Kenya's fast diminishing forest cover
Kenya has less than 10 per cent forest cover. Agriculture is responsible for 80 per cent of worldwide deforestation. A visit to the rural areas of Western and Nyanza counties paints a gloomy picture.
Most residents of Western and Nyanza maintain an age-old tradition of burning charcoal from felled trees. When a young man wants to build a house, he is given the authority to cut trees down, burn them and sell the charcoal to get money to buy what he needs to build his house. Some residents have even made burning of charcoal a business venture. Indeed, most rural communities have depleted the resource through charcoal businesses.
A block of wood fuel costs Sh200 in rural areas and cannot last more than two days. The cycle of poverty, especially in the rural areas, means people are forced to make decisions based on short-term needs rather than longer term prosperity.
Yet forest resources have the potential to lift people out of poverty by sustaining livelihoods and providing families with more secure incomes. Decreasing forest cover leads to biodiversity loss, local climate change and global warming resulting in 12 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Farmers often have trouble growing crops, which typically results in more problems such as an increase in food prices, soil erosion and cultural displacement. Tree species
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the planet has lost thousands of tree species and might lose thousands more. With less rain from depleted forests, crops typically cannot get enough water to thrive and produce a good yield.
With most communities living on less than a dollar a day, homesteads are forced to use maize cobs. Forests should help people gain value and benefits from forest resources.
The Kenya Water Agency has painted a gloomy picture of the forest cover of counties in Western and Nyanza regions, but notes that Nyeri, where tree planting is serious business, has 40 per cent forest cover.
The late Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement champions the planting of tree seedlings in Nyeri County and discourages cutting down of trees. Most residents have planted blue gum trees because they grow quickly and provide the much needed fuel.
They plan to plant three million trees in the next two years. Community leaders should set aside land for communities to plant trees.
County leaders and their assistants should encourage those who seek help from their offices to plant trees and even show evidence of trees planted. -
Veronica Onjoro, Mombasa
November 24th 2013 at 21:57 GMT +3 0 inShare
Wilderness, South Africa