The history of the Nobel peace prize is more than a century old and it is one of the most prestigious accolades that can be paid to any individual in their lifetime.One just has to take a look at past recipients who read like a list of pedigree in areas such as Physics,Chemistry and literature to know that the recipients are in good company.
Africa boasts of only one woman on that list and that is Professor Wangari Maathai of the Green Belt Movement.This lady who was a one time Mp of Tetu Constituency has a long history of commendable work in all matters environmental in the country.In the 80’s when Uhuru Park faced annihilation from private developers she faced down the Kanu government at the time and one of the last green spots of the city in the sun was saved.
This year our very able Minister of Forestry and Wildlife Noah Wekesa was in Central Kenya to launch a guidebook on the planting of the eucalyptus tree.Reading the press release on the launch on the Kenya Forestry Services website,i tried to look for a really good reason as to why we needed this tress that have been known to suck up water like a sponge and dry up water sources wherever they have found root.Most of the reasons given for planting this tress was their fast maturity rate and the fact that one could get upto three thousand Kenya shillings for one tree.This according to one farmer was the reason why he cleared his farm of coffee which was not bringing in enough money and he opted for the trees.
A few days later Professor Wangari was up in arms against this project,reiterating the very same things she has said over the years,the trees are a bad idea.But it seems no one is listening despite the impressive track record she has had over the years no one is listening to the Prof.
This begs the question,why is the government following through on this disastrous path?Have they thoroughly evaluated the impact of en masse planting of eucalyptus trees?it was shocking to hear one of the reasons given at the launch for the planting of the tree was because Kenyans were trooping to Tanzania to buy timber ,so we needed to tap into these demand to beat the Tanzanians.
With the National Environmental Management Authority busy implementing laws to curb littering in public vehicles,have they done an environmental impact report on the viability of the eucalyptus project?I was reading a report on the eucalyptus tree in Aracruz in Brazil it was quite a detailed report and according to their evaluation the eucalyptus had little if no impact on the water levels in the areas it was planted.
Though the jury may still be out on this,it is important for both the government and environmental bodies and lobbyists to be on the same page as regards the project.Just imagine three decades later when everyone has forgotten about the furor that was raised over the issue and the water sources in Nyeri county and in other areas around the country have all dried up?
Let us hope that Kenyan always the most ingenious of people when it comes to making an extra buck will thoroughly follow through with the guidelines the Kenya Forestry services has issued.Farmers have been advised not to plant the tree along river beds or near water catchment areas and if followed through it is hoped the country can increase its forest cover while also generating income for individuals who take up the project.