Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Biosphere Reserves: The 2017 Man and Biosphere Youth Forum

I took a random trip to Dare Salaam one fine Friday in September 2015, I had decided to relax for a few days and enjoy the beauty our neighbour Tanzania had to offer as I thought of what next after a three month internship. It is during this trip that I accompanied a friend of mine, Carole, to the UNESCO Regional Youth Forum that was happening at the British Council. After an exciting weekend in Zanzibar and being left by the ferry, getting to Dar and attending the UNESCO Regional Youth forum seemed like the most reasonable thing to do. After all, other than memories, I wanted to go back home with something to work on, and I figured this would trigger my mind. So off we went… and that is how I got involved with UNESCO’s programs!
Okay now, fast forward to September 2017! What you do with information matters a lot! Seriously, I mean if someone tells you something, think of what it can do for you or how to work with that little piece of info till it works for you- at least that is what I did. Yet again, another internship had just ended in June and unfortunately I was lying in bed unwell, when I got a phone call from a friend, asking me if I had heard of the 2017 Man and Biosphere (MAB) Youth Forum which was taking place in Italy. Honestly I had not heard about it, all I knew was the AfriMAB which was happening in Nigeria a few weeks later and a colleague had mentioned he would be attending. My friend on the other side was quite confident in me, telling me that I should think about it because “it is something that I would definitely be interested in’ and of course, yes I was. He later on sent me the link, I had a look and decided to think deeply about it later. Next day, my condition had worsened and now I was admitted in hospital. I had all the time to browse on the internet on new and upcoming opportunities, and that is when my “deep” thought process about the MAB Youth Forum begun. On this hospital bed, I drafted my letter of interest on my phone and sent it to the UNESCO Kenya National Commission (KNATCOM). I then proceeded to whisper a prayer and wished the best for the application. In a few days, I received positive feedback from the KNATCOM- I was still on my hospital bed; they also sent me an official link to the application for the Forum which I filled in and submitted, and waited for the response- which by now you definitely know was positive!
The 2017 MAB Youth Forum was held at the Po Delta Biosphere Reserve in Italy from 18 – 23 September 2017. I consider myself very privileged to have attended this highly participatory and engaging Forum which had almost 300 participants from 95 different countries. I also was the only Kenyan participant representing the Malindi-Watamu Biosphere Reserve. 
So how did I end up choosing Malindi-Watamu BR? Well, I come from the Kenyan coast and I once had a volunteering opportunity within Watamu, focusing on ecological monitoring and educational programs. During this period is when I first heard about the term ‘biosphere reserves’. According to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves are “‘Science for Sustainability support sites’ – special places for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity”. They are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located and their status is internationally recognized. In Kenya, the Biosphere Reserves are Mt. Kenya, Mt. Kulal, Mt. Elgon, Amboseli, Kiunga and Malindi-Watamu which are all managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. You can read more about the Kenya Biosphere Reserves here. According to the September 2017 La Gazeta periodical, the MAB Youth Forum was a world-class event that prefigures the exploration and knowledge of territories in a perspective of sustainable development while giving young people a chance to be the center of this process.
I arrived in Rosalina Mare on 17th September and checked in at the beautiful Rosapineta Tourist Village- which is a perfect holiday destination by the way- this place looks like a postcard!! The next day, in the morning we had parallel sessions focusing on Communication strategies. We then embarked on creating a MAB Global Communication Strategy. At the same time the other parallel sessions running were on drawing territories, which we practically did, and also appreciated our smartphones and how we can use them as a strong communication tool. Just before midday we also has a presentation on Swedish MAB Programme, which was a case study focusing on BRs as arenas for implementing the 2030 Agenda. Later on, some of the participants, me included, had a guided visit to the National Archaeological Museum of Adria. This was a good way for me to re-energize after the morning sessions. The Museum exhibits are from Adria and Basso Polestine with a highlight on Bocchi collection and Attica’s ceramics. This was particularly exciting, and the G. Cipriani State Professional Institute of Enogastronomy & Hotel Hospitality made it extra special with professional young people who guided us through the Museum and also prepared for us specialties tastings. After this we headed to a colorful Opening Ceremony of the MAB Youth Forum at the Municipal Theatre of Adria which commenced with a musical opening by the Orchestra of the State Musical Conservatory of Adria, and later on welcoming addresses before we headed out for a concert! On Tuesday, 19th September, we had 6 parallel workshops in different locations (my group met at the Centro Culturale Mercato, Argenta) where we addressed the question “how can young people be more effectively involved in MAB programme and in the Biosphere Reserves’ life?” We had a clear introduction on the methodology and the goals and expectation for the day but the beauty of this session was that it was managed and guided by the participants! I should mention that after drafting these, we had a session to vote on those we felt strongly about. In the evening we had dinner at the Rice Fair of Porto Tolle, Ocaro Restaurant… which concluded with a vibrant performance from a local artist! Wednesday 20th was the day for EXCURSIONS!! Who doesn’t love excursions!! Again we were divided into 6 groups, in mine we explored the youngest land of Italy, though different means of transport. My favorite was canoeing, as this was a new experience and I braved it! Cycling was also another highlight, as I got to see most recent landforms and fully understand the evolution of the Po Delta as well as spot a variety of bird species!! In the evening we had dinner at the “Radicchio Fair” in Bosco Mesola followed by a concert at the Mesola Castle, Mesola.

On 21st September, Thursday, I was back at the Castello della Mesola with a group where we continued with drafting the goals and expectations we had started on Tuesday and afterwards we voted again on those we were passionate about. In the evening we had a “street party” at the Rosapineta Village with lots of food, I enjoyed oysters!! This was followed by a color party and dancing at the Arena! On Friday we then had workshops on digital destination marketing, storytelling with the social media teams and cyclotourism as a development opportunity for parks and territories. The “cyclotourism” session was particularly interesting for me since it is a new concept (to me) and I think it is an area I can further explore. In the evening at the closing ceremony, we had the Final Declaration of the forum presented by selected participants, which was the major outcome of the MAB Youth Forum. The Declaration was mainly on involving the youth in MAB governance by sharing traditional and scientific information related to sustainable development and BRs through an open database, strengthening partnerships and collaboration in institutions to train youth, facilitate access to funding to support sustainable enterprises and to create hubs and incubators to support sustainable business ideas. We as the MAB Youth Forum Delegates committed to creating host projects for young people in BRs to enhance youth exchange and cooperation on the objectives and actions for the Biosphere Reserve, World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) and the MAB Programme.

After such a busy and fun week of the highly interactive and participatory Forum, it was time to go back to our respective homes and become actors in the MAB Programme to ensure the sustainable development of OUR communities in line with the Lima Action Plan!

PS: Expression of gratitude to the Kenya National Commission of the UNESCO (KNATCOM), UNESCO Regional Bureau in Venice and the Conservation Leadership Program (CLP) who supported me as a delegate.

Monday, 12 June 2017

What’s up 2017!!

