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Let us join hands to create a lasting legacy on our environment

By Kinya Kimotho | Jun 3rd 2017 | 3 min read

When news broke that water levels in the reservoir that supplies Nairobi and its environs had dropped to a new low – below the quarter-way mark – the city went into a panic.
Less water at the Ndakaini Dam means taps across the estimated one million households in the city would stay dry longer. Coming in the midst of an ongoing water rationing programme, availability of this precious commodity would be insufficient with debilitating effect. The drastically dropping water levels have been blamed on drying up of rivers that feed the dam. This has been triggered by decimation of forests that act as catchment areas for the rivers. Lower water levels in rivers have more impact beyond less water for domestic and industrial use by city dwellers and rural communities. This also affects agriculture, Kenya’s economic mainstay and a major source of livelihood.
Take the Mount Kenya Forest ecosystem, an important water tower, for instance. It supplies 95 per cent of water in Nairobi, generates about half of the 819 megawatts that the country generates from hydropower stations and provides water to two national parks, in addition to playing the role of an important catchment area as the source of the Ewaso Nyiro and Tana River systems.
However, it is under intense threat of destruction and degradation, with potential to deal devastating blows on the country. Without forests, the quality and quantity of water in the rivers suffer, siltation of the reservoirs increases the cost of water treatment and less water means that less electricity can be generated.
Yet, this is not just a Kenyan problem. Destruction of forests and the resultant spread of deserts is an issue of global importance. Forests also absorb greenhouse gases that are responsible for climate change; but when cleared, emit these gases. Unfortunately, rising populations have exerted increasing pressure on the existing forest cover, which coupled with increasing industrial activity, has raised the water stress levels.
The United Nations estimates that 13 million hectares of forests are lost every year. No wonder, dealing with this challenge has been listed among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the world has set out to achieve by the year 2020. The specific goal calls for restoration of degraded forests, while planting new forests and replacing those that have been destroyed. The country has been on an ambitious drive by different actors to push the proportion of landmass covered by forests to 10 per cent. At the moment, it is estimated that only seven per cent of Kenya’s landmass is under forests.
Kenya, and indeed the whole world, needs sustained work in planting new forests and replacing destroyed ones. The private sector also needs to get involved. Tree planting can no longer be a one-off, feel-good photo opportunity for corporates.
The long term success of business is dependent on functional and prosperous individuals, communities and the environment. Thus, corporates have to ensure sustainability of water towers for the country’s economic development and hence their business.
In this regard, there is value in strategic partnerships to drive the afforestation and reforestation agenda. True to the adage: ‘If you want to go far, go together’, it is in joining hands that we can accomplish a lot more for the benefit of our planet.
This is the inspiration behind the ongoing tree planting drive by Kijani, a staff driven initiative by the Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL). Working with Nature Kenya and five Community Forest Associations, namely Hombo, Kabaru, Naro Moru, Gathiuru and Ngare-Ndare, it targets to restore 250 acres of Mount Kenya Forest by planting 100,000 tree seedlings over the next two years.
Apart from Mount Kenya Forest, KBL has over the years also collaborated with government agencies and corporates to protect other forests and water catchments in Kenya, including the Aberdare Forest, Mau Forest, Kinale Forest, Ngong’ Forest and water conservation in Ndakaini. In total, these efforts have led to the planting and nurturing of over one million tree seedlings.
It is through the cumulative effects of such efforts and partnerships that we can increase our forest cover, sustain flow of water from our taps and create a lasting environmental legacy for future generations.

The writer is Finance Director at Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) and patron of Kijani, an environmental rehabilitation initiative by staff of KBL

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