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Extreme poverty threatens conservation of Kenya water towers | Coastweek

RIFT VALLEY -- Conservation of Mau Forest Complex, Kenya’s largest water catchment, draws much attention due to its multiple benefits to Kenya’s tourism, energy and agriculture sector. Streams emanating from the complex drain into major lakes such as Lake Nakuru, Elementaita and Baringo, which support wildlife attracting local and international tourists. Between 1990 and 2001, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) indicates a destruction of the 107,000 hectares of the forest. PHOTOS - COURTESY: RHINO ARK PROJECT

Extreme poverty threatens conservation of Kenyan water towers

NAKURU (Xinhua) -- It is a cloudy Friday afternoon and a group of women drive away donkeys loaded with piles of wood at the busy intersection, about 21 kilometers west of Kenya’s fourth largest town Nakuru.

Among them is Esther Korir. She has walked for approximately three kilometers away from her home to buy the wood from a dealer who fells trees within Njoro’s environs for timber and tinder.
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"There is no other place to fetch firewood other than buying. This is what we use to cook since charcoal is expensive.

"We buy a bundle for 0.47 U.S. dollars and it can last for two to three weeks," Korir said during the interview with Xinhua on Wednesday.

Visits into the interior Nessuit area where she bought her firewood are common among women searching for the domestic necessity, Korir observes.

Korir, however, has little time to spare for a lengthy interview as she has to be home before it rains. But as she walks away the reality of deforestation magnifies itself with the view of cords of firewood piled on the donkey backs.

Areas of Njoro and Nessuit constitute the Eastern parts of Kenya’s Mau Forest Complex, the largest water tower in East Africa where degradation of the ecosystem has been extensive in the recent years.

Between 1990 and 2001, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) indicates a destruction of the 107,000 hectares of the forest.

This results mainly from felling trees for timber and fuel, human settlement and agricultural activities according to UNEP.

"Lack of alternative sources of fuel for households is actually a concern when we talk about sustainable management of the Mau Forest Complex," said Nakuru county environment director Timothy Kiogora.

Households such as Korir’s are not the only beneficiaries of the forest’s resources.
  Extreme poverty threatens conservation of Kenya water towers | Coastweek

RIFT VALLEY -- "Without the rivers flowing from Mau Forest Complex it is impossible to talk about hydropower in Kenya because the generation of the energy mainly depends on water," says Cosmas Ikiugu, the head of the Mau Conservancy. PHOTOS - COURTESY: RHINO ARK PROJECT
 

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Hotel businesses in the county’s busy towns are equally supported with charcoal supplied from the forest.

"I usually buy charcoal from Mau and it is good.

"A 90kg bag goes for a price ranging between 11.32 dollars to 13.20 dollars," said Emily Nkastha who runs a cafeteria in Nakuru town.

Nkatha said she requires four bags of the charcoal every month to run her business smoothly.

While the demand for the carbon fuel remains high in the country, the concern over shifting the masses to alternative sources continues to be part of the environmental discussions between the State and the corresponding development partners.

According to Cosmas Ikiugu, the head of the Mau Conservancy, the state is engaging all the stakeholders including the local communities in forestry conservation.

"If we allow the destruction of forests to go on then we will continue to experience adverse effects of climate change," said Ikiugu.

The high demand for firewood and charcoal is a worry to Ikiugu who said it catalyses the clearance of the forests, extensively deteriorating the biodiversity.

In Kenya, 93 percent of the population utilize fuels like charcoal, paraffin and firewood for their daily energy needs as indicated in a joint report by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics(KNBS) and Society for International Development (SID) entitled "Exploring Kenya’s Inequality: Pulling apart or pooling together?"

Conservation of Mau Forest Complex, Kenya’s largest water catchment, draws much attention due to its multiple benefits to Kenya’s tourism, energy and agriculture sector.

 
   
 

NAKURU (Xinhua) -- A motorcyclist commonly referred to as 'Boda Boda' in Kenya ferries sacks of charcoal along the Nakuru -Nairobi highway, Nakuru. Some Kenyan families still use charcoal as the main source of energy consumption due to the high cost of fuel and gas. XINHUA PHOTO: SIMBI KUSIMBA

Streams emanating from the complex drain into major lakes such as Lake Nakuru, Elementaita and Baringo, which support wildlife attracting local and international tourists.

"Without the rivers flowing from Mau Forest Complex it is impossible to talk about hydropower in Kenya because the generation of the energy mainly depends on water," remarked Ikiugu.

As a step to moving forward, Ikiugu said KFS is collaborating with other State authorities and development partners to reverse the degradation of the water tower.

However, efficient utilization of the forest resources can be achieved if the adjacent communities are assisted to raise their socio-economic standards to break free from use of the charcoal and firewood according to Kiogora, the Nakuru county environment director.

"It is necessary that the communities have an access to other sources of fuel to be able to fully commit themselves to protecting the forest against destruction," said the environment specialist.

Poverty, he said, is a major threat to the sustainable management of the natural resources across the country.

This is because people continue to draw a livelihood from the immediate environment regardless of its declining value, he said.

"It is impossible to discourage someone from using wood when he or she does not have any source of fuel.

"That is why it is important that people are empowered to improve their lives and shift to other environmental friendly sources of energy," he said.

According to Kiogora, adoption of the available energy saving stoves is critical to reducing the rate of forest destruction in the East African nation.

By 2030, Kenya expects to have established a 10 percent vegetation cover as part of its long-term development plans to cutting down emission of greenhouses and reducing effects of climatic changes.

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