Written by Obed Simiyu
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A Pokot boy in the North Rift of Kenya looking after goats, a region which expereinces drought each year due to shortage of rain. Photo I File.
AS the year 2011 came to an end with the entire nation in celebration, many of them prayed that the year 2012 does not bring with it the enormous and prolonged spells of drought they had witnessed in 2011.
Similarly, they wished that the government fulfills its ambitious programme to address land degradation in arid areas which it unveiled during 2011 year’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.
This was in line with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) which requires member states to come up with national action programmes to address land degradation and desertification.
And fully cognizant of the effects of desertification, the government announced elaborate mechanisms to empower arid and semi-arid areas (ASAL) which constitute about 80 percent of the country’s land mass to fight the challenges posed by environmental degradation.
To this end, the government has come up with a number of policies aimed at revitalizing ASALS in line with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification which Kenya signed in 1994 and ratified in 1995.
Some of the policy guidelines put in place to develop arid regions include promotion of strong linkages between ASAL and non-ASAL economies, decentralization of development planning, supporting pastoralism and agro-pastoralism, reviewing land laws and creation of environmental awareness among others.
The government has facilitated the development of strong linkages between ASAL and non-ASAL economies through information sharing networks to improve trade, tourism, cultural values and socio-economic development.
By decentralization of development planning, local communities have not only been involved in implementing development programmes but also owned them to improve their livelihoods.
The rationale behind supporting pastoralism is that it is a key livelihood system of communities in ASAL hence it is an economic driver in those regions.
In the education sector, the government has constructed low cost boarding schools in some arid areas to bring up an educated and informed community in environmental awareness to ensure sustainable use of environment and natural resources.
In his message during the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, the then Environment and Mineral Resources Minister the late John Michuki (left) expressed the government’s commitment to combat desertification which was a threat to economic development.
“Kenya is one of the arid and semi-arid countries in sub-Sahara Africa that is committed to addressing the challenges posed by land degradation and climate change. These in turn cause environmental often leading to poverty and under-development,” said Michuki.
The late minister used the celebration to urge Kenyans to embrace clean and green sources of energy instead of relying on charcoal which has resulted to depletion of forests.
“During this commemoration, I call upon all Kenyans to guard against deforestation, charcoal burning and other inappropriate activities that may endanger water resources and the environment. I call upon National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and other stakeholders to come up with appropriate technology and alternative sources of energy and livelihoods,” added Michuki.
The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is marked on June 17 to create awareness on the causes and effects of desertification and the efforts to improve livelihoods of people living in the dry lands.
It has been celebrated since 1995 to highlight on the need to curb desertification and strengthen sustainable dry lands development on the international environmental agenda.
The day is a product of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification which is the only internationally binding instrument that addresses the problem of land degradation in dry lands.
It plays a key role in global efforts to eradicate poverty, achieve sustainable development and attain the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
Kenya is among the countries in sub-Saharan Africa that continue bear the brunt of desertification.
It has eroded the country’s natural resources to an extent that they are inadequate for production and support livelihoods.
Mt. Elgon region of Western Kenya during the last dry spell that was experienced due to lack of rains. Photo I Phanice Chepkemboi.
Some of the key assets that have been depleted include soil, water, wood fuel, fisheries, grazing resources among others.
There is nowhere this is manifested other than the low crop yields, silted lakes and rivers, drying rivers and catchments, polluted air, drought and rising cost of charcoal.
This has resulted to high poverty levels, food insecurity and conflict over scarce resources.
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