Kenya Land Shortage and Deforestation
Wild and regular recycling dump on the coast
Recycling dump on the coast
As a country located in eastern Africa according to philosophynearby, Kenya is a very arid country and at the same time an agricultural state whose population is growing by a million people every year. The population pressure exacerbates the land conflicts and environmental problems, which are already evident in the capital. The country’s natural resources are under threat. Farming families are clearing officially protected forests in order to gain arable land. For most farmers, wood is still the primary source of energy, and the domestic fire used for cooking contributes to deforestation. Illegal logging and settlement – often covered by influential politicians – continue to decimate the forests. To turn back the wheel, like in the Mau Escarpment, from which the water supply of the Maasai Mara is fed, is often associated with severe conflicts.
Deforestation also threatens the country’s water reserves, among other things because theoretically a good two thirds of the amount of rain would have to be generated in the country itself and only about one third from the monsoon rains that come from the sea and fall over Kenya. This means that the droughts and the increasing water scarcity, depending on the region, are partly homemade, with climate change and rising temperatures exacerbating the situation in some already dry areas, including cities like Mombasa.
The involvement of the local population in forest management and a multitude of state and civil society initiatives are trying to improve the situation, and there is indeed progress in reforestation, for example on Mount Kenya. However, the efforts are thwarted by losses on the other so-called water towers in the country: Mount Elgon, Mau Escarpment, Aberdares. According to the FAO, the forest cover is only 5-6 percent of the land area. By 2030, the government wants to reforest areas the size of Costa Rica and increase the proportion of forest from currently around 6 to over 10 percent of the country’s area.
Lake Victoria, a water reservoir for tens of millions of people, has also long been burdened by environmental problems. The establishment of the Nile perch in the 1950’s led to a dramatic reduction in biodiversity, but at the same time created income for fishermen and an export-oriented fishing industry. The ubiquitous Victoria sardine, known as Omena or Dagga, also provides work for more than 10,000 Kenyan fishermen, but the night-time catch with kerosene lanterns and the risk of overfishing endanger the ecological balance of the lake.
The discharge of sewage and, above all, the water hyacinths introduced by the former colonial rulers as ornamental plants are also causing problems for the largest lake in Africa. Projects worth millions to save the lake have so far only shown partial success. The extensive flower industry and the settlement of tens of thousands of workers endanger Lake Naivasha; Lake Nakuru is endangered by an adjacent garbage dump. Such dumps are also a time bomb for the Nairobi and Mathare rivers in Nairobi or the Bay of Mombasa and for the National Environmental Management Agency NEMA a challenge that can hardly be overcome, but the first renovation measures are underway. There have been repeated attempts to ban plastic bags because they spoil the landscape, clog channels and put an end to voracious goats.
Since the headquarters of the UN Environment Program, formerly UNEP, is based in Nairobi, many of the country’s environmental problems receive special attention; for example there is a UNEP initiative against the devastating deforestation. UNEP has campaigned for the introduction of unleaded fuel and contributed to the development of modern environmental legislation. Other international initiatives for sustainable agriculture, insect research and animal husbandry are also based in Nairobi.
Nonetheless, environmentally hazardous waste disposal (including batteries, used oil, hospital waste), land consumption, overgrazing, depleted, overused soils and the exploitation of groundwater reserves are among the existential challenges facing the country. The new wealth in Asia has also led to a sustained increase in poaching led by elephants and rhinos in East Africa because more people can now afford the coveted ivory. Powerful gangs hunt down the protected animals that are once again threatened with extinction. In addition to their role as a tourist magnet, the large animals also have functions for their habitat, including digging water holes, spreading tree seeds, cutting paths, so that their decimation endangers the entire biodiversity in Kenya’s national parks. Kenya responded to the ivory smuggling by using sniffer dogs, among other things. An amateurish resettlement of 11 rhinos from the Nairobi and Nakuru National Park ended in disaster because the drinking water at the destination in Tsavo East Park was known to be too salty. The animals died.