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Prof Maathai chides Kenya on climate change

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 6 – Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai has expressed doubt on the government’s seriousness to tackle climate change.

Professor Maathai said on Friday that Kenya was not doing enough at the local level to try and ease climate change that was affecting millions of people in the country.

She said the government had failed in providing leadership to conserve the environment with issues like soil erosion remaining a major challenge.

“There is a lot that the government can do in terms of making laws in Parliament for example to make sure nobody cultivates along the river,” the Nobel Laureate said.

 “If you go to Sagana (Central Kenya), you will literary see the soil is breaking away in blocs because the river is literally flowing through a piece of land that somebody is cultivating and the maize is being carried away,” she added.

She said it was disappointing that the Ministry of Agriculture does not take action to help farmers create terraces and protect the soils.

“The problem is that when the rains come, they find our grounds bare; in the forests the land has been cultivated and is bare so the water flows very fast. You need vegetation which would slow the flow of the rivers,” she said.

Professor Maathai added that the road networks in Kenya were also a major source of soil erosion.

“The management of the roads is such that they clear any vegetation they can find along the roads. We need this vegetation; why on God’s earth do we cut it?” she posed. 

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“We must find a way of keeping the soil on the land, keeping the water on the land so that our rivers will be fed by streams not by floods.  If we cannot do the little things like stop soil erosion, protect rivers or get people out of the forests, what are we going to Copenhagen for?”

She reiterated that the infamous shamba system must stop in order to conserve Kenya’s forests.

“This shamba system is the one that actually encouraged politicians to give away land to farmers because once you cut the forests and you start planting exotic species, when you harvest, the whole land becomes a farm so the temptation by politicians to give it away to friends and tribesmen is very high and therefore we really must remove everybody from the forest,” she said.

“You could cry if you go to our forests and see the destruction that has taken place in the name of shamba system.”

She also called on leaders who own huge chunks of land on the now controversial Mau complex to emulate some locals who have returned their title deeds.

She was speaking after a Civil Societies meeting on climate change in Nairobi ahead of the December talks in Copenhagen where Kenya will be the lead negotiator for the African continent.


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