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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs