The World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) was “important as a reminder about the need to conserve God-given environment especially in the Arid and Semi-arid areas of Kenya”, said the chairman of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Board of Management, Mr Francis Ole Kaparo.
Mr Kaparo said that desertification, land degradation and drought is a phenomena whose effects are amplified by ineffective social responses and poor land use practices.
“Unprecedented increase in population in recent decades has led to excessive pressures on land and subsequent spill-over into Arid and Semi Arid Lands, thereby contributing to severe loss of the biodiversity, depletion of water sources, pasture and loss of productive agriculture land,” he says.
He gave an example of Suba District, where rapid population increases have accelerated the collapse of the traditional cultivation systems that allowed land to regain its productivity overtime.
“Consequently, charcoal burning, unsustainable quarrying and sand harvesting have contributed to the degradation of water catchment areas,” the NEMA chairman explained, “and encroachment into wetlands and hill-tops and the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources are also major challenges in the district.”
However, Mr Kaparo said that the management of Kenya’s dry lands has been guided by several cross-sectoral policies, legislation and institutional oversight. “In this regard they form a solid foundation and provide opportunities for Kenya to implement the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification NCCD (UNCCD) programmes. Under the provisions of the convention, Kenya prepared the first National Action Plan (NAP) in 2002 to domesticate the convention.”
He points out some of the laws enacted so far to tackle environmental issues on desertification and drought include the EMCA (1999), Water Act (2002); Forests Act (2005) and Heritage Act (2006) among others.
These laws are implemented through various institutions namely the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Water Resources Management Authority, Kenya Forestry Service, National Museum of Kenya among others.
“Desertification programmes in Arid and Semi Arid areas have received financial support from government as well as from bilateral and multilateral development partners,” he says, adding “there are increasing opportunities provided by EMCA 1999 (NETFUND, Restoration Funds) and bilateral funding through Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).”
NEMA which is the national focal point for desertification works closely with other stakeholders that include lead agencies, the private sector, civil society organizations and communities to combat desertification.
NEMA’s main activities include promoting public awareness on issues of desertification, capacity building of local communities to improve livelihoods in ASAL areas, technological transfer and fundraising through National Environment Trust Fund (NETfund) and bankable project proposals.
Mr Kaparo says “NEMA has been able to work with development partners such as UNDP and UNEP to develop proposals for Global Environment Facility funding towards community initiatives on land degradation and desertification.”
NEMA, he explains, plays a central role of coordinating efforts towards attaining a clean and healthy environment for all. “Their support has enabled the communities to put in place mitigation measures to reduce the impact of desertification, land degradation and drought,” he says.
The NEMA chairman says he is resolved and determined to forge a strong link with the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources and other Lead Agencies in order to deliver a clean and healthy environment.
“I want to assure you that NEMA will continue to carry out awareness campaigns so that every stakeholder understands and appreciates what NEMA is, its mandate and its service to Kenyans,” he affirmed, adding that the dissemination of information on all regulations and environmental guidelines should be the first step in making sure that citizens understand what is expected of them to ensure they play their rightful role in environmental management.
Further he says that the board is out to revitalize the internal organization of the authority so as to ensure a wider coverage of the country, enhance efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery particularly on issues touching on community participation in sustainable environment management.