Kenyan News

Community Forest Association member during the signing of jilore Forest Management Agreement (FMA) in Kilifi County(PHOTO: JACKSON BAMBO)

NAIROBI, KENYA: Climate Change is a global phenomenon, and its impacts are real in Kenya.

Scientists predict that the increasing frequency of extreme weather, such as drought and flooding among other drastic climatic changes, will become more severe in coming years. Based on this Kenya enacted the Climate Change Act 2016, but to ensure its full implementation, including active participation and informed decision making on issues affecting women and youth as relates to climate change, we in the forestry sector cannot ignore a critical aspect of climate transformation: empowering women, youth, marginalized and people living with disability through access to finance, skills and technology. This is only possible if they are nominated to take leadership roles in the National Climate Change Council.

Women and youth’s access to finance and adaptive skills is central to addressing climate change. Women and youth make up 90 percent of the world’s poor, and it is common knowledge that climate change disproportionately affects the have nots. Floods, droughts, land degradation, displacements all have a disproportionately greater negative effect on the livelihoods of the poor than the rich, further pushing them to the bleak edge of deprivation. In Kenya women and youth, especially poor rural women and youth, are dependent on these resources for their livelihoods on forests and other natural resources that are threatened by climate change.

Access to finance and adaptive skills breaks down many barriers, including access to less fragile agricultural lands, better safety nets, access to clean energy for lighting and cooking, easy mobility in case of natural disasters, and the ability to engage in alternative livelihoods such as off-farm and nature based employment. Simple farm tools like hoes are last-century technology and have no place in the era of digitization and resource efficiency.

Kenya cannot build low-carbon and climate-resilient economy on the back of rudimentary technologies and policies. Information is power; for climate change, this means that community forest associations and rural farmers – most likely to be women and youth– must be able to receive early warning climate information that enables them make smart decisions on seeds, sowing and harvesting times, risks, markets, etc. With technology, as mobile phone technology has proven, Kenya is capable of leapfrogging into an era of digitization which minimizes risks and cuts costs of doing business. Kenyan women and youth have shown potential to compete in this digital workspace – K-Macho App, JuaKali, and ICow mobile app, are only a few of the women and youth-led tech startups with prospects in Kenya.

With the right amount of capital, these start-ups can be scaled up to generate Kenya-specific technologies that would enable Kenyans to deliver their Paris Agreement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) commitments to help reduce global temperature to below two degrees Celsius. Imagine how big that contribution would be if women and youth– half of the world’s population – were given a chance to sit on the National Climate Council. Linked to the technology challenge is the skills challenge. The right skills set is critical to lifting women and youth out of poverty and ultimately managing climate change. Kenya together with other African countries negotiated hard to get loss and damage recognized by the Paris Agreement.

This is a commendable feat, but it will not serve any purpose if the loss sufferers (again, mostly women and youth) are not equipped to deal with climate change. It is not sufficient to engage in technology transfer if the target communities are not skilled to use the technologies. With the right investment in their tertiary education, women and youth are equally capable of designing and become users of technologies that best fit their communities. In addition, given rural women and youth’s symbiotic relationship with nature, they possess indigenous knowledge that would enable them to truly make technology appropriate for their communities. This is only possible if they sit at the highest decision making National Climate Change Council as envisaged by the Climate Change Act 2016

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EAWLS Executive Director, Julius Kamau, represented the Society at the Forestry Society of Kenya’s (FSK) 11th annual conference held from 28 to 30 September in Eldoret, Kenya.

The conference, whose theme was “Contribution of Forestry Towards Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's)” was attended by stakeholders in the forest sector and provided valuable networking opportunities and a chance for meaningful discussions on what was being done to facilitate achievement of Goal 15 of the SDGs. [Goal 15 aims to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and stop loss of biodiversity over the next 15 years].

During the three-day conference, participants shared experiences and perspectives on how to strengthen actions to promote the achievement of SDGs. Research papers, case studies and other presentations were made at the conference.

FSK also launched its Strategic Plan 2017-2021 and held elections to choose members of the executive office.

