Invest in our future by planting trees right now

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. (William Arthur Ward).

Just the other day, we all are not comfortable with the heat and lack of rain. Scientists say that trees help in the Water and Carbon cycle. See, the thing is trees use Carbon Dioxide to grow and release Oxygen. This helps in reducing Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere and trees also add water to the atmosphere through transpiration and this forms rain clouds which then release water in form of rain. Also, too much heat can be as a result of increased Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. You all remember the Kidero Grass? How is the state of the grass? Beautiful I presume?

Kenya has such an amazing development plan and the country has very good laws and policies on forest conservation and the environment, the country continues to experience unsustainably high rates of forests loss. According to Kenya’s Development blueprint, The Vision 2030, the goal on the Social pillar on Environment was and still is to increase forest cover from less than 3% at present to 4% and to lessen half of the environmental problems. The flagship project on this subject included the water catchment initiative. There is still a call for the rehabilitation of our water towers; The Mau escarpment, Mt. Kenya, Aberdares Range, Cheregani Hills and Mt. Elgon.

There have been a lot of campaigns on tree planting but I am going to be a realist and say this, planting trees alone cannot help!  The campaigns on tree planting are good but trees can only be beneficial when they withstand early hazards, which make post-planting care and maintenance crucial.  For a strong tree planting campaign, I suggest that we not only focus as a country on planting trees alone but also ensure that the trees growing. What I mean is that a successful tree planting must begin with putting into consideration that; not all trees are healthy, Assessment of an area should be done before planting trees and there should be monitoring of the planted trees. This means that we should ensure that we are planting trees that are of good quality and that will grow strong, we should assess an area to understand what tree does well where and also we should have people observing the progress of the trees planted.  The idea here is to follow up that we do not only plant trees but we should ensure they grow.

We are part of the ambitious nations who are working towards halting deforestation by 2020, which is two years from now. By achieving this, it will not only be a victory for the environmentalist especially the environmental activists but also our future generations will get to enjoy this resource. A healthy environment will boost the social economic development of this country in very many ways. This could also help us get back on our feet in being very productive in the agriculture sector and addressing the issue on food security. However, this looks very good in writing and on papers but this requires hard working institutions that will spearhead this campaign of increasing our forest cover. The Government of Kenya should ensure that there is no loophole. Those in office should practice integrity in ensuring that our forest is protected and also stress on the issue of increasing forest cover!

We can and we will through collective action create a green land that we once had. It may not happen fully till after we are gone. But I know that the steps we will take by growing trees are the right steps

Get Involved in Trying to Make a Difference

I am going to spend this few minutes having this article up. I hope this are going to be the last time I spend talking about the problems caused by this big elephant in the room.  I would rather we spend more time talking about solutions. I have always felt that awareness on environmental questions has been overdone yet we always have appearance of new environmental problems and environmental degradation.

Recently I saw something on social media about Muranga the peeping desert. I hear rumors that the residents are trekking kilometers in search of water and how the residents are starving. The same Muranga Raila talked about. But I thought Raila was fighting for the Northern Water Collector Tunnel in Muranga? How about the Mt. Kenya illegal logging of trees or the charcoal burning saga in Kitui which has already become a political issue? How about the many other rivers including River Nyando drying up? How about the elephants been moved to Tsavo? The truth is, even the world’s major rivers are drying up and who is blame for this? Aren’t we, the most selfish God’s creation to blame for it?

It doesn’t matter who warned who? Or who listened because the fact is that we all in this problem together and we must come up with solutions as soon as possible on how to survive with this monster, Climate Change. We must be ready, now more than ever to work with nature and not against it.

Also I have another issue with us Kenyans being asked us to direct our energy to development projects and not politics? To start with, most of us think that environmental crisis is the consequence to our very existing problems from food insecurity, to water scarcity and poverty. But this is a very big mistake to think of it that way. Our economic and especially the social crisis are the problem. When we valued the economic progress at the expense of safeguarding the environment that is where the crisis began. Secondly, I believe that in a democratic country we can enable high levels of innovation and respond quickly to challenges. However, this can only be achieved if there is justice, legitimacy and transparency achieved by democratic contests. If we are capable of safeguarding our constitution we can also make the achievement of sustainable development fairer, more widely justified, and accepted.

