they damaged elements of the environment that were essential to local people and wildlife. She used the example of eucalypts, which are often planted in African agroforestry programmes and said, ‘they [the trees] are over promoted for commercial reasons. These trees are good for beauty but consume a lot of water when they are planted along rivers, wetlands and water shed areas.’ Maathai fears that such plantings cause havoc in Kenya’s complex biodiversity.