, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 29 – The government in partnership with the European Union and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Tuesday launched a new three year intervention plan to rehabilitate Northern Mau forest.
This will be done at a cost of Sh274 million funded by the EU and implemented by the Kenyan government and UNEP.
The project is expected to provide multiple benefits for Kenya and the region ranging from restoration of vital water catchments, establishment of payments for environmental services to improving the livelihoods of local communities and monitoring carbon storage in the Mau Forest.
“We can no longer argue about the wisdom of investing in the conservation of our forests. We cannot carry on business as usual without paying a very heavy price,” remarked Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
The project aims at supporting the rehabilitation of the Mau forest ecosystem to create a sustainable basis for its long-term conservation and management.
It will also give an opportunity for Kenya to pilot mechanism to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Land Degradation (REDD) by establishing an environmental monitoring system to quantify the carbon storage of the Mau forest, which may also be used to generate future additional resources from carbon credits.
“We launch this as climate talks open in Durban, South Africa. The solution is not just to educate the farmer, it is also to adapt to these changes,” the Prime Minister said.
The Mau Forest Complex is important for water catchment not only in Kenya but also the region as its forests form the upper catchments of 12 main rivers that drain into five major lakes namely Baringo, Nakuru, Natron, Turkana, and Victoria.
The government embarked on the Mau forest restoration plan in mid 2008 following widespread encroachment and de-gazettement of forest reserves leading to the loss of 25 percent of the Mau forest which covers over 400,000 hectares.
“The Mau Forest Complex supports key economic sectors in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya – from energy and tourism to agriculture and industries. The project responds to the immediate needs of government, business and civil society to regulate the use of natural resources through a combination of economic incentives and voluntary measures,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
Steiner noted that this project would place Kenya on the path towards a green economy for sustainable development and poverty alleviation.
EU Head of Operations in Kenya, Bernard Rey said; “The EU has started deliberations with the Government of Kenya to develop a Watershed Protection and Climate Change Adaptation programme. This programme would deal with some of the root causes of the declining water flows from Kenya’s water sources, such as forest excisions, weak institutional capacities and adverse impacts of climate change.”