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Community partners with forest association to tackle climate change

By Biko Rading | February 14th 2021

Mr John Mbugua (Left) and Bilha Nyambura in one of the Nursery garden in Dundori Forest. (PHOTO: Biko Rading)

Climate Change is one of the biggest problems the world is grappling with in the 21st century. Though it has existed over the last century, its impact is being felt across the globe and it has greatly altered the earth’s ecosystems.

Unpredictable weather patterns have left millions in hunger as farmers continue to harvest less or nothing at all.

In 2015 global leaders pledged to tackle Climate Change through the adoption of the Paris Agreement that saw over 196 countries agreeing to tackle climate change.

Five years down the line the world is still far from meeting the climate goals of capping the global average temperature increase at “well below 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

In a recent address to at Columbia University, UN Secretary-General António Guterres painted a sobering picture of the state of the planet.

He stated, “Nature always strikes back — and it is already doing so with growing force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes … air and water pollution are killing 9 million people annually more than six times the current toll of the pandemic.

In Kenya, a rural community in Dundori- Nyandarua County has partnered with Dundori Community Forest Association [CFA] to tackle the impact of climate change.

“Most of the rivers in this area are drying up at a faster rate and our animals are struggling to find good pasture and water. This is a sign that the weather condition has changed due to destruction of the forest that helps us have rain throughout the year,” says John Mbugua, Chairman, Nyandarua Donkey Owners Community Based Organisation [CBO].

The Nyandarua Donkey Owners CBO is made up of 16 groups who are mainly donkey owners.

Mbugua asserts, “In this region, donkey offers the best mode of transporting goods ranging from a food crop, building material and also fetching water due to the terrain. We used to have abundant rainfall which resulted in more pasture for our animals but today we are struggling to feed our animals hence our only source of livelihood is at risk.”

In 2018, the community partnered with the Dundori Community Forest Association and Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies (KENDAT) to conserve the forest and tackle climate change.
According to Martin Mwiti, Community Development Officer with KENDAT in Nyandarua County.

“We realised that most of the donkey owners were struggling to find feed and water for their animals and once we investigated we realized that most of the rivers were drying up and most of these farmers were grazing their donkeys and animals next to the forest which is a crime. To create a harmonious co-existence, we crafted a win-win situation. KENDAT and Dundori CFA and the Dundori Donkey Owners Self Help Group under Nyandarua CBO group created a project to conserve the forest.” Says Martin.

Peter Nguru, Chairman of the Dundori CFA, “What we have done is that we have allocated an acre within the forest where the CBO has set up a tree nursery which combines both indigenous and exotic seedlings. Their job is to ensure that they plant trees within the designated area, cater for them and in return, their animals are allowed to graze within a certain part of the forest. This win-win situation has worked out well since the community has not only realized the importance of forest and rivers but they are now our forest ambassadors to the rest of the community.”
Martin says the project aims to strike a balance between improved livelihoods and forest conservation.

Climate Change Experts argue that Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change impacts under all climate scenarios above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The continent has contributed the least to global warming and having the lowest emissions.

They also advise that the continent needs a different approach to tackle the climate change problem, among them is a community involvement strategy.

Bilha Nyambura a member of the Nyandarua Community Based Organisation revealed that it’s time for everyone to conserve the forest and water towers at large.

“There is the bit the government can do but we as the community need to start conserving our forest and water towers or else we shall all perish. When we were growing up this forest provided not only rain but also feed to our animals but today due to human encroachment all that is diminishing at a higher rate,” laments Nyambura.
Her group has been able to grow over 54,000 indigenous and 46,000 exotic seedlings.

“The nursery has enabled the group make a living from selling the seedlings to different communities and also other stakeholders and money made from the sales is divided among the members or channeled to other activities like table banking which has supplemented the income of the donkey farmers.”

The group now plans to venture into bamboo farming within the riverbeds as a way of controlling soil erosion.

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