UNEP has a new atlas on the environment and its contribution to Kenya’s economy and Vision 2030. According to UNEP, this Atlas does two unique things:
• it assesses Kenya’s progress towards its own goals of improving the environment to achieve development goals; and
• it delivers a stunning bird’s-eye view of environmental change through the use of paired satellite images taken years apart.
In the first case, it demonstrates that the social and economic pillars of Kenya’s development plan, Vision 2030, need to be built on a solid foundation of environmental sustainability. Similarly, it teases out the links between the environment and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), showing how the 7th goal, environmental sustainability, underpins them all. In its second unique contribution, the Atlas contains an array of visual tools, including dozens of current and historical remote sensing images, 65 maps, and 229 photographs, that help scientifically document site-specific environmental change at 30 locations across
The atlas is available for download here where you can also read more about the atlas in the press release. The file is however very huge and a little impractical for the average download speeds in Kenya. Try downloading by chapters.
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In the early nineties about 521 families who had been stopped from farming in the Kieni forest near Thika in Kenya were moved onto a plot within the forest as a temporary measure. More than a decade later the temporary settlement, with its desperate inhabitants, is still in place. It’s called Huruma, the word for pity in Swahili.
The group had fled political unrest in the Rift Valley in the early 90s. They were allowed by Forest officials to participate in the Non Residential Cultivation (NRC) programme, also called the Shamba system – which allows farmers to plant crops and trees on forest land while tending to the young trees – until it was banned by the government. All farmers were asked to leave. Being landless the families had nowhere to go. They lived on the roadside near Thika until the government settled them within the forest while awaiting resettlement elsewhere. They have been here since.
A recent visit by KFWG to Huruma found the squatters still living in hope of re-settlement. Many promises have been made in the past, but none have come to fruition. Politicians have visited and shed tears. Human rights activists have promised immediate action. But the squatters are still here. They can’t farm and are dependent on odd jobs from their neighbors and relief food.
The one thing I learned about the residents of Huruma is that they don’t want to be pitied. They don’t want handouts. They do want to farm and feed themselves. Its time the government looked for alternative settlement for the people of Huruma. And indeed for others elsewhere living as squatters in forests.
Postscript: Modern technology failed us completely in the past few months, hence the scarcity of news on this blog. We have however been visited by the technology fairy and all seems well in forestland for now (well at least on the www). Please feel free to also stop by our brand new website www.kenyaforests.org in the next couple of days. And if you find the fairy hasn’t completed the magic of uploading it yet, go back again the following day, and the next and the one after. It will be up. Promise.