Written by Saka Richard
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Aerial view of the Kakamega forest. [PHOTO|West Fm|File]
The government has been urged to bring on board local communities in environmental management in a bid to save the five water towers in the country.
This came to light as the country is battling the adverse effects of climate change and overpopulation that has forced the government to cut down forest to create settlement for its citizens.
Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Association is targeting active participation of the communities neighbouring Mt Elgon, Mt Kenya, Abardere Cherangany Hills and Mau forest.
During a workshop organized PELUM that brought together environmental stakeholders and farmers from North Rift region, it was noted that the lack of participation of the locals was a major setback in environmental management in the region.
In his opening remarks, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) programmes manager Andrew Konyike urged Kenyans to embrace management of natural resources in order to save our environment from degradation.
“A country which has not put measures in managing its natural resources pose a doomed future for its citizens so we need to manage ours or we are doomed,” Said Konyike.
Major concerns raised were that players in environmental protection exclude community participation especially women who are intertwined in environment.
“Women are very much marginalized in decision-making process and environmental issues will effectively be addressed if women were actively involved because their roles and responsibilities affect the environment,” Mr. Collins Cheruiyot, Pelum head of Campaigning Advocacy and Trainings noted.
The community is relatively rigid in gender roles and this has a big hindrance to biodiversity conservation as well as putting the women at higher risks to environmental disasters and other hazards.
“Women come into contact with environment in their day to day activities such as fetching firewood, drawing water so we need to incorporate them on environmental matters to conserve their source of wood and water,’’ said Cheruiyot.
It emerged that that due to destruction of environment will have adverse effects on climate change.
“Creating awareness on the direct link between poverty eradication and proper management of natural resources which includes meaningful participation of communities on resource allocation and their integration in the respective development frameworks will greatly improve on environmental management.’’ Added Cheruiyot
Pelum has come up with a program Changieni Rasilimal (CRM) to fully engage and involve the community members in participation of policy development and implementation for effective governance of the important natural resources.
Under the CRM Facility, PELUM Kenya is working with Member Organizations in five Counties in Kenya in governance and sustainable utilization of Natural resources and its consequent Management.
“This is where the right holders (communities) are empowered to engage and to hold the duty bearers accountable”
Multi-stakeholder approach has been enhanced between PELUM Kenya and key players to tackle environmental issues.
“The approach will provide the required platforms within the government structured framework for community participation and engagement and the duty bearers will also get a critical mass of the public to educate on matters pertaining to the Natural Resource Management through forums organized at county level to share information on governance, management and utilization of natural resources,” said Maryleen Muchemi, the program coordinator Trans-Nzoia County.
She added “Communities have vast indigenous knowledge that can be tapped to enhance the management and conservation efforts of Mt. Elgon ecosystem. The aim is to tap this knowledge by engaging the community members with duty bearers in the governance of the natural resources in Mt. Elgon”
The official said the organization has unveiled a 1 million tree planting campaign within three years.
“We want to make sure that we plant more than a million tree seedlings before the expiry of Kyoto agreement on carbon emission and as per now we have attained a half of our target,” said Muchemi during the workshop.
She said the focus in Trans Nzoia region is the rehabilitation and restoration of Mt. Elgon Ecosystem and Cherangani hills which have suffered massive degradation due to farming activities and inhabitation of the areas as a result of increase in population.
The organisation also aims at empowering small scale farmers with relevant information on food and seed security through the introduction of seed banks, a method whereby the farmers set aside part of their harvest which is processed into next season’s seed.
Susan Khisa, a farmer from manor house Trans Nzoia County, one of the beneficiaries of the program explained on how she is reaping good income from implementing the farming techniques.
“I have a half an acre of land which I grow different kinds of crops and rear poultry. This has changed my life and able to take my children to school,’’ said Khisa.
The farmer said the programme has enlightened her on different farming methods and soil conservation methods.
In a bid to bring more stake holders on board to increase its awareness campaign, the environmental organization has also launched a prize to be completed by journalists who are covering environmental beat.
PELUM-Kenya has realized the important role that journalists can play in creating awareness and profiling issues related to climate change.
“We aim to improve the capacity and skills of the Kenyan journalists to disseminate information to the masses,” said Muchemi.
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