FSK was created to be a forum for discussion among professional foresters and other persons interested in forests and environmental conservation. The society also offers a platform for foresters to share their experiences and trends in the profession.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Lamu Coal-Powered Plant was filed in July 2016 by Amu Power Company Limited after which members of the public were given 30 days to submit comments to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)

As of 29 August 2016, a majority of those submissions opposed the issuance of a license by NEMA due to a myriad of valid reasons, including the fact that coal is not a clean source of energy, lack of a clear compensation and resettlement plan, inadequate analysis of alternatives and mitigation measures of anticipated adverse impact on marine, wildlife and mangrove forest ecosystems.

Despite these dissenting submissions voiced by members of the public, NEMA went ahead and issued the EIA license (NEMA/EIA/PSL/3798) with terms and conditions thereof on 7 September 2016 -- a mere eight days after the public submissions -- raising questions about the seriousness NEMA accorded to comments from the public.

The Kenyan Constitution stresses public participation as a governance principle that must be upheld at all times. The framework law (EMCA) and EIA/EA regulations 2003 also places public participation at the core. NEMA’s decision to issue an EIA license contravenes the constitution and the framework environment law. This makes the EIA process a mere cosmetic or pseudo exercise in favor of the developer and excludes the public. The decision must not be allowed to stand as it compromises the principles of public participation, good governance, intra and inter-generational equity and sustainable development.

The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) therefore requests stakeholders in conservation to rally behind this call to make NEMA revoke the EIA license until all public comments have been taken into consideration as we, and other like-minded organizations, explore the possibility of appealing NEMA’s decision at the National Environment Tribunal (NET) as provided for under section 129 (2) of EMCA to ensure that environmental justice is granted.

The issue of coal and the huge social and environmental cost that goes with it is not limited to Lamu. It affects other areas, such as Kitui, and it is therefore a national issue that requires concerted response. This ‘brown’ economy development path negates the government’s commitment to promoting renewable and clean energy like solar, wind and geothermal as envisaged by Vision 2030, Kenya Green Economy Strategy and National Climate Change Response Strategy.

NEMA should be in the forefront and an agent for change in supporting Kenya’s transition from ‘brown’ to ‘green’ economy and not otherwise!

A Kenyan court has ordered the government not to proceed with the planned construction of the so-called Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) through the Nairobi National Park until an environmental impact assessment is carried out to determine the railway’s effect on wildlife.

Kenya’s National Environment Tribunal issued the injunction against the SGR construction on Monday following a petition by activist Okiyah Omtatah and Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation seeking to stop the National Environmental Management Authority, Kenya Wildlife Service, China Road and Bridge Corporation, Kenya Railways Corporation, the Attorney General and the ministries of Environment and Transport from implementing second phase of the SGR.

“Take notice that the National Environment Tribunal has received an appeal from Okiyah Omtatah and Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation and Management against NEMA’s failure to stop the project, which is currently underway without the benefit of Environmental Impact Assessment license as mandated and required by law,” the tribunal’s chairman said in a letter to the entities responsible for implementing the railway project.

Conservation groups have been unhappy with path that the Kenyan government had proposed for routing of the second phase the new Standard Gauge Railway through the Nairobi National Park.

The government’s preferred path is a viaduct 18 metres above the ground that cuts across the entire 6 kilometers of the park. It will begin eight metres from the edge of the park at the northern gate and continue for 41 kilometers after exiting it to the south, according to the minutes of a meeting between representatives from the Conservation Alliance of Kenya and those from the government departments concerned.
Members of the Alliance expressed regret that conservation groups were included in the consultations very late in the SGR project – well after the government had decided on the path of the railway through the park.

They said one of the alternative routes, that runs through Athi River town, had the minimum impact on the Nairobi National Park and should have be given further considerations and, if desirable, stakeholders were prepared to bring in partners to explore how additional funding would be raised for the expected cost overun.

A recent investigative publication has revealed that accredited diplomats from Far East countries such as North Korea are continually getting involved in the trafficking of wildlife products.

