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Experts call for ICT use in forests

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 12 – Environmental experts have called on the government to make use of new technologies to monitor the depletion of forests in the country.

Professor Catherine Muthuri, an Environmentalist at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) said on Wednesday that use of technology would also help in advising farmers on the right trees to plant.

“You can also monitor the amount of moisture in the soil to see how much depletion is taking place. You can monitor how much carbon is being fixed by the leaves but for farmers to embrace a technology, you need to give them a livelihood,” Professor Muthuri said.

“So we need to promote income generating activities linked to forests.”

Speaking at a Professional forum on reversing the Mau crisis, she said much of the illegal logging and settling at the Mau complex occurred between 1995 and 2000 and then again 2003 to 2005.

Quoting a research she did on Mau forest between 1973 and 2005, Professor Muthuri said a lot of deforestation occurred in the Eastern Mau, Western and Maasai Mau.

“Between 1973 and 1986, five percent of the forest cover was destroyed, but there was a bit of recovery between 1986 and 1995 of 2.4 percent,” she said.

She however added that between 1995 and 2000 there was 9.4 percent destruction, between 2000 and 2003 there was a 0.8 percent increment in the forest cover in the complex and until 2005 there was a high deforestation of 9.4 percent.

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JKUAT Vice Chancellor Professor Mabel Imbuga said the government needed to re-look how to reverse the crisis fast and with positive impact.

“Why is it that we have taken so long to react to the Mau crisis?” she posed.

“Whenever we have a medical problem the government moves at the fastest speed to control that disease outbreak. The Mau crisis surely is of the same magnitude,” she added.

At the same forum, Water Assistant Minister Mwangi Kiunjuri blamed the reckless destruction of Mau forest on irresponsible and selfish interests of politicians.

Mr Kiunjuri said over 24 percent of the Mau ecosystem had been de-gazetted as forest land in the last 15 years.

The Mau forest, which is the largest water tower with a 400,000 acreage, has recently been the centre of interest following heavy destruction through illegal logging and settlement leading to severe water shortage in the country.

“It is the high time that professionals now address the politicians,” the Assistant Minister challenged.

“When God wanted to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, He did not destroy them in a long time because He was in love with Lot. Today we still have some people who are level headed in politics who can be able to sit down with you (professionals) and become the link. The crying voice in the wilderness, it can still be done,” he added.

The Assistant Minister also claimed that a decision was yet to be made on how to handle the Mau issue because there were too many ministries handling it. He said the issue was being handled by the Ministries of Environment, Forestry, Water and Agriculture.

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He added that Kenya’s water storage capacity had been on a sharp decline leaving the country with the least water storage in the world.

Mr Kiunjuri said the storage capacity was now at 4.5 m³ per capita down from 11.8m³ per capita in 1969.

He said the destruction of major forest covers like the Mau had made the situation worse leading to the water crisis in the country and the near fall of the energy sector.

“The potential we have for power is about 1,100 megawatts of which rivers flowing from Mau can generate hydro power of about 535 megawatts which means half of the capacity being generated today can be gotten from Mau but as a result of destroying the Mau you destroy the energy sector,” he said.

The Assistant Minister also said eucalyptus tree plantation near water sources should be stopped to avoid further drainage of water.

“The government has a duty to make sure that it compensates all those farmers who have planted eucalyptus where they are not required as an incentive to enable them uproot those trees and plant useful trees in the same areas,” he said.

“But as long as we request our chiefs to tell people to uproot those trees, it will never be a success.”

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