Okay I know we are halfway past 2017... It has been a while since I wrote… well wrote here! Honestly I am ashamed that it has been more than a year, but life is like that and things happen, so hey, please forgive me, because I have forgiven myself already.
A lot has been happening since I last wrote, first and foremost, I was doing my thesis and it took a toll on me. All the writing, editing and corrections took a lot of my time and I just postponed writing on this blog about current issues in the environmental sphere. Then just slightly after my last post, I was attending the 2nd United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) here in Nairobi and I got so busy writing applications for jobs and short courses that I got wind of at the UNEA. With that said, let me mention, one application went through and a few months later I was at the University of Dresden (TUD) in Germany, attending a short course in integrated water management and health. I wrote a few posts about my experience on their website CIPSEM you should actually check them out, they have interesting courses focusing on the environment. So me being me, the travel junkie, I travelled to Czech Republic and Switzerland and of course posted pictures of how awesome my ‘euro-trip’ was! Immediately when I got back home, I collaborated with my 350 Kenya counterparts, you know climate change action never gets old for some of us! I went down to the coast to document stories on the impacts of climate change in Kilifi county, these stories would be later show-cased at COP 23 in Marrakech.  So yes, COP 23 went down in Morocco! Did I forget to mention that Trump won the Presidential US election? Oh well, yes he did, and this came with tons of worries by most environmentalists from all corners of the globe. Trump is clearly a climate denier, and having him in power put at risk all the efforts put in by nations to combat climate change, a treaty in which the US previously supported through signing the Paris treaty which was passed during COP 21. Stories about this coming up later by the way…
So anyway, it is in November 2016 that I was awarded through the Conservation Leadership Program (CLP) an internship position within BirdLife International. So far it has been a great experience, with key learning on conservation and how to support conservation priorities. I’ve also learnt a great deal about birds, and can name quite a number. In short, I am enjoying my internship even though it is now almost at its ends. Through this internship I also got a chance to visit the UK, during which I visited the BirdLife Global secretariat in Cambridge and also, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) which is the BirdLife UK partner. I also got to write about my trip here please feel to read this, I promise it is exciting!
What is new in 2017? Other than elections here in Kenya, the ban on plastic bags is soon to be implemented in August. I am actually not sure how this will go down, because the supply is huge and so is the demand! I also feel that many Kenyans are not really keen on this plastic bag ban. I wish it the very best! Next, the #MadarakaExpress! So the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is now in use, and the maiden trip happened just before Madaraka day, Kenyans were very excited about this. However, some of us still feel it should have been re-routed, because we love the Nairobi National Park for all that it’s got, but mr. president called it ‘upuzi’ so what can we do about it! Okay, let us see how that goes… Have you heard of “The Big Conservation Lie”? This is a book by John Mbaria and Mordecai Ogada, on the management and conservation practice in Kenya for several decades. I am currently reading this book and I would highly recommend it to anyone in the conservation field. That is just as much as I would say about it – get a copy! Globally, the biggest concern this year I think is Trump’s recent move to have the US withdraw from the Paris agreement. The panic that this came with, weuh!! We are just here with crossed-fingers that we will remain strong in fighting climate change regardless of any challenges that come our way. I promise to write soon, and more on the environment, as usual…

So I will get a bit personal here, this very year I lost a brother and that was a big blow, even in my work, after all we are only human and we will get beat by life at times. Ngure Cairo, I will dearly miss you, your support in reading this blog, following my Facebook page and twitter handle. I will miss your critique, you really helped me think much about how to respond to readers. Cheers to the support you gave me in my environmental work and in life generally! You are always and forever fondly loved, and I dedicate this post to you.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The future of wildlife is in our hands…

