5 Sep 2017

National forum discusses biodiversity mainstreaming in Kenya

Mr. Gideon Gathaara (Conservation Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources) makes a point during the high level panel © John Mwacharo
Mr. Gideon Gathaara (Conservation Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources) makes a point during the high level panel © John Mwacharo
By Serah Munguti

The livelihoods of some local communities in most developing countries like Kenya depend on forest resources and various products such as fuel wood, medicine, and food that these forests offer. Forests are known to host the bulk of natural resources on the planet and for providing water, sequestrating carbon, a base for renewable energy and hydro-power generation, as well as for its role in supporting other sectors of development.

Kenya is a low forest cover country with only about seven percent of its surface area covered by forests in 2010. This forest ecosystem is increasingly being threatened by growing pressure from human activities. The flood regulation functions of forests are gradually reducing as the impact of climate change becomes even more real, making it imperative to critically assess the forest’s ability to sustain forest based businesses as the country’s economic growth targets are vulnerable to unsustainable forest management.

It was for this purpose that on 25 July 2017 Nature Kenya, BirdLife's partner in Kenya, organized a national dialogue on biodiversity mainstreaming into sectors of the economy. The meeting was organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat. It was chaired by Prof. Judi Wakhungu, the Cabinet Secretary of the ministry and the main objective of the forum was to speed up the implementation of the national forest programme that was designed to increase forest cover and reverse forest degradation in Kenya.

This programme seeks to enhance forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits, integrate national values and principles of good governance in forest development as well as work towards increasing forest based investments.

The national dialogue brought together representatives from government, private sector, civil society, community forest associations and the media.

In a speech, Prof. Wakhungu underscored that everyone present had a role in ensuring that sustainable forest management approaches are deeply entrenched in restoration of landscapes, including water catchments found in protected forests, community or private lands.

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“The poor people within our communities are the first to suffer when natural resources disappear or are depleted. Studies have shown that women bear the brunt of such degradation because they often depend most on the availability of and easy access to resources like water and fuel. Business and the national economy are the next to suffer,” said Prof. Wakhungu.

Vivo Energy Kenya, a company that represented the private sector, shared a case study of their support for biodiversity conservation through a four-year partnership with Nature Kenya.

“We work with Nature Kenya because it is a credible organization that has projects in areas where our offices are located. This enables our members of staff to actively participate in activities. Nature Kenya projects are making a real impact on the environment and the community,” explained Angela Munyua, Communications Manager at Vivo.

The partnership between Vivo Energy Kenya and Nature Kenya in Dakatcha Woodlands has seen more than 98,000 tree seedlings planted and nurtured that would soon become full grown trees. In Kinangop grasslands, an Important Bird Area (IBA) the partnership has seen tussock grasses planted in 88 acres of land and 1,200 farmers sensitized on environmental conservation. The IBA is a stronghold for the globally endangered Sharpe’s Longclaw, a bird species that depends on tussock grasses for nesting, feeding and protection from predators.

Angela added: “Whenever we go to Kinangop or Marafa (in Dakatcha), we do not just plant and weed trees and tussocks. We also play and play hard. At the end of each engagement, a football match is played between the community and Vivo Energy Kenya staff. This wraps up the day’s activities and it is usually a match that both teams look forward to annually”.

The forum was supported with funding from CISU – Civil Society in Development, through Dansk Ornitologisk Forening (DOF, the BirdLife Partner in Denmark) and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).