The East African Wild Life Society has received recent news that the Ugandan government intends to proceed with a plan to construct a hydropower dam at the Murchison Falls National Park on River Nile with alarm and consternation. We are joined by a number of conservationists inside and outside the country, in raising the alarm against this project, given the importance of the Falls to Uganda’s tourism and the potential damage to ecosystem that supports a large number of species.
According to media reports, the government has given the green light for a feasibility study to be carried out on the construction of the 360MW power project on Murchison Falls.
It is shocking that authorities in Uganda would be so insensitive as to consider the implementation of a project that would be disastrous to a crucial ecosystem and a key tourist attraction.
Murchison Falls National Park, which has a span of 3,900km2 and extends from the northern end of the western Rift Valley, is Uganda’s oldest and largest conservation area. It was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1926.
The waterfall itself cuts across the park and is considered the crown jewel of the park. It is here where the Victoria Nile plunges some 45 metres over the remnant Rift Valley wall with an 80-kilometre stretch of rapids.
The park is home to important African wildlife species, including an estimated 76 species of mammals, such as buffalo, giraffe, crocodiles, a rising elephant population and 451 varieties of birds.
This biological diversity as well as the park’s unique landscape on the Nile attracts over 100,000 visitors and generates over 15 billion Uganda shillings (US$4.1 million) annually, according to figures from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Private investors have not only established accommodation facilities for visitors to the park but also pay the relevant taxes and provide jobs to Ugandans.
Damming the river at Murchison Falls will have far-reaching adverse consequences for both the fauna and flora species in the conservation area and greatly undermine the park’s contribution to the Ugandan economy through tourism.
Even before the hydropower project was conceived, the Murchison Falls ecosystem faced challenges. Over the past decade, oil and gas installations have been established. Such energy initiatives also mean the construction of roads through previously undisturbed wildlife habitats.
In their petition to President Yoweri Museveni and the government, Ugandan conservationists have pointed out that Murchison Falls is a designated Ramsar site, meaning that the waterfall is recognised as being of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Uganda is a signatory to the convention and the country’s authorities are therefore obligated to protect and conserve Murchison Falls.
The electricity production project in Murchison Falls once again brings to the fore the question of whether infrastructure projects in developing countries should be implemented even at the expense of irreplaceable natural heritage.
The stance of the East African Wild Life Society is that the protection of a country’s natural heritage takes precedence over development needs.
Conservationists in Uganda are genuinely outraged by the government’s apparently cavalier attitude towards the integrity of one of the country’s most iconic landmarks. The East African Wild Life Society stands with them in opposition to this ill-advised project.
Hydro-power dam projects are some of the main causes of the decline in river water levels. Such reductions can have devastating environmental consequences, including damaging wetlands. They can also engender changes in river ecosystems that have adverse effects on people and the environment.
A dam at Murchison Falls is surely going to change the landscape in a most dramatic way and have far-reaching negative impacts on the ecosystem as we know it. This project must not proceed. The Uganda government must seek alternatives to enhance the country’s power production capacity. Alternatives include other clean energy projects such as solar and bio-energy.
Murchison Falls is a natural resource that is already paying dividends to the people of Uganda mainly through the tourism industry that it supports. It must not be destroyed in the name of development.
Voicing their opposition to the Murchison Falls hydropower project in a letter to the government on 20th June this year, the Honorary Wildlife Officers’ Association of Uganda stated that “Murchison Falls is the most spectacular falls on River Nile and are the biggest tourist attraction in the park. They provide tourists with an amazingly unrivalled experience. They are therefore a must-see iconic feature […] The falls also create a spectacular view that leaves tourists yearning for more and have enhanced the attractiveness of Murchison Falls.”
The government of Uganda must heed the call of its citizens and cancel plans to implement the project.
The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) marked the 10th anniversary of it’s Imre Loefler Talks on November 13 with a special edition of the lectures at the Muthaiga Country Club.
