Restoring our forests, the Mau Forests Complex, Kenya

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Trees have been an essential part of my life and have provided me with many lessons. They have taught me that we must be patient, persistent, and committed. When we are planting trees, sometimes people will say to me, “I don’t want to plant a tree, because it will not grow fast enough.” I have to keep reminding them that the trees they are cutting today were not planted by them but by those who came before.

In Kenya, efforts are underway to halt the wanton destruction of the Mau Forests Complex and to restore the degraded sections of the forest. With the advice of the United Nations Environment Programme and its other partners, the Government of Kenya established a multi-stakeholder task force in 2008 to make recommendations on how to restore and conserve these forest ecosystems on which millions of Kenyans depend for sustenance.

I have not tired in my journey to fight for the conservation of our forests. I thus feel encouraged and motivated when people join in efforts to protect them. At the moment, several stakeholders and partners have signed agreements with the Kenya Forest Service to rehabilitate sections of the Mau Forests Complex and have committed to a joint responsibility for the overall management and rehabilitation of the Mau. The Green Belt Movement and its partner such as the Save the Mau Trust, and the Clinton Climate Initiative are having a combined target of planting six million trees by 2014.

We are dedicated in protecting the Mau Forests Complex because of its important ecological, economical and social services. It is the largest forested area in Kenya and at over 400,000 hectares is seven times the size of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. It is also the largest “water tower” of Kenya feeding main rivers that flow to the west of the country providing water to six major lakes including Lake Nakuru and Naivasha in Kenya and Lake Victoria and Turkana which are trans-boundary.

Ecological services provided by its ecosystem sustain natural habitats including key conservation areas like the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve, Serengeti in Tanzania and Lake Natron, an important breeding area for the Lesser Flamingo. Key economic sectors depend on the forests’ services including agriculture, tourism, water supply and the energy sector for hydropower generation.

Despite the vital lifeline services, the forest has during the past fifteen years lost a quarter of its original cover due to illegal resource extraction, plantations of exotic trees for timber, human encroachment, and conversion to settlement and farmlands.

Impacts from degradation of the forest have been severe; food and water shortages, power cuts from reduced water in dams, pressure on tourism and livelihoods in the region that depend on ecosystem. It should be noted that a small indigenous community, the Ogiek depend entirely on indigenous part of the forest for food, medicine and shelter.

Those of us who witness the degraded state of the environment cannot afford to be complacent. We must be driven to action. As we gear up for the International Year of Forests, I call upon policy makers and global citizen to take concerted actions towards restoring degraded forests and protecting standing forests – we owe it to the present and future generations of all species.

Restoring our forests, the Mau Forests Complex, Kenya

by Wangari Maathai

Extrait du livre « Des forêts et des hommes » rédigé par la rédaction de GoodPlanet à l’occasion de l’année internationale des forêts et disponible aux éditions de la Martinière.

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