Don’t Mess with Mau Forest,It’s the Jewel of Kenya

The single most identifying object for Kenya is wildlife. This is followed closely by athletes. The global illegal trade for wildlife and wildlife products is going up. In South Africa, in 2010 they lost 340 rhinos to poaching. Kenya is lucky because it has put in place the necessary security measures and what is normally seen at the airports is from neighboring countries and it has been confirmed through DNA analysis but this does not mean that elephants are not being killed in Kenya; they are but in smaller quantities which can be controlled and the average between the last five years is between 50 and 70 elephants per year. It is only Kenya that can account for its animals to the last one. This makes the country proud since the numbers are going up. This is witnessed across all the species. Some are struggling for example the lion and the main reason(s) here being that as the King of the Jungle, the require more space for breeding, hunting and roaming but that space is diminishing very first and the cause of this is the increase in Kenyan population which is increasing at a rate of 1 million every year. The animals are feeling squeezed and this is a big challenge even in years to come.
The huge population comes with other grave effects and the threat therefore comes to wildlife since people look at them as either a source of livelihood or food. The national land management plan can adequately solve this issue when people are categorically moved away from wildlife dispersal areas, wildlife protected areas and wildlife corridors to better regions to avoid conflicts and destruction of ecosystems. Wildlife supports a huge industry in the country and it goes beyond tourism. As protected areas system supports tourism which contributes about 15 per cent of the GDP and this means national income. It also supports the entire water industry. In Kenya, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) protects all the water towers in the country except one, The Mau. The entire water being used in Nairobi comes from Aberdares, a National Park. They also protect Mt Kenya and Mt Elgon. All these water towers are protected and supported by the wildlife industry. Water basically is life. Therefore the wildlife industry supports between 25 – 30 per cent of Kenya’s GDP.
The twist surrounding Maasai Mara is that the owner of the land in Narok County Council but the entire Maasai Mara is trust land and trust lands are community lands entrusted to local authorities. This means that all the money made from the land goes to the council. This is estimated at $25 million (Ksh2bn) making it the richest rural local authority in East and Central Africa. 30 per cent of tourists or visitors that come to Kenya end up in Maasai Mara in one way or another. This makes it the number one protected area by KWS in the country. The pain only comes in the management of this jewel which is equivalent to Kenya’s brand. Whatever goes wrong in Maasai Mara has ramifications on the image of the country. Tourism literatures classify the Mara as one of the best wildlife real estates in the world.  The local apparently are not happy because the proceeds from the park seem not to benefit them fully in terms of amenities and infrastructure but that is story for another day.
KWS does not have any control of Mau Forest. For the ownership, part of it is a forest reserve controlled by Kenya Forestry Service and the other side (western section) belongs to Narok County Council, trust land. Before the forest act was put in place, way before 2005, the politicians could excise the forest and this has happened since 1932. The biggest excision occurred in 2001 where 67,000 acres was hived off and the most severe was East Mau. East Mau supports six rivers flowing into Lake Nakuru and the effect of this now is that all these rivers currently are seasonal. On a wider scope, Mau entirely controls 12 main rivers. If Molo River dries up, Lake Baringo is affected immediately. If Kerio River which flows into Lake Turban dries up, the lake is affected immediately. If three rivers, River Yala, River Nyando and River Sondu Miriu which flows into Lake Victoria are affected, the effects are severe. Already, there is a power plant at Sondu Miriu and there is no dam around, the turbines are moved by the natural flow of the river. If the river is affected, the power plant automatically stalls. The Mara River flows right through Maasai Mara and if this dries up, the jewel is lost completely since it is the only source of water in that area. Ewaso Nyiro River flows into Lake Natron, the only place in the region where flamingoes breed. The flamingo circle system which flows from Lake Nakuru, Lake Magadi and Lake Bogoria, all that will disappear because the only source of fresh water into Lake Natron comes from Mau. The spectacle will be gone and also add the six rivers flowing into Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru. Therefore Mau is life and Mau is Kenya, we cannot play around with it! Please do politics with other things but not this one. The nearby towns of Molo and Elburgon are all originally part of Mau Forest. This is the most extensive forest in the region other than Congo Forest.
The global entitlement of an individual to water is 1000 cubic metres per citizen but in Kenya its is only 300 cubic metres per individual. The tragedy of this all that the ratio is declining. The grave outcome and source of conflicts in the Northern parts of Kenya is the struggle for the scarce water and pasture resources among others. This is moving south. More tragically, Nairobi, the capital city is served water from only two dams, Sasumwa and Ndakaini, which gets their water from Aberdares. The other dam planned in Makuyu is not yet operational. Luckily, Aberdares in now fully fenced electrically but people can still cut the electric fence and go in. The recommendation for Nairobi just a little payment for ecological services whereby they can invest back in the communities around Aberdares so they don’t overstretch the jewel and protect it. Debate on natural resource management should dominate any other thing because there is trouble already. On energy, about 70 per cent of Kenyans use wood fuel or charcoal but there is only 1.7 per cent forest cover remaining and it’s declining. Worth knowing also is that the global recommended forest cover for any country is 10 per cent. Lost forest land should be reclaimed and restored.
Vision 2030 can never be realized if investors keep asking if there is adequate, constant and sustainable supply of electricity and water. The government can also subsidize the kerosene price and supply as well as cooking gas to affordable standards. Every citizen must also play a part, plant a tree every month. In a year you shall have planted 12 and if this is multiplied by 40 million people, these will be a lot of trees. It is sometimes a matter of common sense, take a stance.

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2 thoughts on “Don’t Mess with Mau Forest,It’s the Jewel of Kenya

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