In attendance were representatives from the Hungarian Embassy in Kenya, including Ambassador Laszlo Mathe, EAWLS members and stakeholders from the conservation fraternity.
The talks are named after Dr. Imre Loefler, a Hungarian surgeon and nature lover well versed in philosophy, history, ecology, and wildlife conservation, as well as medical education. He lived and practiced medicine in Kenya for decades and was once the chair of EAWLS’ Board of Directors. Following his death in 2007, the Society decided to honour his memory by launching the Imre Loefler talks — a forum for discourse on conservation issues.
At the anniversary edition of the talks, Tamas Marghescu, highlighted ideologies he said were polarizing the conservation fraternity to the point of neutralizing its efforts despite common endeavours to protect wildlife and the environment. “There is no one solution to conservation. It is the sum of all successful activities, no matter what the underlying ideology or approach to conserving our fragile planet and its threatened wild species,” he said.
Ambassador Mathe applauded the efforts of the East African Wild Life Society in leading conservation dialogue in the region and in honouring Dr Loefler. He pledged his and the Hungarian embassy’s support for Society’s efforts on conservation advocacy.
Ali Kaka, the second speaker of the night has had a long-standing relationship with both the EAWLS and Imre Loefler. Kaka is a former Executive Director of the Society. His topic was marine conservation, which, he said, has in the past decade become critical, as the pollution of seas and climate change have led to declining fish populations and other marine life.
“In 2003, the EAWLS, FFI (Fauna & Flora International) and the Kuruwitu Conservation and Welfare Association (KCWA) piloted the first ‘community marine conservation area’ at Kuruwitu in the Vipingo area of Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast. The aim was to enable local user communities to manage and be responsible for all activities over a set of inshore areas of Kuruwitu. It has since been a major success, resulting in a movement towards Locally-Managed Marine Areas (LMMA’s) and inspiring at least 20 other fishing communities. It has also won international acclaim.’’
EAWLS’ Chair, Elizabeth Gitari Mitaru, noted that the Imre Loefler Environmental Conservation Talks “had given prominent conservationists and visionaries a platform to highlight issues concerning conservation without fear or favour to defeat apathy towards the current conservation crisis.”
Over the past 10 years, EAWLS has hosted 87 Imre Loefler Talks, 40 of them at Muthaiga Country Club and 40 at the Karen Club. Four of the talks were held in Nanyuki at Cape Chestnut . The Society recently launched the Imre Loefler University Dialogues on Environmental Conservation at the Strathmore University. The university has hosted three of the talks.
A commemorative tree was planted at Muthaiga Country Club Grounds to mark the 10th anniversary of the talks.
If you would like to attend any of the upcoming Imre Loefer Talks, please register at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dawn. A light rain. Bristling excitement. 500 participants. A challenging 13 obstacle course ready to be conquered: these were some of the ingredients that made the Forest Challenge 2019 bigger and better than ever before .
The East African Wild Life Society, Kenya Forest Service and Kijabe Environment staff and Volunteers teams were on the ground and ready for the biggest forest conservation event in the region-after all they had been planning and anticipating all eventualities for months.
After a light warm up, the first of 92 teams were flagged off by the Chief Conservator of Forests –Mr. Julius Kamau-to the cheer of eager spectators. Some participants sped off, but most veteran Forest Challenge participants started off at a jog, pacing themselves for the 8.1 km ahead.
The participants, both individual and those from corporate sponsors in branded attire, waded through mud pits and rivers, tumbled up and down slippery trails, stumbled along a dark tunnel and awkwardly climbed a high wall — all in the name of preserving and expanding, through afforestation, Kenya’s natural forests, many of which cover the country’s main water towers.
Fun. Challenging. Exhausting. Worthwhile: these were just some of the sentiments voiced by the Forest Challenge participants as they crossed the finish line. Through sheer grit, teamwork and an unwavering dedication to Kenya’s forests, they’d earned themselves the title of Forest Champions.
