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One result of the climate agreement: increased afforestation in Kenya
“This program includes the most coherent and systematic efforts to restore degraded forests and other landscapes. It gives us the opportunity to reduce poverty, increase food security, confront climate change and preserve our treasured biodiversity. ”In September 2016, the Kenyan Environment Minister Judy Wakhungu presented the most ambitious reforestation program in the history of her country.
“This program includes the most coherent and systematic efforts to restore degraded forests and other landscapes. It gives us the opportunity to reduce poverty, increase food security, counter climate change and preserve our valued biological diversity. "
In September 2016, the Kenyan Environment Minister Judy Wakhungu presented the most ambitious reforestation program in the history of her country. By 2030, 5.1 million hectares of destroyed forest areas and other degraded areas are to be reforested. The area corresponds to the size of Costa Rica.
In the past few decades, so many trees have been destroyed in Kenya for the creation of arable land, logging and the production of charcoal that the remaining forests only cover 7% of the land area. To change that, the government also wants to involve non-governmental organizations and the local population in the project. At the same time, the reforestation programs should make a significant contribution to Kenya achieving its goal of reducing climate-damaging emissions by 30% by 2030.
The long way to the new afforestation policy
From the 1970s onwards, the Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai was committed to stopping forest destruction and systematic reforestation. She continued her commitment despite massive threats from timber companies and local politicians and found many allies, especially among the Kenyan women, to defend the forest areas and plant millions of new trees. Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for this commitment. She died in 2011 and could therefore no longer experience that her longstanding persuasive and educational work is finally bearing fruit politically and that the Kenyan government is making the protection of forests and reforestation a focus of its environmental policy.
The UN environmental program UNEP, which is based in Nairobi, has been involved for years with studies, seminars and projects for the preservation and expansion of Kenyan forest areas. In a 2016 study, UNEP and Interpol showed that Kenya loses 70,000 hectares of forest every year through illegal deforestation. The export of precious woods via the port of Mombasa with forged documents is particularly lucrative. Criminal gangs also contribute to the fact that trees are illegally felled on a large scale and used for the production of charcoal, which is then marketed nationwide.
As early as 2012, the UN environmental program and the Kenyan forestry authority came to the conclusion in a joint study that the country loses more than 70 million dollars in direct income every year due to illegal logging. In addition, there are far higher ecological costs, because the large-scale illegal deforestation of forest areas, for example, also drastically reduces the formation of new groundwater, a catastrophe for one of the most arid countries in East Africa. According to the study, the revenue from deforestation is less than a quarter of the value of the ecological damage.
The arduous way to preserve the forests
How difficult and nevertheless promising it is to protect the remaining forests and to plant new trees is shown in a joint project by UNEP and the Kenyan forest authority, which is funded by the EU. With more than 400,000 hectares, the Mau Forest is the largest remaining forest area in East Africa. The forest is of supraregional ecological importance because the Mara River rises here, which supplies large nature reserves in Kenya and neighboring Tanzania with water, including the famous Serengeti National Park.
The forest is the most important “water tower” in the region because the groundwater supplies the streams and rivers with spring water. Destruction of the forest would largely prevent the formation of new groundwater. But in the last few decades the forest has been increasingly threatened by settlers who clear large areas in order to gain arable land.
As part of the project, an attempt is now being made to win over the local population for forest conservation and reforestation. To this end, employment opportunities are being created in the sustainable use of forests and in planting seedlings. For example, women's groups are advised and supported in producing and marketing briquettes from leaves and waste paper and no longer from charcoal. Beekeeping can also generate income beyond illegal deforestation.
Despite initial successes, deforestation and ruthless charcoal mining continue in the Mau forest. The long periods of drought in recent years are causing more and more Kenyan families to look for a new livelihood in the Mau forest. They feel encouraged by local politicians who are fighting forest conservation and reforestation, because they want to secure the support of the settlers in this way. They promise them that they will not be driven out of the forest under any circumstances and thus create incentives for more families to settle there.
The Paris Climate Agreement creates new perspectives
The fact that the Kenyan government has now decided to consistently protect existing forests and initiate large-scale reforestation programs is also due to the fact that, since the Paris climate agreement was passed, it has good prospects of permanently financing such projects.
According to UNEP, sustainable use of forests and wood could lead to a reduction in Kenya's climate-damaging emissions by more than a quarter. Therefore, the country can count on considerable financial resources within the framework of the REDD + program of the UN climate agreement. Through REDD +, developing countries receive money from international emissions trading for the conservation and sustainable use of forests and the storage of CO2 in forests.
Kenya will invest this income not only in the direct protection of forests, but also in renewable energies. This is an urgent task if the climate and forests are to be protected. So far, wood and charcoal are by far the most important source of energy for Kenyans with a share of 75%. As long as charcoal is still being used, the UN environmental program recommends improved methods for its production in order to achieve a three-fold efficiency. By using new stoves, CO2 emissions can be reduced even further, and at the same time the dangers of smoke decrease.
It should also be mentioned that Kenya is now making efforts to protect the mangrove forests on the country's coast, which have shrunk by a fifth in the last three decades. The preservation and planting of new mangroves serve the climate, the coastal protection and the safeguarding of the fish abundance, because the young fish grow up in the protection of the mangroves.
Kenya has good prospects of combining climate protection with economic growth and job creation. Two important prerequisites are that narrow-minded local politicians do not torpedo these initiatives and that the industrialized countries provide the funds that have been promised, which will only fill the Paris climate agreement with life.
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