For more than a decade, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai has fought for the conservation of our forests. She bore the pain and suffered immensely for our trees.
But did we listen? No! We went about our business, cutting down trees for charcoal and firewood, turning forest land to agricultural terrain and settling thousands of illegal people in our valuable forests.
After all, we thought it was just a publicity stunt Maathai was pulling. Now we don’t have enough trees to influence rainfall and we can already feel the effects.
Our taps are dry. There are long dry spells and most Kenyans can hardly feed themselves. We have seen rivers drying up and some of our lakes are no more.
We are now talking of startling statistics. Ten million Kenyans face starvation due to climate change. Experts warn that we will soon be talking of environmental refugees -those displaced by climate change.
And we have no one else to blame but ourselves. We have mercilessly cut down trees, allowed land degradation and soil erosion to slowly kill our growing economy.
A study published in the Geophysical Research Letters in February revealed that Kenya has been losing valuable topsoil since the early 1900s.
Today, the Kenyan landscape continues to lose fertile soil to the Indian Ocean, mainly because of human pressure especially deforestation.
What happened to the days when we would build gabions to stop soil erosion? You remember the slogan ‘Tuzuie Mmonyoko wa Udongo’ (let’s stop soil erosion)? Even the colonialists made us dig trenches and plant Napier grass to avoid soil erosion.
Did I hear someone say that there is a plan to compensate those living in the Mau forest? How I ask, do you reward people who invaded the water catchment area or those who grabbed the land? This is simply unacceptable!
We are now being told there are signs we may experience El Nino again in September. This means that we could once again have extremely high rainfall.
Those who remember the 1997 El Nino know it is not something to look forward to. We might see millions of Kenyans get displaced due to floods, disease outbreaks and many other immeasurable problems.
What worries me is the fact that we are all going to be seriously affected if we don’t take measures now. Our economy is agriculture-driven and when we can’t predict the climate then we are in serious trouble.
This could also result in insecurity due to fight over scarce resources.
Please, let’s not allow the situation get any worse. We have no other planet to emigrate to, if we don’t take care of Mother Earth.
Let’s all play our small part.
Plant trees, employ appropriate land use programmes and stop soil erosion.
Let’s not allow ourselves to reach a point where will say… if only we had done something.