Contributed by Erick Akasa and Tony Aisi
Thursday, 24 February 2011
A multi-million Euro project to assist in the restoration of the north western part of the Mau forest complex in Kenya was announced by the EU, UNEP and the Government of Kenya during the ongoing UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, in Gigiri, Nairobi.
The project, supporting the strategy of the Government of Kenya to rehabilitate one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest closed canopy forests, will contribute to maintaining nature-based assets worth an estimated US$1.5 billion a year to the Kenyan economy.
The project, details of which were unveiled during the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, will secure services generated by the flows of the Yala and Nyando rivers.
These rivers, which feed Lake Victoria and are important for drinking water, also support 5,000 hectares of rice production important for local food security and the Kenyan economy.
European Union’s (EU) Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potonik said “The EU and UNEP share many common priorities from climate change and sustainable energy to environment and development “.
Sustainable management of natural resources, sustainable consumption and production and the Green Economy are among those key priorities.“Today we are also announcing support to the Government of Kenya, through UNEP, towards rehabilitation and restoring one of Kenya’s and East Africa’s key pieces of natural infrastructure. The Mau forest complex is a living example of where economy and environment intersect and reflects not only our cooperative work with UNEP, but the EU’s overall vision for a sustainable 21st century at home and abroad” he added.
Achim Steiner, Director General of the UNEP said, “The Government of Kenya has embarked on a remarkable transformation of its economy in which renewable energy and improved management of its nature-based assets are at the core of its sustainable, 2030 Vision, development path. Realizing that vision however requires the support of committed partners and I would like to thank the Environment Commissioner for the EC’s commitment in the UNEP-Kenya partnership in support of conserving and restoring Kenya’s vital water towers”
“The Mau forest complex is emblematic of the challenges, but also the opportunities being faced by countries across the globe. The new strategic cooperation between the EC and UNEP with funding from the EU will allow us to better meet the genuine aspirations of more and more nations towards their transition to a Green Economy”, he added.
Over the coming months the EU and UNEP will discuss and announce the precise funding arrangements and potential projects to be started under the new strategic cooperative partnership announced today.
The new, over 2 million Euro project for the Mau forest complex is being funded out of the existing agreement. It will support world-wide efforts as part of the UN’s International Year of Forests.
It will cover the north west of the Mau forest where significant degradation of the indigenous forest, leading to conversion into grassland, has occurred due to unsustainable use of forest resources. Part of the project will tackle this issue through the establishment of wood lots for local people’s cooking needs .
Meanwhile, industrial forest plantations in the area are also currently poorly managed.
The loss and degradation of forest in this part of the Mau complex is endangering a range of businesses, development initiatives and biologically important sites.
The area is the upper catchment of the Yala and Nyando rivers that both flow into Lake Victoria and provide water for rice production with a market price in excess of one billion Kenyan shillings.
The moisture and micro climate made possible by this portion of the forest are also critical for the important tea industry in the Nandi Highlands.
The area also supports river flows that are central to the success of a UNEP-Global Environment Facility funded project to reduce the electricity costs, boost power supply availability and cut greenhouse gas emissions linked with the tea industry.
The estimated micro-hydropower generation potential in the Nandi tea growing areas alone is estimated at 9.5
The Yala and Nyando rivers also support key conservation areas, including those designated Important Bird Areas. Bird watching is a key part of the Kenyan tourism industry.
The Yala for example supports the health of the Kakamega forest and the Nyando the health of the Kusa Swamp.
Report courtesy of www. africasciencenews.org