We will be having more conversations on the solutions in the next articles and I would also love to learn a thing or two from you as well….

2nd February, The day we commemorate the Signing of the Ramsar Convention

I commemorate this day when the Ramsar Convention was signed by publishing this article meant to create awareness to you reading this. I do hope you will share this article once you are done. Remember sharing is caring….

Moving forward, this is a day when different countries formed pillars to which they were to commit to in relation to the Wetland ecosystem. The mission of the Ramsar convection was and is conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions as well as international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.


What really is a wetland?

The name clearly explains itself (am I making sense here?? I hope I am…haha) but I will do the google work for those who don’t know what a wetland is. A wetland is a low-lying area of land covered by water and is long enough to support aquatic plants and wildlife for part of their life cycle. Wetlands areas can be permanently or seasonally flooded by water. In the seasonal wetlands, they can dry up completely during the dry season and provide a refuge for species of water bird and during the wet season, it can become a home to the likes of fish, aquatic species, frogs, snakes and other wild animals.

Wetlands in Kenya include the currently 6 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites). This includes; Tana River Delta Ramsar Site, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, Lake Elmenteita, Lake Bogoria and  Lake Baringo.


Are wetlands indispensable or disposable?

Most of the wetlands may include marshes, shallow lakes, oxbow lakes, floodplains, river meanders and swamps. I am sure these areas sound familiar and some of the areas might be regarded as a nuisance. Some of the wastelands are habitats for pests and threats to public health. However, wetlands are indispensable for the countless benefits or “ecosystem services” that include;

  1. Improvement of water quality through the removal of nutrients, organic matter, and sediment carried by runoff. I hope you do realize that this includes the chemicals in those fertilizers we use….
  2. Increase groundwater availability. Am sure you are wondering how…but wetlands act as a recharge for both ground and surface water.
  3. Prevention of soil erosion.
  4. Wetlands are best for carbon storage. This means it can be used as a natural way to reduce global warming
  5. It provides a natural habitat for natural species
  6. Can also be used as a grazing land

Therefore this shows that wetlands are not disposable and we should deal with the threat to the wetlands such as pollution and Human encroachment or rather human settlement.


What is your jurisdiction and responsibility in relation to wetlands?

Sustainable development requires an approach that promotes greater connectivity between ecosystems and societal actions

According to the Kenya Draft National Wetlands Conservation and Management Policy of June 2013, a sound policy with a strong institutional regulatory framework will provide a clear road-map to enhance compliance and enforcement of wetlands conservation and management in line with the Constitution, Vision 2030 and other key policy development instruments ensuring sustainable development of wetlands.

The way I see it is that we all need to use our wetland ecosystems wisely, adhere to the Precaution principle, collaborative and participatory approach. I would love a country where we do not only Think Green but Go Green. A country that abides by its constitution and commitments towards the treaties and laws we have.

There is a lot that can be done but I hope that this short article will spearhead more conversations on our wetlands…

Somethings are Incurable Diseases that can Only be Prevented.

The environment like life itself will never coast along to our development activities. The environment like life shapes itself to what we habitually do in and to it. In the previous article on ‘Do We Have to Wait for Rainfall to Expose the Clogged Water Ways in Our Cities?’ we strongly talked on the misuse of our drainage systems in our cities.  In this article we will try to explain how we the citizens have contributed to lack of progress in drainage systems management?

We pointed out In the previous article that it is possible to address the issue of water scarcity in Kenya through the harvesting of storm water. Properly constructed separate storm water and waste water systems makes it easy and secure to harvest water, because the sewage is transported in a closed system directly to the treatment plant and cannot overflow into the environment. However, we do not have this luxury of a having storm water separated from waste water because Kenya mainly has combined sewer systems in most cities. Most drainage systems were constructed in 1960s( not sure of the years though) and even lack capacity to be managed well due to the rapid population growth. At the moment having a combined sewer system technology should provide a high level of hygiene and comfort if managed well. But we can hardly depend on the management to offer high level of hygiene and comfort because the public lacks goodwill to maintain the systems and are quick to put blames on the government.