Base Titanium, Kiambu Water & Sewerage Co. and Sanivation emerged overall winners and went home with the trophies: Forest Champion Award Winner, Forest Champion Award Runner Up 1 and Forest Champion Award Runner Up 2, respectively.
Money raised from The Forest Challenge 2019 will fund forest rehabilitation projects in and around Kereita Forest, which forms part of the southern Aberdares water towers, supplementing the over 4,000 tree seedlings planted concurrently as the Forest Challenge took place.
The countdown to the Forest Challenge 2020 has officially, begun : will you be competing for the title of ‘Forest Champion’?
As world leaders gathered in Madrid to discuss how to deal with climate change, people in Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan were reeling from severe floods that have devastated many areas in the region since October. Torrential rainfall across East Africa has swollen rivers and inundated villages, causing an estimated total of 250 deaths, according to media reports. Thousands are homeless after their homes were damaged or submerged in floodwater. Crops and livestock have been washed away by the deluge.
African countries contribute little to climate change, emitting minimal greenhouse gases blamed for much of the climate change and global warming. The continent, however, bears the brunt of climate change in the form of floods and recurring droughts.
A UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report released in November warns that unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 per cent each year between 2020 and 2030, the world will miss the opportunity to get on track towards the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. Failure to curb greenhouse gas emissions is expected to continue affecting global weather patterns with more extreme events such as floods, droughts, typhoons, and cyclones ravaging human settlements.
”It’s not a question of whether we’re waiting for the effects of climate change,” said John Roche, the head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in East Africa. “It’s happening. The balance of vulnerability here is such a thin thread between crises. This is a region that has many, many crises, and now the actual flooding is just exacerbating and playing on those vulnerabilities.”
Dr. Emmanuel Ndiema and Christopher Powles will address the Society about their ongoing work on Mt Elgon and how archaeological research has recently led to exciting information, new to science, coming to light on the ‘cave elephants’ of Mt Elgon. It is well known that these elephant visit Kitum Cave in Mt Elgon National Park to mine salt, penetrating 150 meters into the mountain. Remarkably, it is only now coming to light that Kitum is
not alone and that an extensive network of at least 12 caves is used by elephants.
Emmanuel and Christopher will describe a programme of archaeological excavations and how that led them to visit the remote area of Mt Elgon where these caves are. This programme has the potential for establishing the region’s cultural and environmental history and highlighting the role of tropical highlands as a refugium in the face of climate change both in the past and the present, so furthering our understanding of current challenges facing conservation and community livelihoods. Then they will introduce the Mt Elgon Elephant Project (MEEP) and what the Society, they and others are doing to investigate and mitigate the human-elephant conflict that is tragically killing local people and posing a real threat to the survival of this unique elephant population.
DR. EMMANUEL K NDIEMA is a Senior Research Scientist and Head of Archaeology at National Museums of Kenya. Dr. Ndiema was born and raised on the slopes of Mt Elgon. His research focus is on human cultural responses to long term climatic change. Specifically, he is interested in the causes, processes of livestock domestication and the spread of pastoral livelihoods in eastern Africa.
CHRISTOPHER POWLES is a University of Oxford zoology graduate whose grandfather lived on Mount Elgon and was the founder and first warden of Mount Elgon National Park. He was born in Nairobi, now lives in the U.K. and returns to Kenya regularly for his work and to visit Mt Elgon. He is the Chairman of the Mt Elgon Foundation which is being registered in the U.K.
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In 2018, the Kenyan government imposed a moratorium on timber harvesting in all public and community forests ‘to allow for the recovery and audit of forest resources in Kenya,’ a knee jerk response to an alarming drop of water levels in all major rivers in the country.
This flailing attempt to ban logging in order to save Kenya’s water towers has had a number of implications: swathes of mature trees planted for commercial use in the Baringo, Marakwet, Keiyo, Kericho counties and the Mount Kenya region – valued at about Ksh 30 Billion – are rotting in the plantations. This significant loss of revenue to the Ministry of Environment and the Kenya Forest Service has led to serious budget cuts and compromised the agencies’ capacity to deliver critical environment management projects including the Nairobi River Cleanup exercise.
