Nyeri plans climate change policy to save water towers

Women uproot dry bean crop at a farm in Nyeri. Climate change is linked to low rainfall resulting in crop failure. FILE

What you need to know:

  • County official says agricultural output decline points to environmental problems.

The Nyeri County government plans to formulate a climate change policy to mitigate against the effects of global warming.

Speaking on the sidelines of a workshop on climate change policy, the county executive for water and environment, Gachanja Ngunyangi, said global warming is evident in the declining agricultural output and emergence of new pests and diseases.

“Climate change was first identified as a challenge at a summit in Rio de Janeiro  in 1992, but not much has been done,” Mr Ngunyangi said. “But now it’s a reality since the effects of climate change cost Kenya Sh32 billion annually.”

Mr Ngunyangi said Nyeri hosts two major water towers — the Aberdares and the Mount Kenya catchment areas — making it necessary for the county to formulate a policy to conserve the ecosystem and mitigate against the effects of climate change. Among the measures that the county proposes is the adoption of green energy for domestic and industrial use.

The county aims to put in place a law to phase out use of boilers in factories that use firewood to run their production systems.

To make this possible, the county plans to build six dams in Kieni constituency to generate hydro power. The county is also seeking an investor to invest in the production of solar energy in Mathira constituency.

Provision of alternative sources of energy is expected to curb depletion of forests for firewood.

Environmental consultant James Ndung’u said that the construction of a landfill to help recycle waste and generate energy in an eco-friendly way is among recommendations made to the county for consideration.

Mr Ndung’u had been contracted to draft the climate change policy. It is estimated that about 70 per cent of Nyeri residents use wood fuel from local forests.

However, the county plans to step up efforts to increase forest cover not only to replace trees but also to help reduce levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere.

The gas is largely blamed for global warming — rise in atmospheric temperatures. As part of its green energy strategy, the county plans to empower community forest associations (CFAs) to manage and exploit local forest resources.

Mr Ngunyangi said that the Forest Act 2005 recognises the CFAs’ role in the protection of the forests but they should be given more powers to become competent authorities in the management of the resources.

There are more than 10 registered CFAs working with the Kenya Forest Service in the Mt Kenya and Aberdares regions.

Nyeri Member of County Assembly Anastasia Wanjiku, who is also the organising secretary of one of the CFAs, said that although the organisations had the mandate to protect the resources they felt helpless because some forest rangers were behind destruction of forests.

She suggested that KFS should be restructured to recruit rangers from the local communities who understand the consequences of depleting the forests.

Public forums

“We have the mandate to protect forests but our hands are tied,” said Ms Wanjiku. “The rangers should be made to know that they are the ones to suffer after the destruction of forests.”

According to schedule 4(2) of the Constitution, devolved governments are mandated to protect and conserve natural resources at the county level.

Help Self Help Centre director Bernard Muchiri, who organised the forum to discuss climate change policy, said that there were supporting legislation for local communities to participate in management of natural resources but the county needs to adopt them in its by-laws order to benefit.

The Nyeri County leaders will hold more forums to ensure public participation in the formulation of the climate change Bill in accordance with the law, Mr Ngunyangi said.

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