The future of wildlife is in our hands…
No beating about the bush, today I start with exactly what I want to pass. The take home message is: ‘the future of wildlife is in my hands’ tell yourself that. Recite it as a mantra if you want, but keep it in mind.
I borrowed this line from IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and I completely agree with it. Because conservation efforts are collective, both you and I need to take part. We cannot afford to be spoilers… and yes by ‘spoilers’ I mean actually spoiling. We do not want to spoil what we’ve had for years, we do not want to spoil for ourselves, and neither do we want to spoil it for our children… think about that!
Last week Kenya lost one of its most famous lions, Mohawk, who had wandered off the Nairobi National Park into Isinya, Kajiado. Mohawk had been spotted strolling in the morning hours when residents triggered and agitated him forcing him to do what was best- protect himself. Unfortunately Mohawk attacked and injured a 27 year old man who had ignited his motorcycle commonly known as “boda boda” hoping to flee from the raging animal. According to reports, the KWS team that first arrived to the site had no tranquilizers, and since Mohawk was hostile after being extremely agitated by the residents, he was left with no option but to attack, prompting the KWS officials to shoot him down, at least 9 times. Apparently, the second team from the KWS was only 3km away, and with them were the tranquilizer shots, however the damage had been executed and the Mohawk’s life terminated brutally. Only a few weeks ago did a lion named Cheru also find his way out of the Nairobi National Park and strolled on Mombasa road, injuring an elderly man. Also it’s within this same year, in February, when a group of stray lions commonly nicknamed as the “Langata 6”  believed to have wandered off the same national park were seen strolling leisurely in Langata/Kibera area. However, the KWS team arrived on site with materials in hand ready to safely return them back to their habitat. Unfortunately for Mohawk, this was not the case as he met an excruciating death, betrayed by those meant to be his protector. The manner in which Mohawk died*, was extremely repugnant. I strongly detested the manner in which he was killed as I believe better ways could have been employed to address the situation. Just a few days after his killing, Lemek a younger lion was found dead, speared behind a bush in Kitengela. Animal lovers, conservationists and environmentalists (me included) have brought this grave matter to the Kenyan and global headlines as we are envisioning destruction of communities and species due to human-wildlife conflict, if necessary action is not taken. As for Mohawk and Lamek, we organized a peaceful memorial for them, last Sunday, 3rd April 2016, just outside the KWS Headquarters in Langata, Nairobi, whereby we paid our tributes and expressed opinions on promoting conservation efforts. We also took that chance to accentuate that the entire environment needs to be conserved and protected, and highlighted the lack of awareness on animal behavior including the lack of sensitization on conservation. It is also alarming that the number of lions in the Nairobi National Park now remains as 34, according to some reports on the state of the park. Other than that, lion population in Africa is greatly declining, and the king of the jungle is now listed as an endangered and vulnerable specie according to the Born Free Foundation, and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Personally, I think that since 8% of Kenya’s total landmass is covered by sanctuaries, national parks and reserves, conservation awareness is key for every citizen, as these are the habitats to wildlife as well as major income-generators. And since it is stated in the Kenya Constitution in Article 69 that every person has a duty to cooperate in the protection and conservation of the environment, why don’t we all take responsibility? How many of us recited the Loyalty Pledge? Who remembers this line, ‘My life and strength in the task of our nation’s building’? Isn’t conservation part of the nation’s building? Honestly when I was in primary school I saw no sense in reciting this, I mean, it did not even make sense, it’s something I did just for the sake. Something to sing or recite to during parade and assembly. But for sure these words now make sense, this is a symbol to pledge my loyalty as a Kenyan citizen, a patriot, and I can only do that if I live to those words. There are many tasks that we get involved in during our lifetime, but have you ever thought to yourself, how these tasks affect others? Do these tasks contribute to the nation’s building? What have I really done for my country? Many times I can’t answer myself. Good thing is I can now take part in one task to redeem myself, and this one thing is promoting conservation. I have been labelled ‘too emotional’ about this of late, but oh well, this is what I call passion, and yes it is emotional if we are losing our biodiversity, so I will hung in there, and stand for what I believe in. I can help to protect the nation’s heritage… and so can you.
As we sing passionately to the national anthem… justice be our shield and defender, let us mean these words… and “Firm may we stand to defend” Build this our nation together, because Kenyans need you as a fellow Kenyan, conservationists need you, environmentalists need you… we all need each other, let’s practice what we sing, hard as it may be, it is possible.
God Bless Kenya

PS: You can watch the clip to Mohawk’s killing on the below link:

#JusticeForMohawk Memorial
A picture of Mohawk (borrowed from the Internet)

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Green light at the end of the tunnel...