Additionally, the gap in local supply of timber forced the market to respond in an unnatural way; leading to over exploitation of farm trees and harvesting of immature trees in neighboring countries of Congo and Tanzania; essentially contributing to degradation of other forest ecosystems in the region.
Fortunately, the timber moratorium lapses this November and the Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG) – an independent government watchdog for sound forest practices in Kenya, proposes that it be dispensed with altogether. Instead, KFWG proposes strengthening of local enforcement agencies and local governance units to curb illegal and unchecked logging.
Additionally, KFWG suggests that the ‘Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Scheme’ (PELIS) currently under threat of being scraped, instead be reviewed and improved and that issues of corruption within government agencies be dealt with firmly.
If you would like more information about the Kenya Forest Working Group, please visit https://www.kenyaforests.org/
At one of Kenya’s most endangered lakes, community control over the natural resource offers residents new income, infrastructure and dignity.
Lake Ol’ Bolossat, Central Province’s only natural lake, is home to a wealth of bird species including the endangered grey crowned crane, attracting tourists and researchers interested in different migratory birds coming from as far as Europe and Asia.
As a source of Ewaso Nyiro River, Lake Ol’ Bolossat also supports a large population of people, livestock and wildlife that live downstream in the northern Kenyan arid and semi-arid areas of Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo and Garissa.
Before intervention by the East African Wild Life Society, the beauty and economic benefits of Lake Ol’ Bolossat were at stake due to overgrazing, quarrying and encroachment on riparian areas.
Locals received little benefit from tourism that was controlled by a private minority group, thus only a handful were incentivized to conserve the natural resource. Lake Ol Bolossat’s wildlife populations plummeted as pollution and droughts increased, with doubts arising on whether the lake would survive the next 15 years.
Previously, discussions on community-led natural resource management in Lake Ol’ Bolossat area had been limited or non-existent. In response, the East African Wild Life Society, with funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) came onboard to assist the community establish the Lake Ol’ Bolossat Community Conservation Group; going a step further to undertake a comprehensive community capacity building program that would see residents of Nyandarua County trained on climate-smart agricultural practices and supported in initiation of said initiatives.
In order to ensure effectiveness and sustainability of the conservation group, the East African Wild Life Society had the Lake Ol’ Bolossat Community Conservation Group registered and licensed; successfully lobbying for the creation of a legal framework by the Nyandarua County Government to enhance coordination and collaboration between the County Government, National Government and residents of Lake Ol’ Bolossat in a benefit sharing scheme.
Now, the Lake Ol’ Bolossat community and wider Nyandarua area residents are assured of improved access to clean and safe water, regular water supply for their farming activities and diversified means of earning a livelihood.
If you would like to be part of EAWLS’ success stories, please visit https://eawildlife.org/membership/ to view our membership categories.
Presenting the 6th Edition of the Forest Challenge
The East African Wild Life Society Leads the Way in Sounding the Alarm for
Kenya’s Forests and the Dangers of Deforestation
NAIROBI, KENYA – For the 6th year in a row, The East African Wild Life Society – in partnership with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) – is hosting The Forest Challenge, an annual event meant to raise awareness amongst Kenyans on the importance of forests and the threats of deforestation.
Kenya’s forests are on a rapid decline with deforestation taking place at a rate of 0.3% each year due to pressure from increased population, wood fuels, building material and other land uses. The Forest Challenge, the premier annual forest conservation event in East Africa, seeks to reverse this trend by increasing awareness on forest conservation while helping to protect and manage the degraded forests of Kenya’s water towers.
The Forest Challenge is a fun, competitive and challenging obstacle course through Kereita Forest (part of the Southern Aberdares Water Towers block) which aims to sensitise Kenyans on the need for forest conservation while helping to protect and rehabilitate over 600 Ha of degraded montane forests in Kenya’s water towers.
