Ecologists and legislative bodies including the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) have raised concerns over the destruction of Kenya’s key water towers key among them the Mau Complex, Cherangani Hills, Mt. Kenya, Mt. Elgon, Kakamega Forest and the Aberdares, whose unintended consequences include worsening the economic sustenance of millions, and the scourge of mass unemployment.
In the Mau water tower alone, the destruction of 107,000 acres equalling about 25 per cent of the entire ecosystem has wreaked havoc on weather patterns and livelihoods especially those dependent on rain-fed agriculture.
A critical case in point in the Enapuiyapui Swamp, a non-gazetted wetland within the gazetted Kiptunga forest in eastern Mau complex, which acts as the source of the Amala River, a tributary of the Nyangores River that feeds into the Mara River.
The swamp which is also the source of the Molo River, which flows into Lake Baringo, and River Njoro which flow into Lake Nakuru has experienced major destruction due to forest fires and unregulated grazing.
Ecological destruction disrupts rain patterns, which hurts crop yields, availability of water, increases human-wildlife conflict and strangles the national food supply chain leading to lower food production, and the job opportunities available in the entire agricultural supply chain, including the value-add companies.
Thousands of jobs are at risk thanks to the impending extinction of Kakamega forest due to deforestation by neighbouring dwellers especially by loggers, and charcoal burning sites as well as encroachment on the upper side area around Malava.
The ecological and economic impact of this wanton intrusions and destruction will be the loss of the 488 bird species, 510 butterfly species and the end of the bird migration from Europe which is one of the forest’s unique attractions.
As a sign of what’s at stake, the destruction of the neighbouring Maragoli hills forest ecosystem led to increased poverty, loss of waged and non-waged jobs as well as economic strain on the hundreds of families that were directly dependent on the forest’s products for sustenance.
Towards the North Rift, wild fires consumed more than 500 acres of forests in Trans Nzoia and Elgeyo Marakwet counties as reported by the Kenya Forest Service.
The Cherangani water tower made up of Embobut and Cherengani forests straddles the border of the two counties and boasts of 65,000 hectares of ecological biodiversity and provides direct and indirect employment to about 115, 000 people while indirectly supporting nearly half a million others.
Ecological and climate action is an economic as well as health and sustainability issue. Formal employment in the agricultural sector constitutes 337,000 of the 2.56 million formally employed Kenyans according to the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics (2016) job market survey.
To further illustrate the impact of the ecological destruction, the number of formal sector employees in the agriculture segment who earn more than Sh100, 000 dropped from 5,433 in 2015 to 2,932 in 2016 according to a KNBS report released in October 2017.
The report further highlighted the fact that 59 per cent of the formal sector workers in agriculture took home between Sh9,000 and Sh 24,000 over the same period.
Darius Okolla is a Strategy and communication expert.