Mau Forest: The state should step up efforts to restore forests

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019 00:00 |
Mau complex residents leave the forest. Photo/PD/RAPHAEL MUNGE

The United Nations Climate Summit will take place on September 23 amid devastating forest fires across the globe that threaten restoration efforts.  

 A new report on the status of forests has revealed that forest loss rages on five years after the launch of New York Declaration on Forests ten goals. The declaration outlines ambitious goals related to protecting and restoring forests.

The report by 25 civil society organisations and research institutions released ahead of the summit emphasises what government and businesses have and have not been doing to protect and restore forests. Forest protection and restoration have a key role in meeting global climate goals. 

Kenya has made the restoration of Mau Forest a priority.  Environment Cabinet secretary Keriako Tobiko has announced that the restoration of the water tower is on course and that settlers must leave though this position was yesterday varied to give dialogue a chance. Kenya Forest Service rangers had moved into the forest in preparation of another round of evictions targeting some 60,0000 families.

A new study published in the Science journal last Thursday shows that the world’s tropical forests are in such poor shape that they are emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than they absorb. The study concludes that in Asia, Africa and Latin America deforestation has caused tropical forests to be a carbon “source” instead of a carbon “sink”.

 A study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also shows that carbon emissions caused by deforestation are outpacing carbon absorption in the tropics. The actual carbon emissions could be worse than what the study reports.

By deliberately planting and managing tropical forests, scientists say they can still be turned around.

Human activities

Small-scale degradation makes for 70 per cent of the deforestation problem; that is why for reforestation to be effective, the government must work with stakeholders on at the grassroots by adopting the “landscape ecosystem approach” to solve the problem.

The approach recognises that human activity affects ecosystems interacting with their structure and composition, resulting in an irreversible loss of ecosystem functionality once some boundaries are interfered with. 

Governments, businesses, communities must work together to change the systems and incentives that give rise to deforestation.

A NASA satellite on August 24 showed alarmingly large size images of forest fires in Central Africa extending from Angola across Congo and Mozambique to Madagascar, similar to the raging flames in Brazil that have led to global outcry.

The satellite detected 6,902 fires in Angola and 3,395 in Democratic Republic of Congo.

A former chief negotiator for the Africa zone at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, in an interview in Time magazine, says agricultural practices known as “slash and burn” need to be managed better, citing the more than 3,000 fires in Congo.

He says the practices are a big threat to forests and calls for a global programme to train people on other intensive agriculture practices.   

According to the European Space Agency, 25-35 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from burning biomass, which includes fires that are intentionally set to clear land for agriculture.  Kenya should step up efforts to protect and restore forests to counter the impact of climate change.

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