UNEP Pledges Support and Calls for Donor Action to Meet the USD $ 99 Million Target
Nairobi, 5 May 2010 – Donors Wednesday pledged approximately USD $10 million in support of the Kenyan Government’s appeal to save the vital Mau Forest Complex, at a Partners Forum convened by the Kenyan Government and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The appeal, launched last September, aims to mobilize resources for the rehabilitation of the Mau, the largest closed-canopy forest ecosystem in Kenya covering over 400, 000 hectares – the size of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares. In recent years, over 25 percent of the Mau Forest cover has been lost to ecosystem encroachments threatening natural capital, biodiversity and livelihoods in Kenya and the region.
According to a Kenyan Government project document, over USD $ 99 million are needed to restore the entire Mau ecosystem.
A total of USD $ 7 million was pledged by the United States Government to finance a Watershed Conservation pilot project in the upper catchment of the Mara River. The project aims to help restore forest ecosystems and to create more secure land titles and better livelihoods for residents.
Meanwhile, the European Union is expected to contribute Euro 2.3 million (approximately USD $ 3 million) to be disbursed over a period of 36 months to restore the Mau Forest Ecosystem and create a sustainable basis for its conservation and management. The EU project aims to strengthen key capacities and develop innovative approaches in support of governance, livelihood development and ecosystem rehabilitation.
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “I would like to commend the Kenyan Government for the sensitive way it is handling the complex issue of resettlement and the involvement of forest dependent people in the process.”
He added, “I would also like to commend donors for having risen to the request for assistance. Together we have gone from the science, spotlighting the degradation of the Mau, through the economics in terms of what this large close canopy forest means to key sectors and the Kenyan economy as a whole, to beginning the implementation of restoration and rehabilitation.”
Kenyan Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, said “Kenyans have accepted that the restoration of the Mau and other water towers is a critical sustainable development imperative. Consensus has now emerged that the very existence of many communities and the welfare of the country depend on how we live with our forests and our ecosystems, and indeed how we address the key environmental challenges of our time.”
The Prime Minister added, “As we move forward to rehabilitate the Mau Forest, we are conscious of the fact that we have a duty to be sensitive to the human and social needs of those who must leave the forest. This is essential, because the sustainability of any rehabilitation efforts will depend on these very people as friends of the forest. So far, illegal activities have been reduced by an estimated 60 – 70 per cent in southern Mau.”
The Kenyan Government is undertaking the rehabilitation of the Mau Forests Complex in five phases, of which the first two phases have been completed. During phase one, 4,530 hectares of unoccupied forest land were repossessed. As part of phase two, an additional, 19.000 hectares were repossessed from illegal squatters by December 2009; a decision that was in keeping with the recommendation of the Mau Task Force report, approved by the Kenyan Cabinet and Parliament. Over 1,400 hectares of forest have been replanted and plans are underway to rehabilitate an additional 5,000 more hectares during the current rain season.
Prime Minister Odinga noted that the goodwill and commitment of local communities to the Mau restoration project have been crucial to the success of the project pointing out that, so far, up to 42 large-scale titles have been surrendered back to the Government without any demand for compensation.
The news comes as UNEP and the Convention on Biological Diversity launch on Monday a report entitled Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 in which the challenges and opportunities of improved forest management are brought in sharp focus in 2010 – the UN International Year of Biodiversity.
A report released by the Mau Interim Coordinating Secretariat in September warned that if encroachment and unsustainable exploitation of the forest ecosystem continue, it will only be a matter of time before the entire ecosystem is irreversibly damaged with significant socio-economic consequences and ramifications to internal security and conflict.
At the global level, there are increasing concerns over biodiversity loss and increased carbon dioxide emissions as a result of forest cover loss and poor soil and water resources.
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