News

    Kenya Experiencing the Effects of Deforestation, Climate Change


    The U.N. Climate Change Conference, held recently in Nairobi, Kenya, renewed the world's attention to what is commonly known as global warming, which most scientists say is caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions largely coming from rich countries. But experts say deforestation in developing countries such as those in Africa also exacerbates the effects of climate change. The Lake Naivasha area of Kenya is experiencing many of the effects of climate change, as Cathy Majtenyi reports.

    Giraffes, wildebeest, and other animals graze lazily on a plain in Kenya's Rift Valley, about an hour north-west of the capital Nairobi.

    There was a time when the light green plain in the distance was under water, as an inlet of Lake Naivasha -  one of several lakes in the Rift Valley.

    Sarah Higgins, a farmer and environmentalist with the Lake Naivasha Riparian Association, says she has seen many changes in her farm's landscape since moving here 36 years ago.

    "We have seen the area that we work in drying up - definitely," she said. "We used to guarantee our rain every year, so we could guarantee our crop. But now this is not happening; now we are drying up."

    Lake Naivasha normally has cycles of rising and falling water levels, but Higgins says she and other farmers in the area have observed that these cycles have been disrupted. 

    The water that fills Lake Naivasha comes from rivers and streams originating from the Abederes mountain range that forms the eastern wall of the Rift Valley.

    The Aberdares used to be covered by thick forests that trapped moisture, kept temperatures cool, and performed other functions including supplying plentiful rainfall to the area.

    But massive deforestation has taken place in the Aberdares range and other wooded areas in Kenya over the past few decades.

    The deforestation has come about from people clearing the land for farms, timber merchants over-logging, government selling or giving away large tracts of forest in corrupt deals, and other forms of mismanagement.

    This has caused many of the rivers and streams feeding Lake Naivasha and other lakes to shrink or dry up, leading to a drop in water levels.

    There is also less rain in the area, in part because there is less forest cover to trap moisture and attract cloud cover.

    John Njoroge, a farmer and conservationist in the Aberdares area, points out grassy plains in the nearby hills that once were forested, but have since been burned and cleared by the local community.

    Njoroge says he has noticed less rain and changing rainfall patterns.

    "We have just now witnessed a change for about one-and-a-half years near Kinangop [forest] without rain," he said. "And some years back, it was just raining about three times a year. We are just expecting [rains] now in March and October, but now we are just getting one season rain around in December, which is just raining accidentally."

    Deforestation is one of several human activities that experts say contribute to climate change.

    They are especially worried that the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases into the air are forming a barrier that prevents the sun's energy from radiating back into space, thus raising the earth's temperature.

    These scientists blame climate change for causing more intense and frequent droughts, floods, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and other negative effects in different parts of the world.

    In a poor country like Kenya, the cheapest and most efficient way to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change is to have lots of trees. Trees absorb excess carbon dioxide and other harmful gases from the atmosphere.  But when trees are cut down, this process is halted.

    The effects of deforestation and changes to the atmosphere, in turn, have caused hardship for the local population.

    Kenya Wildlife Service scientist James Mathenge describes what he has witnessed in the Aberdares and another water catchment area called the Mau forest.

    "The effects of climate change that I have seen in this area is that there is, one, loss of species, that is both plants and animals due to drought, it's prolonged drought, and these ones, they are really causing this ecosystem to lose a lot of biodiversity in terms of big mammals and small mammals and also in terms of the plants," said Mathenge.

    Experts agree that planting trees is the best way to restore forest cover in Kenya and other parts of Africa. Trees, in turn, are expected to mitigate some of the local effects of climate change.

    Kenyan Environment Minister Kivutha Kibwana admits that deforestation is a huge problem in his country - but says a new forestry law has just been enacted.

    "We are in the process of really reversing previous policy so that people know that you can't destroy forests and get away with it," said Kibwana. "The government will not dish out forest land to you."

    In the meantime, people like conservationist John Njoroge are planting seedlings and doing what they can to tackle the menace of climate change, one tree at a time.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora