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How poor land use is causing our rivers to dry up

By Peter Muiruri | Published Thu, January 12th 2017 at 10:30, Updated January 12th 2017 at 10:32 GMT +3

A report in The Standard early this week revealed that a number of rivers in Kenya are on the verge of drying up. A number of them are in Central Kenya, Rift Valley and the Western region. These are areas traditionally associated with rich harvests as a result of abundance of water.

As we highlighted in this column last week, declining water levels in Ndakaini Dam in Murang’a is being attributed to lack of rains.

In one of the reports, Kisii University environmental scientist Tom Nyang’au was quoted as saying that what we are witnessing is as a result of global warming.

We have buried our heads in the sand and refused to acknowledge the effects of global warming. We thought this was a phenomenon that only affects the highly industrialised nations with tonnes upon tonnes of carbon emissions.

The hens have finally come home to roost. Much of what the country is witnessing is largely due to human activities. Years of poor land use planning - the art and science of managing land through regulating or controlling what use land is put to - has seen people getting deeper and deeper into the forests that have acted as water catchment areas.

“More than 30 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions arise from the land use sector. Thus, no strategy for mitigating global climate change can be complete or successful without reducing emissions from agriculture, forestry, and other land uses,” says Worldwatch Institute.

The problem is bound to get worse. About 75 per cent of Kenyans engage in farming while only eight per cent of land in the country is arable. Unsustainable farming methods contribute to soil erosion, aggravating an already bad situation. In addition, we have to share a good portion of the land mass with wild animals.

In short, we are redeploying land-based resources faster than they can be renewed. But we have a choice: We either stop the poor land use tide, reform or perish.