, NYERI, Kenya, Mar 12 – The government has submitted a strong proposal to the 15th Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting of Wild Fauna and Flora to be held in Doha, in efforts to save endangered African wildlife from extinction.
President Mwai Kibaki who affirmed the government’s commitment to providing leadership in the conservation of the country’s wildlife, said the resumption of ivory trade could lead to a surge in illegal poaching of wildlife across the continent.
The President who spoke on Friday in Kieni West District when he officially commissioned the Rhino Ark Aberdare Fence, further appealed to all friends of Kenya to support the noble call to save the African elephant and rhino from extinction.
The Head of State said the government acknowledged the important role that tourism plays in the country’s economy and would relentlessly conserve the flora and fauna of the country.
“Tourism accounts for 21 percent of the total foreign exchange earnings and 12 percent of GDP. Tourism resources must, therefore, be guarded fiercely, hence Kenya’s relentless conservation efforts,” the President said.
President Kibaki stated that the government would continue stamping out threats to wildlife conservation especially anti-poaching activities and assured that the Kenya Wildlife Service and other agencies are well equipped to handle the task.
On conservation of forests, the President announced an ambitious re-afforestation programme the Government has embarked on to increase the national forest cover from the current 2 percent to 10 percent by the year 2030.
President Kibaki said to restore the country’s depleted forest cover, the government has placed special emphasis on conservation and management of the country’s five water towers, bamboo growing and industrial forest development and encourages all land owners to plant trees on at least one-tenth of their land.
He said tree planting remained on top of the government agenda in recognition of the central role forests play in the development of the country.
“We must all bear in mind that agricultural production, livestock grazing, hydro and geothermal power resources, essential supplies for our industries as well as tourism depend upon our forest ecosystems.
Forests and the precious flora and fauna within them must, therefore, be sustainably managed and conserved for all Kenyans and as a global heritage for all time,” The Head of State said.
On management of the Fence, President Kibaki called upon the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife to develop a comprehensive management plan to coordinate stakeholder interests and ensure the project is properly managed as a public-private partnership.
In view of the importance of this investment, President Kibaki stressed the need to secure and appropriately maintain the fence.
In this regard, the Head of State said, the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service and Rhino Ark in preparation of a management facility to be called the Aberdare Trust Fund which will be launched next month.
In addition to the protection of wildlife and forest resources, the President said, the fence will besides ensure harmonious co-existence of the local people and wildlife as well as enable communities whose livelihoods are dependent upon the Aberdare Mountain range to benefit more from the forest ecosystem.
Indeed, farmers\’ incomes and land value have increased with the construction of the fence which is a product of a consistent effort and whose construction was mooted 21 years ago by the early initiators of Rhino Ark.
President Kibaki noted that the fence was a valuable asset in the country’s efforts to protect wildlife as well as forest resources adding that several critically endangered species including the black rhino and the mountain bongo are now better protected within a fenced ecosystem.
“Indeed, the Aberdares is a precious site of valuable biodiversity. We all have a duty to protect this God-given heritage in the interest of present and future generations of humanity,” said the President.
President Kibaki thanked conservation donors including the European Union\’s Biodiversity Conservation Programme, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the United Nations Development Programme, who joined hands with Rhino Ark and the government through Kenya Wildlife Service to finance the project.
He thanked all those behind the momentous project whose generosity has earned them a proper place in the history of conservation in Kenya and encouraged them to continue partnering with the government in the relentless efforts to conserve the environment.
Other conservation agencies that earned praise from the President for their invaluable contribution towards the fence project; include early initiators of Rhino Ark who helped raise funds by creating the now world famous annual Rhino Charge, the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, Giraffe Centre of Kenya and the Eden Trust.
“On its part, the Government of Kenya contributed to the construction of the fence by providing fence materials valued at over Sh128 million during the last four years,” The Head of State said.
On his part the Prime Minister Rt Hon Raila Odinga said the Aberdare forest was of historical importance because it was used by the freedom fighters to wage war against the colonialists.
Noting that the Aberdare forest is home to a tree held with reverence by the local community for being used as a ‘post office’ by Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi and other freedom fighters for communication during the independence war, the Prime Minister declared that such a sentimental role demands that the forest be protected for the country’s future generations
He asserted that Kenya is a world record breaker and had accomplished another feat by constructing one of the longest conservation fences in the world.
Addressing the same forum Forestry Minister, Dr Noah Wekesa advocated that an arboretum and educational centre be established in the area to promote tourism as well boost economic activities in the area.
Dr Wekesa said that the country had the fourth largest herd of elephants counted at 35,000 and asserted that the government would not relent on the ban against ivory trade to protect the herd adding 23 countries supported Kenya’s stand.
On his part Kenya Wildlife Services Director, Dr Kipngetich Bett affirmed that an estimated 30 per cent of Kenya’s population whose water provision emanate from the Aberdare Forest are assured of secure water supply.
He declared that KWS was proud of being involved in the longest conservation fence in the world that took 21 years to accomplish and would not only spur the economy of the area but also eradicate human/wildlife conflict.
During the occasion Kipipiri Community group was awarded for supporting conservation activities and for accepting a local hill to be included as part of the Aberdare forest.
Later at Mweiga town President Kibaki addressed a jubilant crowd of wananchi where he urged them to double their efforts in food production and other economic activities because the newly commissioned fence secure their crops from wildlife invasion.
The President urged them to take advantage of various economic and development programmes initiated by the government intended to boost incomes and that they enjoyed decent livelihoods.
President Kibaki urged the residents to take advantage of the free primary education and subsidized secondary tuition to enrol all children who have attained school-going age.
He further assured the enthusiastic multitude that government was steadfast in its efforts to create adequate job opportunities for the country’s youth.
Addressing the same forum Mr Odinga said that he supported the calls to subdivide the massive Kieni constituency which consisted of 52 percent of the larger Nyeri district size.
The Prime Minister further advocated for intercommunity exchange programmes that had been launched by the area MP Nemyssius Warugongo, between his constituency and that of Bondo.
He further expressed confidence that the country would get a new constitution this time round.