Happy New Year People!
It is my wish and hope that the year has started out well for everyone...
It is a difficult task to write at times, especially if you are a fan of Biko Zulu's posts and you feel like your writing skills may be worse than his new born son. Anyway that aside, I have been really wanting to post soon, but I just did not have any idea of what exactly to write about, or if it would be captivating, if people would read... so I decided to read through other blogs and most that I follow have been focusing on the New Year, resolutions and how 2015 was. I think its good to have a recap of last year, because it is what will set motion for 2016. But as for me I will first start with the journey... how it all begun and why I will focus on 2015.
Some of you may not know that it is in 2012 when I created TLC4Environment as just a Facebook group, with a few of my classmates and friends as members. How I came up with that name I don't know, my mum just said it was a mouthful. Others shorten it to TLC but anyway I stuck to it because it is what I started with and it is exactly what I want it to mean, so yes... TLC4Environment it is!
Personally, 2015 is the year I felt most inspired to do what I do. In 2015, I got the courage to be more pro-active and into making more profound impacts with this initiative. I begun the year with a trip to Switzerland for a short course on sustainable practices and tools, thanks to the YES* course, which I call the eye-opener for realizing my potential. I mean, there are a lot of resources right in front of us that we do not utilize, resources that can make us achieve what we fear venturing into. Anyway, Switzerland was a splendid expedition, came back with multiple stories and... chocolates.... and most importantly I returned with skills and the zeal to accomplish more in environmental conservation. The good thing about these forums, conferences, workshops, courses and what have you, is that you meet people with the same vision as you and learn from them too. Its called networking. I now had friends not only from within but from far and wide who felt the dire need to promote environmental awareness, and we could chat for hours about this. Opportunities started surfacing and all of a sudden I felt I had an army of supporters rallying behind me, encouraging and appreciating my little efforts. 
So back to TLC4Environment, thinking of what next and how I could foster environmental awareness and what projects I could roll out, I got busy with planning, organizing and facilitating grass-root campaigns and especially targeted environmental days' events. After these events I tried my very best to document each and every one, highlighting the significance and why it is beneficial. And this is how my 2015 was, tree planting activities, river clean-up, environmental talks, forums and marches...
I am now to my cousin Tunu, an environmental activist, this she coined when another cousin asked what I do for a living. Well I like the sound of that, I am an activist by choice, which I had not realized and I am delighted to be one. I remember on the First Sunday of this year when the senior pastor at my church said that animal rights should not exceed human rights, I was not amused, actually I felt like taking over that sermon and using it as a means to reach out to people that we cannot rely on human rights as we obliterate everything else that is around us. Anyway that is a story for another day...
This post as I said earlier is to encourage you, to be the best you can be with the resources at your feet... So my wish is that I continue to influence and inspire others in this journey, fighting for what we stand on... just as I did in 2015. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, for me its a green light... a clean go ahead...

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Kenya Climate Concert in words…

