Mau complex now earns Kenya Sh120b yearly


By Ally Jamah

New projections show that the Mau Forest Complex offers more value to Kenya than previously thought, making the case for its urgent conservation stronger.

Environmental experts now say the forest offers services to the country valued at Sh120 billion per annum, instead of the previous estimate of Sh24 billion.

These revelations come as Kenya joins countries across the globe to mark the World Environmental Day tomorrow.

The United Nations Environmental Programmes (Unep) spokesman Nick Nutall explained yesterday that previous estimates had only valued Mau in terms of its benefits to the Tea industry in Kericho, tourism and water for hydropower and lakes in the Rift Valley.

"Now we realise that Mau is providing a lot of value to Agriculture in Kenya and in combating climate change by taking harmful carbon out of the atmosphere," he said.

He was speaking while launching a new report titled "Dead Planet Living Planet: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development in Nairobi".

The Unep spokesman said Kenya could earn billions of shillings in future as payment for what the Mau Forest is doing in controlling climate change.

"People should not just see the forest as logs to be harvested. They should look at all the services it offers the country such as water and climate control," he said.

Nutall said the forest helped to control erosion of the most fertile soils in the Rift Valley, estimated to cost more than the foreign exchange Kenya earns from tourism every year.

Severely degraded

These new estimates are bound to strengthen the calls for the conservation of the most critical water tower in the country, which has been severely degraded by settlement and logging activities.

The Sh120 billion figure was calculated by the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) as an update of Unep’s estimate in 2008.

"We urge the Government to invest in restoring the forest complex because the long term benefits will far outweigh the short term profits," said Kefri’s Deputy Director Benard Kigoro.

Unep’s Policy and Programme Officer Christian Lambrechts, who is part of the team that is overseeing the restoration of Mau, said 1,400 hectares of degraded forest areas had been replanted with trees with 80,000 hectares to be covered this year.

"We are also in the process of marking the boundaries of the forest to curb further destruction, but we are trying our best to bring everyone on board and avoid unnecessary controversy," he said.

Last year the Government deployed security personnel, who evicted communities living in certain parts of the Mau Complex.

This resulted into political enmity as local MPs refused to be part of the exercise, claiming their electors were treated inhumanely.

Those who lived in the forest had asked for more time for them to tend to their crops.

The Mau Task Force Secretariat has since announced it will continue with other phases of the eviction to save the forest from destruction.

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