This year, the Forest Challenge has partnered with several companies including UAP, Madison Insurance, Micro Enterprise Support Trust, Safaricom PLC, PKF, Total Kenya, Royal Media Services, Sunworld Safaris, RSA Kenya as well as the Kiambu County Government in order to achieve this noble ambition.
In attendance this year will be Chief Conservator of Forests, Mr. Julius Kamau, CEC Environment Kiambu County, Hon. David Kuria and over 500 participants from different corporate and environmental organizations.
Members of the Media who wish to attend this event should contact email@example.com, | +254 (0) 701 980575
November 1st, 2019 marked the beginning of a massive restoration exercise of the Maasai Mau Forest following the lapse of a 60 day evacuation notice for (illegal) settlers in Kenya’s largest endangered water tower.
“Reclamation of the degraded Maasai Mau has been very successful with 96% of the illegal settlers having left voluntarily,” said Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko.
Speaking during the launch of the 10 million Maasai Mau reforestation program, where he led the planting of over 200,000 seedlings, CS Tobiko disclosed that 35,000 acres of the critical water tower had now been reclaimed. He thanked the community for voluntarily moving out of the forest noting that their cooperation ensured the exercise was carried out humanely, in a bid to protect the rights of both upstream and downstream populations as well as the rights of future generations.
The CS added that through aerial seeding technology, 3.5 million seeds of the planned 20 million seeds had been planted in the vast Mau Forest. “This is just a fraction of what we intend to do considering the level of degradation and destruction experienced in the Maasai Mau Forest”, said the CS.
Addressing the media on site, the Kenya Forest Service Chief Conservator of Forests Julius Kamau noted that KFS’s mandate includes forest protection and restoration and called for increased partnership with forest adjacent communities to enhance rehabilitation efforts.
In her remarks, the East African Wild Life Society’s Executive Director, Nancy Ogonje, applauded the recovery of encroached forest lands and the rehabilitation of seriously degraded regions in the Mau escarpment, stating that it is a step in the right direction to support the Mara-Serengeti ecosystems, which are critical to the economies of both Kenya and Tanzania. “We are in support of the government’s initiative to grow trees in the Mau and other degraded forest lands in Kenya. We also call upon all stakeholders and the general public to support efforts of restoring the Mau forest. The East African Wildlife Society through the Forest Challenge rehabilitation program provides an opportunity for any interested party and individuals to participate in the restoration of Kenya’s water sheds, including the Mau Forest.”
The smiling faces captured in the Imre Loefler University Talks’ banner sharply contrast with the sombre faces of the University students filing into Strathmore University’s Main Auditorium. These students mean business- they are here to have a say in their future and ultimately, the future of the planet.
2019 will be remembered as the year young people took to the streets around the world to fight for their future. Inspired by Greta Thunberg and other outspoken teens, millions of young people have been making headlines to raise global awareness of the dire consequences that a lack of sustainable environmental practices and climate change could have for their generation’s future.
Meanwhile, more quietly, but also right here in Kenya, young people have been charting that future as they help their communities adapt to the changes already happening.
The Imre Loefler University Talks launched on September 25th 2019 by the East African Wild Life Society and Konrad-Adeneur Stiftung Foundation, aim to guide and nurture these efforts, with insightful panel discussions ranging in topic from ‘Corporate social responsibility to green business’; ‘Sustainable Development Goals Implementation in a profit driven world’; to ‘Supporting youth in conservation enterprise’.
“Why the focus on youth? In essence, because youth are setting today’s (consumption) trends and will be tomorrow’s decision makers. There are 2-3 billion new consumers—most of them young—expected to come on line in urban settings around the world. So it is critical to work with youth to make more sustainable living and lifestyles ‘the new normal’.” -Garrette Clark, Sustainable Lifestyles Programme Officer at UNEP.
The last of this series of talks will take place on November 22nd, 2019 and we invite you to witness the rise of an environmentally conscious generation.