Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kenya - Deforestation a great threat

3,522,000 hectares of Kenya is under forest, which is 6,2 % of the country's area. Many of Kenya's forests are old forests rich with biodiversity and many unique ecosystems. However, this doesn't stop deforestation in this African country. In period between 1990 and 2005 Kenya lost 5 % of its forest cover which means that around 186,000 hectares of forests have been destroyed. Main cause for such rapid deforestation is increased population that needs more land for agriculture.

But not all forests are being chopped to make room for farms, there are other reasons too, especially in time of droughts. What people look in times like this is alternatives to survive, often by transforming wood into charcoal or selling it as timber. For instance in the Mount Kenya forest reserve, 2,465 charcoal kilns were discovered by the Kenya Wildlife Service in an aerial survey in August 1999.

What people don't know is the fact that close canopy forests have a crucial role as water catchments which means that if the current rate of deforestation continues, there will be much more flood during the rainy season and droughts during the dry season. Destruction of these water catchment areas in various parts of the country is already beyond alarming, but yet it isn't showing signs of decrease.

There is of course rich biodiversity that also needs to be preserved. According to data from World Conservation Monitoring Centre Kenya has 1847 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles of which 4 % are endemic, and 3,8 % are threatened with extinction. Similar situation is also with plants of which 4,1 % are endemic with species like Olea africana and Dombea goetzenii.

So how the preserve Kenya's forests? One thing is sure Kenya can't achieve this alone, so international help is really necessary. Without enough food and water in Africa it will be difficult explaining African people why forests are so important, as their primary goal is survival. This is where rich countries should step in, primary with their money, but also with their knowledge. One thing that Kenya also desperately needs is much more learning facilities since existing ones are insufficient and cannot cope with the rising population pressure. Knowledge is also one of the keys needed for success.

But the biggest pressure should be on Kenya's government which needs to put much more efforts to protect forests. As the former Kenya's president Moi said: "You need to preserve the environment for the sake of future generations of this country". And he was spot on, because if the current rate of deforestation is about to continue in years to come, then future generations will have almost impossible conditions to live in.

Deforestation is big problem in Kenya

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