Climate Change may seem like something distant and abstract, but it’s very real and it impacts every one of us. Changes in our earth’s climate have a direct impact on what we grow and eat in Africa. Seventy percent of the population lives by farming and a third of the income in Africa is generated by agriculture. Most crops in Africa-over 90 per cent-are primarily watered by rainfall. This makes food crops on our continent vulnerable to health stress from our warming planet and extreme weather events linked to climate change.
Kakamega County is no exception when it comes to feeling the impacts of climate change given the fact that it hosts the famous Kakamega Tropical Rain Forest. The Forest has many local inhabitants who rely on the forest to supply important resources, such as firewood, building poles and traditional medicines. Cattle grazing occur in some of the glades. These activities impact negatively to the forest cover leading to Climate Change.
Due to these impacts, the County Government of Kakamega in partnership with Kakamega Forest Heritage Foundation a charity registered in Kenya with the aim of conserving the forest ecosystem, have plans to conserve the forest through setting up two major funds according to Dr. Johnson Murila the Foundations Chairperson.
He says the Conservation fund aims to actively fund project directly affecting the forest well-being and conservation with main focus centered on forest fencing, reforestation, cultural conservation and heritage documentation while empowerment fund is aimed at empowering the forest communities so as to reduce direct reliance on the forest for sustenance through various targeted interventions such as tourism development, education, Mentorship programs, Security enhancement, Peace building, amongst many others.
Dr. Murila notes that the Kakamega tropical rain forest is the only Guinea Congolian type of rain forest remaining in Kenya today and human encroachment threatens the forest to the verge of extinction and a threat to the climate. This he says led to the Foundation in collaboration with the County Government of Kakamega and other stakeholders come up with a brilliant idea of holding the Kakamega Forest Marathon, an annual initiative whose objective is to conserve the Kakamega Tropical Rain Forest.
This year’s marathon which will be flagged off by his Excellency the Deputy President, William Ruto will be held on the 28th November 2015 within the cool atmosphere of the Kakamega forest ecosystem. The Kakamega Marathon is majorly concentrated on the community around the forest that solely depend on the forest to earn their bread to participate in this event for this is the only way to show their full support in conserving the forest as a way of curbing the harsh impacts of Climate Change for it’s a matter of life and death as the late Wangare Mathai the peace Laureate said.
The Southern part of Kakamega forest, Isecheno Forest station run by the Kenya Forest Service is the most accessible in Tourism. There is a well- known mama mutere tree, a historic tree and the most photographed tree in Kakamega forest, there are also strangler fig trees. There are hiking trails in the forest that allow for forest walking, camping, hiking, primate watching, bird and butterfly watching, game watching and a village walks. This, the foundation chairperson says would not last if the forest continues being encroached.
As Pope Francis puts it in his speech at statehouse during a tour in Africa, Kenya has been blessed not only with immense beauty, in its forests, Savannahs and semi-deserts, but also by an abundance of natural resources. Kenyans have a strong appreciation of these God-given treasures and are known for a culture of conservation too.
He says the grave environmental crisis facing the world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature and we have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to future generations, and an obligation to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received.
Let’s all join hands, lets Restore and Conserve our environment!