We should not give up the offer to restore Kenya’s forest cover

A lumberjack uses a chainsaw to harvest wood from a full-grown tree in Kabaru Forest, which covers 13,349 hectares. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

While global warming remains a major challenge, extreme weather events such as devastating floods and severe droughts have increased the incidence of food insecurity and livelihood loss in Kenya. This week, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought a national disaster.

Now, due to rapid deforestation and the destruction of forest ecosystems, the forest landscape in Kenya has declined at an alarming rate from 10 percent of the original total forest cover to 7.4 percent.

This has exposed local communities to more climate-related disasters.

According to the United Nations Environment Program (Unep), Kenya lost over 28,000 hectares of forest between 2000 and 2010. Worldwide, 10 million hectares of forest ecosystems are lost every year, which accounts for 12 to 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The government is making remarkable strides to restore our forest area by 10 percent by 2022. Afforestation and regeneration are crucial to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

According to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry report, deforestation causes an annual loss of 3.6 percent of our national gross domestic product (GDP), with Kwale, Lamu, Narok, Bomet and Nyandarua counties being deforestation hotspots.

In particular, the Aberdares, Mau Forest Complex, and Mt Kenya Forest are important water towers that are threatened due to rapid deforestation and land degradation. On February 24, 2018, the government imposed a moratorium on logging in all public and municipal forests, an important milestone in environmental protection. Forest ecosystems play a crucial role in containing the effects of climate change. The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has introduced an Adopt-A-Forest model aimed at restoring forests. Forest management and environmental protection have been a challenge in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa for decades.

Growing demand for agricultural production and population growth have put conservation efforts under pressure, but the world cannot afford to give up now.

To build climate resilience, the government should involve and support local communities, youth and women’s afforestation initiatives.

We should also improve the use of traditional knowledge in forest restoration, sustainable forest management and research into nature-based solutions to promote climate change.

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