Hello there!! It has been a while since I posted, and I have to admit I have been so busy… however a lot has been going on in the environmental scene. So much to keep up with on the ‘Road to Paris’ and the expected El nino. By the way, do you think the downpour yesterday in most parts of the country (Kenya) could be the grand entrance of the el nino? Oh well, I got drenched, and have been thinking much about these rains and the weather, however that is a post for another day. Otherwise I hope you are all well and still have the environment in mind, remember every little effort counts! Another by the way, big shout out to all candidates tackling KCPE this week… and I sure do hope that soon we shall have environmental studies in the primary school syllabus as well as in secondary school as a subject not only a topic. Join me in that prayer!
Before I go on, thank you Tess for taking down notes at the Kenya Climate Concert, as I said, you will make a good P.A. So, the Kenya Climate Concert took place at the Kenya National Theatre in Nairobi on 25th September 2015. It was a beautiful Friday that had been long awaited especially by the event organizers, the 350 Kenya team which I am part of. As we had prepared for the event with the theme ‘We Fight Climate Change’ through arts, music, poetry and dance, I got to the venue with my ‘PA’ at about noon. There was still some setting up going on, as artists prepared and people streamed in. In a short while all was set up and ready to start! The introduction was made, in his words- ‘tell your neighbor the globe is warming!’ With this statement and some giggles from within the crowd, the crowd warmed up and were curious to hear what next. As part of the introduction, it was made clear that #WeFightClimateChange and that the 350 Regional Week of Action had just begun, not only in Kenya but other countries where is set up such as in South Africa and Jordan.
The first presentation was a mix of song, dance and poetry. The poem was on pollution and clearing of forests and the declining of water levels, and it was clear as they said ‘this generation has made an error’. Other than that, the performance also touched on social issues like marriage, which make up part of the social environment.
The second presentation was by the eloquent David ‘Reakt’ Wainaina, who was also part of the panelists who discussed the role of an artist in the environment. He also mentioned about the similar concerts on going in sub-Saharan Africa and the 3000 gathered petitions on climate change.
Third came in Christabel Atieno, with African drums beating in the background- I sure did enjoy her performance- on a narrative about the environment and a man named Obiero, who was spotted by Auma and Otieno in Gembe village cutting down trees for firewood and burning of grass. This narrative brought out the aspect of alternative sources of energy, and how harmful others are to our environment leading to the dangerous climate change. From this narrative we learned that through sharing of information and identifying problems we can help to reduce and eradicate harmful practices in our communities.
Next on line was a piece on spoken word, which touched on various issues in the environment such as extinction, ozone layer depletion, pollution and waste management leading to environmental degradation. Also, ‘…environment has become an orphan without Wangari Maathai’ was a notable statement, which left many challenged to take up the late Wangari’s mantle.
After the spoken word piece, was a duet from the percussion discussion team, which also talked briefly on ‘colored waters’ to mean sewage and its negative effects to public health. The performers then challenged the crowd on the destination of their waste, with an example of plastic papers. After this, two puppets cheered the crowd with their ‘Welcome to the 21st Century: Everything is Becoming Less’ poem. According to me, the most memorable ones were ‘attitude-careless, youth-jobless, government-clueless… however our hopes are endless!’ Do you agree?
Fred Nyaga was next with a talk on planting ideas and read a poem on ‘Our Environment Our Liberation’ after which he invited the current Miss Environment who shared on how the beauty pageant creates more awareness on environmental issues. The percussion discussion followed again, with songs to entertain the crowd. Vidze Kaladze performed a Giriama folk song and tried to engage the crowd to join him. After that other music artists entertained the crowd with their own songs, then Belinda from AYICC took the mic and talked about personal awareness on environmental conservation. After her talk was the song performance ‘collective duty’ which highlighted on conservation of the environment.
Teardrop then dropped his crowd jolting spoken word piece, whereby he talked about the 7 Billion Dreams and 7 Billion heartbeats per second was related to this year’s World Environment Day Theme: ‘Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume With Care.’ Other than that, one of his notable statements was “me nikiona dumpsite me hushindwa niwapi tulitupa sight” meaning he sees dumpsites and wonders where we lost our sight…
Finally I got to speak briefly on what is, a global climate movement, and why the number 350 is so significant to us- because its means climate safety, of 350 parts per million (ppm) or less of CO2 in the atmosphere. Currently the amount of CO2 is at 400ppm, which is dangerous leading to global warming and finally climate change. After that I taught the crowd a short dance move, which is basically the Kenyan ‘chini kwa chini’ which I had choreographed in April during the climate workshop held in Nairobi, which symbolized the gradual reduction of CO2 levels in the atmosphere and maintaining safe levels. From this point I was interviewed by some of the major media houses in Kenya, such as NTV and gave my opinion on what climate change is, how it is affecting us and what I would like the President of Kenya to address about climate change! I must say I was honoured… As the interview was going on, fellow colleagues took their turns to talk on the issue and also to network!

 Join us in the battle!
ps: You can watch a brief clip of the Concert summarized on the below link, thanks to Visionaries Aloud team for making it possible!! And also a few pictures from the event...

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Climate Change Will Not Discriminate: What Next After Paris?

