Seven Billion Dreams; Kenya must act decisively to protect its five main water towers from human encroachment and deforestation

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By Bernard Wainaina CEO,Profarms Consultants® LinkedIn; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon once said that although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose, we can make tremendous difference. The world is facing numerous environmental challenges. Forest degradation, climate change,and waste management are some of the environmental concerns facing the globe. Kenya is no exception. Pressure from increased human population, demand for fuel wood, building materials, and other land uses has, over the years, put a strain on our forests, leading to decades of forest degradation, with forest cover declining to less than 2 per cent.

The five water towers — Mt Kenya, the Aberdare Range, the Mau Complex, Mt Elgon, and the Cherangany Hills — were the most affected. However, efforts by stakeholders in the private, public, and NGO sectors in the past decade have seen this trend slowly begin to be reversed. Tree planting by corporates, government agencies, and NGO's have greatly contributed to reforestation. We have seen corporates go a step further to adopt forests and plant trees for a period of time to promote conservation efforts.

The Ngare Ndare forest reserve, a part of the larger Mt Kenya forests, located in Meru Central, is a beneficiary of consistent tree planting efforts to improve the forest canopy. This saw the forest, a catchment area for numerous rivers that flow to the Ewaso Nyiro, receive recognition by Unesco as a world heritage site. FOREST COVER The model allows the community around Ngare Ndare to use forest resources such as firewood in a planned and controlled way by the Kenya Forest Service and the Ngare Ndare Forest Trust Fund. Statistics from the Kenya Forest Service in 2013 indicated that the country's forest cover had risen from a low of 1.7 per cent in 2002 to 6.99 per cent, putting us on the path towards attaining the United Nations recommended cover of 10 per cent.

Other than tree planting, the Kenya Forest Service has introduced punitive fines for anyone found cutting down trees illegally and also made communities living around and near forests key stakeholders and beneficiaries. Our experience at Profarms Consultants where we regurlarly work with communities has taught us that forest conservation and management is not a far-fetched idea.

We recognise that the well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy ultimately depend on the responsible management of the planet's natural resources. It is for this reason that we must stop consuming more natural resources than the planet can sustainably provide. We must stop cutting down trees for selfish gain and instead adopt a healthy co-existence with our natural resources to allow us to realise our dreams.

As we mark the World Environment Day under the theme Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care, let each of us ask what we are doing to protect and conserve the environment. Let us do something positive today for the environment. Let us galvanise our individual actions into a collective power that generates positive impact on the planet. Bernard Wainaina is an Independent Agribusiness Advisor and CEO at Profarms Consultants®,Nairobi,Kenya. He mainly works with Agribusiness Youth Groups in Eastern African Region.