Kenya could learn from Germany

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BY JUDIE KABERIA

I wish I could bring Kenyans to Germany for a tour.

This is the thought that crossed my mind when I toured the country’s eight cities in seven days.

Though it was just a week, I learnt a lot and I only wish even half of what I saw could be replicated in my country.

Despite Germany being a highly developed country which makes me to rate Kenya at more than 100 years back, the country uses every opportunity to conserve its environment.

Whenever I looked through my bus window, I easily noticed huge and small forests spreading inland many kilometers from the highways. I don’t know if I had Kenya’s pillaged Mau Forest in my mind, but for some reason, I enjoyed watching the large variety of trees and bushes which were almost everywhere including in the cities.

Currently, Germany’s forest cover is about 10.6 million hectares, accounting for 36 percent of the country’s 34.9 million hectares of land area.

The presence of many forests left me thinking how Germany has managed to maintain its canopy despite it being a heavily industrialised country compared to Kenya.

I have discovered that the country has suitable management regulations and structures to cater for land ownership and maintenance.

Forest ownership is classified into private, the State and local communities.

According to a German paper mill, there are more than 400,000 enterprises engaged in the management of forests and almost three-quarters are agricultural holdings with small areas of woodland.

Privately owned forests are generally quite small and more than half of them are less than 20 hectares. The significant number of community owned forests allows local people to be actively engaged in the forest management planning process which is then facilitated by town councils.

It was also interesting to note that forest authorities of Germany’s 16 federal States have a responsibility of managing State forests at their federal levels.

But using land appropriately is not all it takes to have a healthy forest cover.

Equal regional development

Germany being one of the largest consumers of energy in the world has invested in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind which are strikingly outstanding when one tours the country.

Tall and large wind turbines can be spotted in many open fields and also many buildings are fitted with glass windows to maximise use of the sun.

Germany’s capital is highly developed, but this is replicated across the country and evidently the towns and cities we visited are equitably developed.

There is equal regional balance in the way development trickles even to the remotest parts of the country. Shopping malls, hotels, hospitals and other services are available across the country.

Road, tram, buses and railway transport are available everywhere in Germany.

Unlike many African countries naturally favored with wild animals and amazing topographies, Germany has worked hard to preserve, maintain and protect its history and art which include old churches, castles and other distinct sites that visitors as well as Germans find attractive.

It is admirable how everything is outstanding.

Germany also has many parks, rivers, seas and lakes which by the way are well utilised – very clean.

The resources are quite busy especially during summer time as local and international visitors entertain themselves via boat rides, cruise ship or just hanging around the water banks.

This left me thinking of Nairobi’s wasted Nairobi River and Nairobi Dam which could otherwise be transformed to a tourist attraction site. I am imagining of boat trips in Nairobi!

The trip also leaves me thinking of Kenya’s only 1.7 percent forest cover.

The serious inequalities in distribution of resources and public services are major set backs to African countries and no matter how we develop, we will not achieve results if this kind of discrimination is not eliminated.

(Judie Kaberia, Capital FM’s Special Projects reporter, is on a working tour of Germany)

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