Kenya: Save The Mau Forest!

Kenya's Mau Forest is one of the largest indigenous forests in East Africa, and it is under threat from slashing, burning (for charcoal) and illegal settlement. Some background on the issues at play is available on this link from Africa Science News. Bloggers are making note of the deteriorating situation and are examining the reasons for the destruction and possible solutions.

Omar Basawad of Safari Notes says: Save The Mau Forest! He asks pointed questions about the future, and includes pertinent statistics given in reports from United Nations Environment Programme.

Will the Mau Forest be saved? Kenyan leaders and politicians, in a bid for votes, have always failed in reaching an agreement on the Forest; most have always put their political interests first, than the Forests. And that's what they continue to do now.

They do this, while an environmental disaster lies in waiting. ‘Effort should be made to save the forest because it is the source of lakes and rivers. Scientific reports say Lake Nakuru will be the first to dry,’ recently said the Prime Minister, Raila Odinga. Most Kenyan leaders and politicians know the dangers of not protecting the Mau Forest; but fearing in losing votes, they have always failed to act to save the Forest.

He concludes his post by saying

Isn't it about time for real action? It could be already too late; but better late, than wait for the disaster that would be.

The KenyaImagine blog provides an update of the political back and forth between members of parliament regarding the Mau Forest.

This one is heating up again. Over the weekend, a section of Rift Valley MPs endorsed the burning of questionnaires sent in from the Prime Minister's office, a task force that has been set up, and which sent the questionnaires (which questionnaires MPs declared illegal for not bearing the government's coat of arms). Today, the Minister for Culture and Heritage William ole Ntimama was at it, against his Agriculture counterpart and namesake and in support of the Prime Minister. He asked the Eldoret North MP not to think the Kalenjin of greater significance than other Kenyan communities and insisted that there ought to be no compensation for the evictions from the Mau, which evictions he heartily supported.

On the Kenya Environmental and Political news blog, Phil posts an article by Jenny Curtain that looks at forest management (and reclamation as is needed in Mau forest) as an investment opportunity. He writes,

News on Kenya’s forests were recently dominated by the eviction of squatters from the Mau forest. This may change as the country moves towards sustainable forestry. Jenny Curtain analyses the investment potential created by changes in Kenya’s forestry management and developments in the international carbon credit markets.

Part of Jenny Curtain's analysis makes the point that the key to sustainable forestry would be creating linkages between the carbon credit market and forest management. She writes that this can be accomplished by the tendering system of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), which can take advantage of the carbon trading schemes as provided by the Kyoto protocol

If through the protection of existing forests via the new tender initiatives KFS can corner even a small piece of the voluntary carbon market, the financial and environmental rewards could potentially be enormous. This money would sustain Kenya’s forests into the future. With sensible management, the flow on benefits would be untold for both the protection of the forests and the surrounding communities. Income generated could then be used to upgrade infrastructure, replant degraded areas, fund clean energy schemes within the forests e.g. hydro electric, solar power etc. that in turn would generate more credits. Funds could also be used to resettle illegal forest dwellers within areas such as Kakamega and the Maasai Mau forests and to provide them with sustainable employment on the reforestation and other initiatives.

In another post that is marginally related to the Mau Forest, Kenvironews posts about Balancing Environmental Protection and the Community’s Socio-Economic Needs. The writer Donald Anthony Mwiturubani sees a disconnect between environmental policy makers and local communities. He advocates involving local communities in the decision making process.

Traditionally, policy and legislation formulation have been carried out at the national level without necessarily involving or holding consultations with key stakeholders including the local communities. Policy makers perceive local communities as lacking expertise to make informed decisions. This top-down approach leaves some key stakeholders unrepresented in the development agendas.

He proposes a solution to this disconnect:

There is, therefore, a need to strike a balance between the socio-economic needs of the local people and environmental protective objectives. To achieve this, full and active participation of key environmental related stakeholders, including local people at different levels of decision-making is one of the essential steps. This could be achieved through community awareness and outreach programmes in relation to environmental policies, laws and environmental protection and management in general. Thus, environmental protection and management issues need to be translated into understandable concepts for an ordinary person who often views environmental resources as gifts from God and hence her or she has the “birthright” to use them. Some crimes the local people commit against the environment may be due to lack of awareness.


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