In January, a desert locust infestation – the worst in 25 years – spread throughout Kenya after already wreaking havoc in Somalia and Ethiopia, posing the most significant threat to Kenya’s food security in recent times.
The swarms crossed the border from Somalia on December 28, and have now spread to northern Mandera and Marsabit, eastern Wajir and Garissa, as well as central Isiolo, Samburu, Meru and most recently, Murang’a and Machakos counties. Agriculturists estimate that over 500,000 hectares of crop land and pastures have so far been destroyed.
“The favourable conditions brought about by heavy rains experienced during the short rainy season last year, bringing forth lush vegetation, has made it possible for the insects to thrive and they will be here until February,” said Dr. George Otieno, University of Nairobi Head of Insect science.
Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture has said it will take at least six months to control the locusts, highlighting the threat to food security as Kenya’s breadbasket regions prepare for main crop season planting in March.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya speaking Monday, 27th January in the awake of reports indicating fresh invasions in the Embu and Tana River areas, said more swarms of locusts were arriving from Somalia and Yemen.
The Kenyan government and Desert Locust Control Organisation of East Africa have been working to provide aerial spraying for locust control and have allocated ksh.30 million (US$300,000) to this task.
It remains to be seen whether these efforts by the government will halt the spread of the locust invasion.
The potential of the pesticides’ adverse ecological impact that includes the destruction of beneficial insects and organisms remains unknown, causing another potential threat to the environment.
Kenya’s 2010 Constitution mandated the central and county governments to jointly manage the country’s Kenya’s forests. The central government assumed the responsibility of providing technical support, policy leadership and capacity building, while the counties took charge of the management of their respective forest resources, giving them the authority to ensure community rights and to redress long-standing land tenure and benefit sharing disputes.
The Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG), an autonomous civil society watchdog hosted by the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS), has been working closely with the Kenya Forest Service and county governments to implement the Gazette Supplement No. 116 issued on 9th of August 2014 that provides for the devolution of forestry functions to county governments, including farm forestry extension services, forests and game reserves.
In June 2018, KFWG, working with various county governments, conducted a preliminary public consultation meeting in Bomet County on the formulation of a Bomet County Forest Conservation & Management Bill and Policy. This was necessitated by the need to provide county governments with a benchmark legal framework to execute their devolved forest management functions.
The drafting, validation and adoption of the Bomet County Forest Bill took place in two phases. Phase I involved the drafting the bill in consultation with the county legal team and other relevant stakeholders and the creation of a technical team for the Bomet County Forest Conservation and Management Bill.
Phase II involved further engagement with stakeholders and the creation of an effective policy brief. EAWLS/KFWG, the Bomet County Environment Department and the technical team of the Bomet County Forest Conservation and Management Bill organised a stakeholders’ workshop to scrutinize and enrich the bill and policy in readiness for its presentation to the county cabinet and public consultation.
The Bomet County Forest Conservation & Management Bill draft has since been presented to the public and is now being debated by the Bomet County assembly.
KFWG hopes that the ratification of this pioneering county forest bill will streamline the forest product value chain, provide a platform for communities to get involved in natural resource management and pave the way for more counties to adopt laws necessary for the execution of their forest management mandate.
On 21st November 2019, the Kenya Forest Working Group (hosted by the East African Wild Life Society) in partnership with the National Alliance of Community Forest Associations (NACOFA), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) launched the inaugural Community Forest Association Award scheme with the aim of creating public awareness on the importance of Community Forest Associations (CFAs) in forest protection, conservation and management.
“The main objective of this initial Community Forest Award is to recognize CFAs actively taking part in forest conservation and management in parts of the Mau Forest Complex and targeted CFAs in Narok, Bomet and Nakuru Forest Ecosystems,” said the Chief Conservator of Forests – Mr. Julius Kamau.
11 Community Forest Associations (Mara Mara, Olenguruone, Sururu, Chepalungu, Nyangores, Kiptunga, Ndoinet, Itare, Olposimoru, Nairotia, and Likia) were recognized for outstanding achievements in governance, business and enterprise development in forestry, forest conservation as well as management and sustainability.
“This award scheme will be useful in creating awareness among communities on the importance of forest conservation, recognising passion and awarding efforts in tree growing and forest conservation,’’ noted East African Wild Life Society’s Executive Director, Nancy Ogonje.
The CFA awarding ceremony drew to a close with the various participating CFAs, award partners and wider Bomet community planting a total of 25,000 indigenous tree seedlings as part of the efforts to restore over 5,000 hectares of degraded forest in Chepalungu, Bomet County destroyed over a decade ago by illegal logging and charcoal burning.
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.