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Achieving 10% Forest Cover Key to Combating Desertification

Jun 19, 2019

Achieving 10% Forest Cover Key to Combating Desertification

Land is key to supporting livelihoods not only in our country but the world over. Land is the source of food and energy.  From it we also create wealth and grow economies. Sadly, the contribution of land to our lives and to the economy continues to be threatened by soil degradation owing to climate change and rapid desertification.   

Growth in population and aggressive urban development means much strain is put on land through deforestation practices thereby making huge chunks of land susceptible to desertification. Other factors that exacerbate desertification include natural disasters such as the wildfires frequently witnessed in Aberdare and Mt. Kenya forests. Some farming practices also leaves the topo soil exposed to agents of erosion such as wind and water, thereby encouraging the loss of nutrients.  When this happens, the soil can no longer support plant life hence encouraging desertification.

Increased desertification means climate change is aggravated because of low vegetation cover to support carbon dioxide uptake. Increased desertification also means water scarcity leading to low food and forage production thereby adversely affecting the lives supported by ecosystems. At a higher level, it means low production and unstable economies.

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The commemoration of the World Day to Combat Desertification on 17th June therefore provides a great chance to reflect on achievements towards afforestation over the last twenty-five years. As a nation, we are still below the minimum required amount of forest cover relative to the land area. The United Nations puts it that at least 10% of a country’s land area should be covered by forests. We are however on course as recent tree planting efforts led by the government and various organisations have enabled us reach 7%.  We shall hopefully hit the 10% mark by 2022 as promised by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

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We only need to embrace practices that work towards sustainable land management. Degraded land can also be recovered through aggressive afforestation practices the way it has proved successful in neighboring Ethiopia’s Tigray region.  We must also as a nation remain alive to the realities of the day and remain resilient by adopting and adapting to climate change through sustainable agribusiness practices. This will involve proper utilization of water, practicing agroforestry, embracing the use of technology and being innovative in order to secure the future of our lands.

By Vincent Ogaya

This article was first published by The Standard on 17th June 2019.

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