Renewed forests policy critical for growth

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Environment CS Keriako Tobiko. Photo/PD/Roy Lumbe

Two significant developments on the national and global stage last week draw our attention to the critical link between the environment and humanity’s survival aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Here at home, Environment and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko sounded a warning to those behind the grabbing of public land and destruction of forests, saying the government would take drastic action against them.

Singling out the illegal acquisition of a huge part of Ngong forest land, the CS warned: “Ngong forest is the most naked and brazen case of this disease called land grabbing.

We have entities that have no conscience; some people think that they are very smart by acquiring public land, we are coming after them.”

Following the CS’s harsh notice, many innocent Kenyans who bought land and developed properties through the flagged illegal acquisitions and exchanges are now caught in the intricate web of a legal, socio-political and economic conundrum compounded by climate change.

The government’s decision is reinforced by the Draft National Forest Policy, 2020, which emphasises that forest resources are a valuable natural endowment that must be sustainably managed for present and future generations.

According to the policy, forest resources offer a range of benefits and opportunities for local and national economic development, improved livelihoods and provision of environmental goods and services such as watershed protection, ecosystem services and carbon sequestration.

It is the government’s contention that the forest sector has performed poorly and improving governance has been an implicit objective in the sector’s reforms over the past 10 years.

The policy conforms to the initial draft of a landmark post-2030 global biodiversity framework negotiated by officials and experts from around the world at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters in Rome in March. 

On Friday,  influential food, agriculture and environmental experts from six continents, responding to warnings that Covid-19 was intensifying hunger even in wealthy countries, issued an ambitious roadmap for resettling food systems already hard hit by climate change.

In their report, ‘Actions to Transform Food Systems under Climate Change’, developed under the guidance of the Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, the experts seek to avert post-pandemic food shocks caused by climate change.

It is the most comprehensive global plan to rebuild all types of food production initiatives around the world (smallholder farming and large-scale production) rocked by the pandemic but which will face even greater challenges from effects of climate change.

The report’s 11-part action plan includes innovations that can make food systems more resilient to climate and non-climate shocks.

It also includes efforts to sustainably increase food production in developing countries in ways that improve incomes and food security in poor, agriculture-dependent rural communities.

Significantly, it supports Kenya’s renewed policy on forests by offering strategies to avoid expanding food production into carbon-rich tropical forests and explores options that can support healthy, climate-friendly diets.

From these two national and international developments, it is apparent that we need an urgent and transformative response to protect the one and only home that we share, to ensure that all have equitable access to the resources and healthy environments necessary for our survival and prosperity.

As recognised in the Forest Policy, attainment of this response requires improved governance, resource allocation, partnerships, and monitoring and evaluation for the sector to contribute to the country’s growth and poverty alleviation goals within a sustainable environment. [email protected]

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