, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 3 – Kenya has been commended for the measures and efforts it has undertaken in conserving the environment and its wildlife.
The Chairman of the African Conservative Center and winner of the prestigious 2010 Ecology Award David Western said on Tuesday that Kenya was at a much better position in its endeavor to protect its wildlife compared to other African countries.
He however challenged the Kenyan government to upgrade the conservation measures and secure them.
“Eight percent of our land is set aside for national parks and we still have lots of wildlife that migrates freely; very few other countries have that. But on the other hand the problems of conserving wildlife today are bigger everywhere. There are more people and more environmental destruction so we have a lot more to do to keep the best of the wildlife in the world,” he said.
Speaking to Capital News, Dr Western also proposed that the government plants more trees that will promote carbon trading.
“The Kyoto protocol allows those people who are polluting their developing countries to buy credit from countries like Kenya where trees are planted so we can actually get a credit for planting trees. It is like planting mahindi. If we plant maize we get cash for it; if we plant trees there is now a mechanism by which we can get credit and payment for that. The land owner in the future stands to benefit enormously from bio mass fuels and solar energy,” he said.
Dr Western further added that Kenya would also help combat global warming by planting more trees.
“What is causing global warming is green house emissions and the biggest contributor to that is carbon dioxide coming from burning fossil fuels through respiration. Therefore the more we plant trees the more we absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Or put the other way round, the more we conserve the trees we have, the less we carbon we dump into the atmosphere,” he explained.
He also asked Kenyans to cultivate a positive attitude towards efforts taken by the government to this point saying it would go a long way towards encouraging government efforts in conserving the environment.
“The first thing to do is not to be depressed. You must remember that many of the other industrial countries went through similar challenges. They cut through their woodlands and forests and had tremendous pollution. We have to go through two phases; one of recognition of the impact that our actions have had on the environment and second what we need to do. Every problem has a solution,” he said.
He also proposed that the Kenyan government works together with land owners to help conserve wildlife collectively adding that the government would have to revise some of its wildlife and land policies.
“When it comes to wildlife we need to win enough space to keep these big migratory herds that are unique to us; and that means more than just the national parks. We need to keep areas that animals need open and the only way to do that is to work with land owners on whose land wildlife moves. That means that our policies have to fully recognize that Kenyans must be the first beneficiaries of wildlife,” he said.
Dr Western also claimed that there was no single government agency in Kenya that was responsible for trees, “We are losing trees everywhere not just in the Mau; they are being harvested for charcoal and it is creating a lot of erosion and pollution. We need to find out how we will conserve our trees and wildlife.”
He also added that conservation would also improve the overall quality of life for Kenyans.
“If you look at the way the world was going in the industrial revolution you find that many people ended up in cities that were dirty and polluted. Today if you go to the big cities you realise they are much cleaner and much healthier. Part of what conservation is about is making life better for people, making their health better and their entire environment better,” he said.
The 2010 World Ecology Award from the Harris World Ecology Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis is presented to an eminent individual who has raised public awareness about global ecology and made significant contributions to environmental protection and biodiversity conservation. It will be presented at a gala dinner to be held on Friday, May 7 at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Raised in Tanzania and now a Kenyan citizen, Dr Western has spent more than 42 years engaged in research in Kenya studying the interactions between livestock, wildlife and humans, with the aim of developing conservation strategies applicable to an ecosystem scale.
As former director of Kenya Wildlife Service and conservation director for Wildlife Conservation Society, he has been active in many areas of conservation, including community-based conservation, international programs, conservation planning, eco-tourism, training, directing governmental and non-governmental organizations, and public education.