Mau saga proves Kenyans do not
care about environment
Story by JACKSON MWALULU
THOSE RIOTING OVER THE Government’s plan to comprehensively
restore the Mau complex should be understood within the context of
the typical Kenyan’s contempt for environmental conservation.
This contempt is underlined by the fact that one’s transfer or
appointment to the Ministry of Environment is treated as demeaning
to the individual and the community from which he or she hails.
This explains why since independence, no Environment minister has
left a mark in that docket.
In the 1980s and 1990s, we would roar with laughter at President
Moi’s vilification of Prof Wangari Maathai’s environmental
conservation efforts as the antics of a mad woman.
Looking back, this collective indifference to Mother Nature is all
the regime needed to wage a scorched earth war against our natural
heritage, with the Karura Forest and the Mau as the most
THE VENOM WITH WHICH SOME Rift Valley MPs greeted Prime Minister
Raila Odinga’s putting his foot down over the Mau is not
Indeed, Raila should take the legislators’ threat to withhold
their support for him and ODM seriously because, to their minds,
their political here and now matters more than the country’s
But this proposition could be wrong. The MPs, like the majority of
Kenyans, honestly cannot see what is wrong with their kinsmen/women
exploiting one of the most fertile agricultural lands in the
country. Looked at from this prism, Raila is an agent of hostile
forces on an evil mission to “finish” their people.
The argument that the Mau settlers hold title deeds to their
pieces of land is most incongruous because it cynically ignores
the bigger question of the survival of an entire region, with
Kenya and Tanzania as the most immediate casualties.
Still, since these Kenyans are merely victims of political myopia,
they should be handled with care. They should be offered
attractive incentives, including commensurate financial
To begin to address the question of environmental concerns, a
deliberate, continuous public education on the virtues of
preserving the environment should be carried out throughout the
country to sensitise Kenyans on the link between famine, disease,
poverty and natural disasters and environmental degradation.
The need for an integrated governmental approach here cannot be
gainsaid. Mr Odinga cannot leave a better legacy than leading
Kenyans into a safer environment. This job should not be hard for
the Premier given that he has on his side two result-loving
ministers – Mr John Michuki (Environment) and Dr Noah Wekesa (Forestry
Environmental care has assumed central importance globally, and
governments are taking the lead. Kenya can borrow from some of the
best examples internationally, one of them being China.
Though pilloried as the world’s chief polluter mainly due to rapid
industrialisation and population pressure, China, after perennial
disastrous floods and famines, has adopted policies which aim to
restore its environment.
The country has invested billions in two programmes named China
Natural Forest Conservation and Grain to Green. The former is
aimed at rectifying the damage caused by years of unbridled
logging which has led to soil erosion. It bans logging and
replaces forests through a plethora of incentives to forest
The Grain to Green approach works to convert crop land on steep
slopes to forests and grasslands by providing affected farmers
with grain and cash subsidies.
KENYA CAN GO FOR A SIMILAR APproach by adopting a one-adult-one
tree policy where each living Kenyan adult is required by law to
successfully grow one tree in their life time. Secondly, the
Government can pay Kenyans a token to turn portions of their farm
lands into forests.
But forests, important as they are, are not the end-all in
environmental care and management. Pollution, the other area
Kenyans excel in, is equally worrying, and here is why.
Millions of tonnes of plastic materials litter the entire country.
The few surviving rivers flow with water which is dangerous for
human consumption. Those who live in cities like Nairobi will
confess that pollution due to a combination of industrial
activities and motor vehicles is making life unbearable.
The country’s over-reliance on fossil fuels should be checked and
the spotlight turned instead on environment-friendly renewable