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.

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