There is every reason to rethink land use for posterity’s sake

In another 20 years, an aerial view of some of the counties will show a country with millions of concentrated homes.

Besides climate change, land use in Kenya is a major contributor to the drying up of water fountains, streams and rivers. But worse, it is significantly contributing to the weakening of food sovereignty.

Across the counties, population density is growing exponentially. There are many factors for the growth, including increased urbanisation and diminishing food security.

Unchecked, population growth has several negative consequences in spite of the many advantages it also portends for a country. In particular, the fact that many families continue to subdivide their land, constructing many houses on small pieces of land; depleting shrubs, trees and forests to create room for pathways, feeder roads and more homes is extremely dangerous for future generations.

It is true that we are deeply attached to our subcultures, such as owning an inherited piece of land on which we wish to be buried when we depart this world. We also desire to put up a house on a land that is rightfully owned and that will never be taken away since it carries on the ancestral lineage.

As a result, we have destroyed the ecosystem and replaced it with eucalyptus trees or other quick growing trees to give some semblance of greenery.

The homes

Yes indeed, travelling in many parts of the counties with dense populations, you still get a sense of a natural green environment. However, a close examination shows that most of the green is on very small portions of land; is not indigenous, and is filled up with water sucking trees.

In another 20 years, an aerial view of some of the counties, particularly those with dense populations on small parcels of land, will show a country with millions of concentrated homes.

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The homes will be so close to each other, more like slums, that one will wonder if a better planning would not have been contemplated 50 years earlier. Food sovereignty is the desire to produce indigenous foods because they carry nutrients which Genetically Modified Foods do not.

They are also medicinal. That is the reason medical doctors often prescribe indigenous foods such as wimbi (finger millet) porridge and indigenous vegetables that have become rare nowadays.

Honey available in shops is hardly original. The real bee honey that is recommended in place of sugar can hardly be found.

The many mangoes we find in our nearest shops do not have the same quality of nutrients like the ones one can find in Ukumbani. The kind of mushroom we buy in the shops is nowhere tasty as what one can harvest in a natural forest.

Apartment block

We are eating chemically grown and treated foods because we blind ourselves from seeing that we are walking into a future full of lifestyle diseases, most of which can either be avoided or treated by eating indigenous foods.

Instead, out of necessity, we are continually subdividing land thereby reducing the space for nature to grow the kind of foods that keep us away from the doctors.

We need to revisit the idea of high rise settlements to regain our streams of water and rivers. However much as we pretend that cultural inheritances, including practices, are at the heart of who we are, the other reality is that the population is growing, pushing changes in land use to support emerging demands.

A drive through Nairobi city will disabuse the fact that most of us cannot live together. People in slums have lived together for ages. People in the middle class are now living in high rise buildings; as many as one thousand in a single apartment block.

These are Kenyans who have learnt to live with other Kenyans. So far, the Government is not struggling to integrate people of different subcultures living together in such high rise homes. We have no problem living together in the same compound.

I do not know why some of us think that policy frameworks on how people in rural areas can live together in high rise buildings are such a strange idea. Even in county headquarters, people live together peacefully. We have to make a hard choice and do the right thing. Our land use has to be reviewed for the good of future generations.

Dr Mokua comments on social justice issues

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Elias MokuaThe Standard