In just two months, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) will take place in Paris from 30th November to 11th December 2015, with the objective focusing on a legally binding and universal agreement on climate and the goal to reduce emissions. Climate change has no boundaries, affecting regions globally in different ways. Kenya is not exempted and being located in sub-Saharan Africa which is highly vulnerable to climate change, the country is already experiencing harsh impacts leading to environmental degradation and socio-economic losses because the natural resources are climate sensitive. This in turn affects agricultural activity and water availability among others.
With the ongoing climate change negotiations, Kenya has not been left out and developed the Kenya Intended Nationally Determined contribution (INDC) on 23rd July 2015 as a response to decisions adopted at the 19th and 20th COP to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Kenya’s INDC focuses on multi-stakeholder engagement and cross-sectoral consultative processes in the formation of climate change response strategies and action plans at national and county levels.
According to the Kenya INDC,the country’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are relatively low, standing at 73 MtCO2eq in 2010, out of which 75% are from the land use, with land-use change, forestry and agriculture sectors suspected to be due to the reliance on wood fuel by a large proportion of the population alongside the increasing demand for agricultural land and urban development.  Significant emissions are also recorded from the energy and transport sectors. Agriculture is the backbone of the Kenyan economy, and is also climate sensitive since it is mainly rain-fed. Other sectors affected include water, health, energy and tourism.
Recently, droughts and floods have hit various parts of the country leading to damage and losses including fatalities. Fear and worry have also engulfed the country after the alert on the El-Nino rains expected in October this year. According to the world's leading climate scientists, we can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and secure a climate safe future if we reduce our emissions to zero by 2050. This will only work if there is a joint and collective effort by all the countries to commit to zero emissions. Kenya could contribute to this transformation by investing in renewable energy hence focusing on long-term reforms and development in production processes. This will reduce the burden on hydro power which is a climate vulnerable resource.
Kenya should also factor in the increasing population growth rate which will also increase the rate of emissions. Short term plans in reducing emissions will include encouraging a renewable energy mix from the grass root level such as energy saving bulbs, solar energy and biogas, which will also promote energy efficiency. Other than that, creating awareness on climate change and its impacts is crucial.
Citizens need to understand the phenomenon and vulnerability and how to mitigate and adapt to it. Research, discussions and findings on climate change should be available publicly for all to understand why battling climate change is urgent and calls for the attention of all governments. If we do not fight climate change we interfere with securing a sustainable future!
The world needs to brace itself even after Paris because climate change will not discriminate against any nation neither will it come to an end immediately after the negotiations!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Renewable Energy: A Tool in Combating Climate Change.

Kenya aims to transform into a newly industrializing middle income country providing a high quality of life to its citizens by the year 2030. The Kenya Vision 2030 has outlined considerations in meeting goals for medium term plans as well as meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015, however this has not come into fruition.
The energy sector is one of the main drivers listed in the development plan of the Vision 2030 to focus on reforms and development in the social, economic and political strategies for the country. The energy sector remains to be a challenge in securing a clean and secure environment. Security can simply be described as being free from danger and fear. Food and environmental security in Kenya and also globally are crucial among others for human well-being to be achieved with both insecurities posing serious danger. Security is a key dimension which is largely affected by external factors such as the supply, efficiency and consumption of energy. Energy is a driver of all processes of production, therefore its demand is far and wide. The main sources of energy in Kenya have been highlighted as a pre-dominant mix of biomass, petroleum and hydro-power according to a report on a market study of the Kenyan energy sector in October 2014 by Triple E Consulting, in Netherlands. The Draft Energy Policy by the Government of Kenya highlights that traditional biomass accounts for 70%, while petroleum and hydro-power electricity account for 21% and 9%. Hydro-power is a climate vulnerable source, meaning that it depends on climatic factors such as rainfall patterns for constant supply and efficiency, explaining why the country is prone to power shortages which in turn affects functioning of industrial and manufacturing processes in the long run impacting the economy. Petroleum on the other hand is considered as an expensive and dirty source as well as a major contributor to emissions in the atmosphere as a result of combustion of the fuel. Biomass has been observed to be very common in both rural and urban settings in Kenya, as source of energy either in form of firewood, charcoal and agricultural wastes. The Energy Regulatory Commission states that biomass-based energy sources account for 90% of total rural house hold energy suspected to be due to high average generation cost of current energy sources. Compared to other countries such as Tanzania and Ethiopia, Kenya has high energy tariffs which is not adequate and affordable to all citizens resulting in application of alternative sources of energy which are not necessarily sustainable. In a study reported by the Africa ECO NEWS in March 2015, Kenya loses 5.6 million trees daily. Illegal deforestation in search of firewood is common in many parts of the country. Studies done by the World Bank show that clearing of forests for wood fuel contributes in the depletion of tree stocks as much as clearing them for other land use activities such as agriculture.

