Let’s protect biodiversity from lurking dangers

Optiven Group CEO George Wachiuri joins stakeholders during World Environment Day to plant trees in Machakos County. [Courtesy]

As we celebrate World Environment Day today, with the theme “ecosystem restoration”, more emphasis need to be put on protecting forests in order to protect biodiversity. We should focus on green recovery towards carbon neutrality that will focus on policies and solutions that tackle the climate emergency, and economic and social injustice.

There is no doubt that Kenya is endowed with valuable natural resources but which continue to be predisposed to untold socio-economic dangers. The dangers are not unique to Kenya. Across the region, the environment continues to suffer from irreparable damages induced by economic activities. 

To begin with, forests provide home to vast majority of terrestrial plants and animal species. Humanity benefits from forests through their role in carbon, water and nutrient cycles in food production. In developing countries, communities that live within forests rely directly on forest biodiversity for their survival; using forest products for food production, including seed dispersal and crop pollination. 

Forests are facing threat from degradation. Source of livelihood for a growing world population and halting deforestation are not mutually exclusive. For us to achieve these two goals simultaneously, countries need to focus on sustainable production practices, agroforestry and more balanced land use. We need to restore the productivity of degraded lands, and educate consumers. Public and private sectors need to step up their commitments to zero forestation.

Each year, an average of 76 million hectares are affected by forest fires. Kenya needs to put more emphasis in wildfire prevention and integrated fire control in order to be able to prevent extreme wildfires and limit their consequences. 

In order to achieve these goals, we need to reform agricultural subsidies, strengthen forest governance, and improve tenure rights. We need to invest resources to support restoration and sustainable use of forests. We must involve all stakeholders, including indigenous people that manage approximately 28 per cent of the world’s land surface women and young people. 

Certainly, conservation efforts require maximum attention from all of us. It is time to seek sustainable interventions that will see into it that the environment survives climate shocks and the accompanying catastrophic effects on production. Life is at stake here. 

- The writer is a conservation and education expert