I am sick of Kenyan’s bashing the government for lack of proper management or improvement of our infrastructure all the time. Before you begin forming a troll in your head for this blog, think about this; how many times have you as an individual littered the streets with garbage? Remember that time when you drunk that cold ice Dasani water and threw the plastic bottle out of the window of your car or that Matatu? Remember when you bought roasted peanuts and threw the plastic pack away after snacking on your peanuts? Remember when you were working in that company and knew very well that they had not treated the wastewater before releasing it to the sewer, yet you didn’t report this?….

So, you didn’t expect the sewer to overflow on slightest blockage? Even simple paper bags can choke the system! The way I see it, we would rather see the big picture of how the government has failed us. But guess what? You too failed us! Not only did you fail your country but your environment and yourself as well. The lack of self-discipline is what makes our systems fail the most. Excellence is not always on the big details but rather the small little things are what matter the most.

If we cannot be trusted with what we already have, how can we be trusted with something better? Why do we lack the good will to live well? We have formed breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Our disgusting drainages especially in informal settlement has led to health hazards such as typhoid, and cholera and related diseases such as malaria. We need to change the same way we want our government to change. We need to pay attention to details. We need to avoid the floods during the rainy days and yes we also need to hold the government accountable for the management drainage systems (I didn’t say that the government has done any good  in the sanitation area. They have failed us too.)

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Do we have to wait for rainfall to expose the clogged water ways in our cities?

Kenya is a home to the modern safari. It is the land with diverse climate and geography; a place that has wildlife, good climate, rich agricultural soils and beautiful landscapes. However, despite the abundance in natural resources, Kenya like most developing countries is crippled by so many problems which are mainly man-made. Apart from systemic neglect, shameful land grabbing and unplanned buildings, the first environmental areas to pay attention to should be the pathetic drainage system in our cities.
Unlike in rural areas where when it rains the water is absorbed into the soil easily due to the availability of vegetation, in Urban areas; the roofs, buildings, parking lots, tarmacked roads and lack of enough plant cover converts the rain water into runoff . This storm water is collected in the drains which are meant to discharge the water in natural water systems such as rivers.

Open drains are one of Kenya’s biggest sanitation problems yet we give little attention to the often overflowing open drains and parcels of garbage strewn carelessly along the streets and in drains. As most of the storm water systems in our cities have open channels where a lot of illegal discharge of domestic and industrial waste happens. It is evident that not only is this an environmental challenge but also a human health challenge.

The total burden of diseases in our urban areas is mainly due to environmental pollution. The lack of attention given to this drain sanitation issue by the government has resulted to many recent cases of cholera. But after all the challenges we face in relation to human health and during the rainy seasons, the question is, do we ever learn something? If yes, why have we not done something about it?
What happened to reasonable standards of sanitation? Why have we always opted to have open drainage systems that are often misused? Why don’t we have a bylaw on the use of drains? A drainage system protection bylaw is among the infrastructural or enforcement mechanisms that would ensure proper waste disposal and collection which has been our main challenge. Proper maintenance of drainage systems could also mean fewer floods during the rainy seasons. Green infrastructure could ensure pollution prevention and quantity control of the water collected in drains.

Economic maintenance of our drainage systems means more than dealing with floods and human health but also effectively with the issue of water scarcity. It is now hard to even think of harvesting of water from our drains during the rainy seasons. We flash rain water down the drain yet harvesting storm water runoff produces way more water than the wells combined and could help in the demand for clean water.
I hope that this article would help you demand for better maintenance of the drainage systems in your towns. This should include regular inspection and cleaning of drains. It would also be wise to have drainage system protection bylaws passed by the county governments especially those that have major cities in them.
Drainage and sewerage system in urban areas should be an important priority.