There is a growing concern on climate change, which results from emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon into the atmosphere from various sources including the use of charcoal and burning of petroleum in industrial processes, leading to the destruction of the ozone layer which causes the global warming effect. Other than that, change in land use activities such as clearing of forests for resettlement and agricultural activities for example in the Mau, has reduced the tree cover and hence increased levels of carbon (IV) oxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Kenya is already experiencing the harsh effects of global climate change such as the recent floods and droughts and also unpredictable weather patterns affecting normal day to day activities such as farming- which is a major source of livelihoods for several families. The effects are grappling, with food insecurity being heightened as well as environmental degradation taking place. Citizens are becoming more concerned and aware, as the harsh reality of climate change hits them.
According to The Kenya Population Data Sheet of 2011, the population of Kenyans during the census in 2009 increased to 38.6 million from 28.7 million during the 1999 census. Projections estimate further increase in population and economic growth due to factors such as urbanization. Due to this increase, Kenya’s contribution to global greenhouse emissions will also increase significantly with the largest emissions resulting from energy and transport sector. Kenya also has the largest economy in the East African community market, and is therefore a major attraction to foreign investors in various sectors resulting in various business ventures increasing production and also the demand for energy.
Exploring options in renewable energy is crucial in ensuring sustainable development. The Kenya Vision 2030 aims at building a strong regulatory framework, encouraging more private generators of power, separating generation from distribution and promoting new sources of energy especially renewables such as solar, wind, geothermal and biogas. Therefore it can be concluded that the Vision 2030 requires a big transformation to a renewable energy mix. Considerations have identified low-carbon options for electricity generation set to be realized by The Energy Act of 2006 and being backed up by regulations such as The Solar Energy Photovoltaic Regulation, 2012 and The Solar Water Heating Regulations, 2012. The introduction of solar PV, wind power and geothermal energy are being regulated by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
Renewable energy will support sustainable generation, exploitation, production, distribution and utilization of energy. Energy efficiency requires both industrial and household energy audits to be performed periodically. Household energy audits could also be a measure towards knowledge management to the local communities, by increasing awareness on energy and its link to climate change hence educating inspiring and moving masses to climate change action. Science technology and innovation is mentioned in the Kenya Vision 2030 as a driver towards prosperity and posterity. Scientific cooperation should be enhanced to test for new technology in the market as well as to fill the gap between knowledge and practice. Also, increasing awareness on multilateral development programmes on climate and energy such as the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) will attract investing in funds allocated towards climate projects therefore promoting sustainable development. The Government of Kenya intends to support exploration in renewable energy through existing legal, regulatory and institutional framework. The Government should also build the capacity of institutions to increase support and implement energy policies especially in diversification of renewable energy mix. However, the battle cannot be left only through reforms in the energy sector by the Government in creating adaptation and mitigation measures towards climate change and its effects. Climate change is a global phenomenon making every single person vulnerable to it. Maximum benefits in the fight against climate change are expected if everyone takes action through individual actions which when combined make a big impact epitomizing sustainable development and environmental resources conservation- a gift to future generations!

Market Study to Strengthen Economic Cooperation in the Energy Sector: Final Report. Triple E Consulting – Energy, Environment & Economics, October 2014.

Study: Kenya loses 5.6 million trees daily. By AFRICA ECO NEWS, March 26, 2015

The Kenyan Vision 2030.