Rapid nature damage will be our waterloo

Residents cultivating in a cleared section of Menengai Forest in Nakuru on June 22, 2020. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Kenya faces more duress on its biodiversity as more households face the poverty trap.

From a cursory look in the counties, there's nonstop over-exploitation of natural resources yet population growth and shrinking farm lands are on a risky crescendo.

This is happening when global warming and its vagaries have literally turned arid and semi arid areas into the biblical valley of dry bones.

Animals and crops have been wiped out and their places taken up by hunger and despondency. In northern Kenya for instance, locals have become all too familiar with the reek of death. More than four million people are food insecure among us. Desperation is mounting. Now, the State says Sh6 billion will be needed to respond to drought between this month and May. These threats to livelihoods call for an urgent ecological restoration. But it will mean the country commits to tackling climate change and biodiversity loss together. As species and habitat face grave dangers day by day and arable land is degraded, it will not matter how much time and money we spend in boardrooms or if and when we will declare the horrid aftermath a national disaster.

Experts warn that the stress of drought, famine and poverty threaten to create social strains, leading to potential for involuntary migration, breakdown of communities, political instability and conflict as battle for resources takes a nasty tangent. Remember the troubled North Rift?

Natural ecosystems of land, marine and freshwater ecosystems upon which more than 70 per cent of rural livelihoods depend have lost their allure. The net effect is no food, no medicines, no water, no fresh air and no shelter. The tourism industry too will be on the receiving end.

The Convection on Biological Diversity says Kenya has diverse ecological zones and habitats, including forests, wooded and open grasslands, semi-arid scrubland, dry woodlands, inland aquatic, as well as coastal and marine ecosystems but their status have, regrettably, declined. A KWS priority ecosystems and species list warns that 44 ecosystems, 25 mammals, 27 birds, 52 reptiles and 26 fish types are endangered or threatened. In Africa, more than 6,000 animals and 3,000 plants face extinction.

We need mindset change. President Ruto's government should invest in elaborate support systems that will empower communities to harness natural resources responsibly. The big question is whether it will rise to the occasion.

The quandary brings to mind resolutions of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity where nations hammered out a framework to take bold steps to reverse biodiversity loss and put nature on a sure path to recovery by the year 2050.

We must move with speed and faithfully honour COP15 resolutions if nature loss has to be addressed. We should lay emphasis on local solutions that reduce communities' vulnerability to shocks. Let's learn from best practices elsewhere and embrace international collaborations on every ambitious goal set out in the December 7 -19, 2022 summit.

It is equally imperative to work with every stakeholder in information sharing and knowledge management. The government can rope in the media sector to influence the much-needed change. Yes, it is about time philanthropies and foundations supported special journalism projects that promote civic environmental awareness and transformative decision-making.

Already, we've seen media capacity building programmes by Earth Journalism Network.

Locally, the Kenya Editors Guild and other media sector players have been filling the gap with relevant trainings. The private sector can back grassroots initiatives that will lead to attitudinal change towards responsible harnessing of natural resources.

The State should now improve how it acts or reacta. Those who endanger our nature should pay for their actions. Importantly, authorities should embrace better resource planning. Let's avert nature loss now to save lives.

The writer is an editor at The Standard. Twitter: @markoloo