Economy, Environment

Why We Must Restore Upper Tana River Catchment Through Livelihood Programs

When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last riv­er poi­soned, only then will we real­ize that one can­not eat mon­ey. This Native Amer­i­can proverb sank home a few days ago when I came across the Ener­gy and Petro­le­um Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Davis Chirchir’s warn­ing “Our major pow­er gen­er­a­tion com­pa­nies have been deliv­er­ing only about 30 per cent of what they should be deliv­er­ing due to reduced water levels.”

Most of the elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­at­ed in Kenya comes from hydropow­er, which is in turn reliant on healthy rivers. Some of these rivers feed the Sev­en Forks Dams which com­pris­es of five hydro pow­er plants name­ly: Masin­ga ‚Gitaru, Kam­bu­ru, Kin­daru­ma and Kiambere. They account for near­ly 49% of hydro­elec­tric pow­er in Kenya.

Kin­daru­ma was com­plet­ed in 1968 and is Kenya’s first post-inde­pen­dence pow­er plant. This stands as tes­ta­ment to the longevi­ty of hydro­elec­tric­i­ty in Kenya. Glob­al­ly, hydropow­er pro­vides about 16 per­cent of the electricity.

Against this back­drop, we must do every­thing pos­si­ble to pro­tect all our riv­er basins in Kenya. With­out the rivers flow­ing from these basins, Kenya would sim­ply go dark and our fac­to­ries would fall silent. I was pleas­ant­ly elat­ed to notice that The Tana and Athi Rivers Devel­op­ment Author­i­ty is on the fore­front of ensur­ing that this doesn’t hap­pen. It has laid out a very detailed restora­tion and enhanced liveli­hoods pro­gram that will go a long way in secur­ing our rivers.

At the heart of this restora­tion efforts is tree grow­ing in the upper Tana Riv­er catch­ment area. This area is one of Kenya’s most crit­i­cal ecosys­tems. Its home to two water tow­ers – Mt. kenya and Aber­dares Range. Togeth­er, these water tow­ers, are respon­si­ble for 40% of the country’s water sup­ply and sup­port the liveli­hoods of approx­i­mate­ly 20 mil­lion Kenyans.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly, most of the area is turn­ing into set­tle­ment schemes. That’s why the exist­ing tree cov­er in this area must be pro­tect­ed even as we expand for­est cov­er across Kenya.

Tree grow­ing is in line with the Government’s goal of plant­i­ng and grow­ing 15.7 bil­lion trees by the year 2032. For that to hap­pen, we need to plant an aver­age of 4.7 mil­lion trees per day. More impor­tant­ly, we need to nur­ture those trees to full maturity.

This may seem like a tall order but it’s doable. I draw a lot of hope from spec­tac­u­lar green efforts that are already mush­room­ing all over the coun­try. A good exam­ple is Imani Chris­t­ian School in Isako vil­lage, Kiambere Ward in Embu Coun­ty. In an inno­v­a­tive approach, the school fra­ter­ni­ty and spon­sors are pro­duc­ing thou­sands of tree seedlings. That is the first step towards tree growing.

I sug­gest to the Edu­ca­tion Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary the Hon. Ezekiel Machogu to facil­i­tate vibrant tree grow­ing in the more than 32,000 Pri­ma­ry Schools in Kenya. That will go a long way in ensur­ing tree grow­ing is prac­ti­cal­ly incul­cat­ed in the minds of our chil­dren even as we endeav­or to grow mil­lions of seedlings daily.

As of 2022, Kenya was smart­ing from five suc­ces­sive failed rain sea­sons. This adverse­ly affect­ed our agri­cul­ture, which is the main­stay of our econ­o­my. It accounts for 24% of our Gross Domes­tic Prod­uct (GDP) and 18% of total for­mal employ­ment. Trees secure rain. That’s why heav­i­ly forest­ed coun­tries Gabon, which has an 88% for­est cov­er are nev­er lack­ing in rain.

More rain means flour­ish­ing agri­cul­ture, secure elec­tric­i­ty and sta­ble jobs. Because trees are the path­way to more water, we need to rede­fine our rela­tion­ship with them. We should no longer be ambiva­lent or indif­fer­ent about trees. Indeed, we should move into a com­mit­ted rela­tion­ship with trees.

At an indi­vid­ual lev­el, we should com­mit to grow­ing trees com­men­su­rate with our age every year. Inci­den­tal­ly, that will not just be a ser­vice to our coun­try or envi­ron­ment. It will also be a ser­vice to our wal­lets because for instance fruit trees even­tu­al­ly gift us with mon­ey. Just like the ongo­ing enhanced liveli­hood pro­gram in the Sev­en forks, civic edu­ca­tion and plough­ing back the finan­cial gains to the com­mu­ni­ty as we con­serve our catch­ments will make the deal. Think green, act green!




About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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