Published by a Swiss anti-organised crime watchdog, the report says officials attached to the North Korea embassies in southern Africa have been taking advantage of their immunities to ferry illegal ivory, rhino horn and other banned wildlife goods, and may have passed through ports in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The report, Crime, Conservation and Criminal Networks in Illicit Rhino Horn Trade by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime, lists a number of loopholes that traffickers are using to dodge security checks at ports.

And, it appears, "diplomatic bags", which are legally immune from scrutiny, are the mode of choice.

“For diplomats with a criminal bent, the privileges that they enjoy in terms of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations present a tantalising opportunity to commit a perfect crime,” says Julian Rademeyer, an investigative journalist who authored the report, referring to the treaty that grants immunities and privileges to diplomats.

“Less well known is the involvement of North Korean diplomatic missions in the illicit rhino horn and ivory trade,” the report says.

Usually, items shipped to or from embassies are not subjected to scrutiny at ports of entry. And these diplomats should not be subjected to checks or their premises or cars checked without their consent.

Drawing on interviews with officials in governments, conservationists and law enforcement agencies across southern Africa, Europe and Asia, the investigation found that diplomats and security officials themselves have been involved in poaching, smuggling and organised crime.

In May last year, a North Korean diplomat identified as Pak Chol-Jun was arrested in Mozambique with 4.5 kilos of rhino horn and $100,000 in cash. The diplomat was later released on paying a fine but the report says the incident was not isolated.

“North Korean embassy officials have been implicated in 16 of the 29 cases involving diplomats that we have identified in a variety of sources dating from 1986. It is likely that many more cases of diplomatic involvement in the illicit trade have gone undetected and unreported,” the report adds.

For North Koreans, the habit may be a result of their government's policy that every ministry must remain self-sufficient. The report says this policy has often pushed the North Koreans into illegal businesses such as trafficking in ivory or drugs.

A Vietnamese embassy official in South Africa was also once arrested with rhino horn in his car. But authorities let him leave the country after his country recalled him.

The findings, which form the second instalment of a two-part investigation funded by the Norwegian foreign ministry, adds to the continuing alarm that poaching could eliminate endangered species before long.
The World Wildlife Fund, a global non-governmental organisation involved in conservation, says the population of rhinos in Africa has been dropping every year and deaths (from poaching) could overtake the birth rate.

The Global Initiative says 6,000 rhinos have been poached since 2006. There are about 25,000 rhinos left on the continent, mostly in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana.
But these numbers could be wiped out, at least according to the latest trends. In 2015, 1,342 rhinos were poached, compared with 262 seven years earlier, according to the organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Kenya, which hosts 4.4 per cent of the rhino population in Africa, saw 35 rhinos poached in 2014, 24 less than the figure in 2013.

Last year, 11 rhinos were poached. This reduction was probably influenced by the passage of new anti-poaching laws that increased the penalty in 2014.

In April this year, Kenya burned 105 tons of ivory and rhino horn in a ceremony President Uhuru Kenyatta argued should tell the world of Kenya’s intent to eradicate poaching.

Though the report doesn’t say the poachers in the southern Africa are the same as in eastern Africa, it gives a detailed linkage between those recruited to poach and those who influence the smooth smuggling of the same products.
For example, investigators for the report found that commercial airlines operating on the southern Africa-eastern Africa route and from the region to the Middle East had been used by syndicates to smuggle goods from Mozambique to Nairobi or Addis Ababa and on to Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam.

The report says the use of diplomatic bags adds to the challenge of border protection weaknesses, bureaucracy, corruption and inconsistent laws that allow criminal networks a chance to flourish.

For example, International Police (Interpol), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the World Customs Organisation are supposed to provide checks.

But some countries are not members of these organisations. North Korea, for instance, is not a member of CITES and that means it is not bound by the rules on trade in endangered rhinos.

When researchers asked the North Korean embassy in Pretoria for a response, an official first denied the diplomat worked there before turning hostile, the report says. (Daily Nation)

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