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Environmental Conservation in Kenya
Since Kenya gained independence in 1963, the country has prioritized the protection of its land alongside the development of its people. The focus on environmental conservation in Kenya benefits agriculture, alleviates poverty and promotes sustainable development.

Kenya is rich in biodiversity, containing deserts, savannas, wetlands, coral reefs and over 1 million hectares of closed canopy indigenous forests. The country has nearly 35,000 known species of plants, animals and microorganisms.

Historically, Kenya has been active in international climate conventions. In 2010, with the adoption of a new constitution, the Kenyan government made environmental conservation a civil obligation. The 2010 constitution takes an ecological perspective to sustainable development, advocating for conservation in the interest of both the earth and humanity.

 

The Need for Environmental Conservation in Kenya

 

Environmental management and rehabilitation strategies are essential in Kenya, as 70 percent of the country’s workers are employed in agriculture. In addition to this, ecotourism makes up nearly 20 percent of the country’s GDP.

Despite Kenya’s economic reliance on environmental health, 80 percent of the country’s land is arid or semi-arid. Only a small percentage of land is suitable for growing crops, and even these fertile areas are fragile. With poor agricultural management, the top soil is easily washed away.

Kenya’s poorest are the most likely to live in arid regions. Poverty cyclically increases with the scarcity of productive soil, clean water, effective sanitation and market opportunities. Without these critical resources, the poor are unable to improve their livelihoods.

Environmental conservation in Kenya is key to its development. While enforcing conservation is challenging due to population pressures, raising public awareness of environmental issues could also raise support for such measures.

As smallholder farmers seek arable land, they encroach on Kenya’s indigenous forests. Because of Kenya’s richness in non-timber forest products such as medicinal plants, essential oils and beeswax, the destruction of its forests harms both its wildlife and its economy. Conserving the forests is pivotal to protecting both Kenya’s resources and its 50 endangered species.

The beautiful mangrove forests and coral reefs that line Kenya’s Indian Ocean border are also a substantial form of revenue for the country, providing both ecotourism destinations and ecosystem services.

To further promote the ecological perspective of Kenya’s government, the Nature Conservancy and the Northern Rangelands Trust have collaborated to develop community conservancies in the northern semi-arid grasslands. These conservancies cover 3 million hectares, within which over 200,000 people from 17 different ethnic tribes reside. They strive to help Kenyan communities engage in environmental conservation.

The conservancies protect communal land for livestock and wildlife, teach grazing management techniques and provide opportunities for alternative income sources such as tourist lodges and campsites. The Northern Rangelands Trust also helps connect pastoralists to their markets, helping them access fair prices for their sustainably raised livestock.

Environmental conservation in Kenya greatly benefits its economic and social development. Sustainable development can help Kenya achieve the Kenya Vision for 2030, transforming the country into a clean, secure, middle-income nation.

Larkin Smith

Photo: Flickr

kenya-business
Thus far, Kenya’s economy depends largely on tourism, specifically safari tours. Travelers often spend the night in Nairobi, the region’s gateway to business, before their safari adventure. Kenya also benefits from pineapple production–a top five producer worldwide–through exporting both canned pineapple and juice concentrates. But there is much more to the booming country than tourism and agriculture. So what else is special about this east African nation?

Kenya is Young and Friendly

Youths serve as optimists for the future and in Nairobi, they keep the economy going. More than 60% of the population is less than 25 years old. Kenyans tend to be warm-hearted and welcoming to foreigners. While the national language in Swahili, many Kenyans speak English at a high level and are willing to converse with tourists about Kenyan culture.

While Kenya is sophisticated compared to its East African neighbors, the country still suffers from unemployment and poor infrastructure. Many of Kenya’s young cannot get jobs due to a lack of skills and opportunities.

The Diaspora Returns

Waiting an hour and a half for a pizza in Nairobi? Rotesh Doshi would rather not. After studying at the London School of Economics, he pursued work opportunities abroad. When he had the chance to bring United States-based franchise, Naked Pizza, to Nairobi, he took it and ran with it.

Although it is his hometown, Doshi found many challenges to setting up a business in Nairobi, including poor infrastructure, government bureaucracy and a short supply of skilled human labor. “You often ask yourself ‘is it worth it’ when a lot more things go wrong than right,” Doshi said. “But there is nothing else that I would rather be doing right now, especially being part of that growth story in my own country.”

Promising Entertainment Industry

Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar win for her supporting performance in 12 Years a Slave gives Kenya’s entertainment industry a ray of hope. With 40% of Kenya’s workforce unemployed, and 70% of those being less than 35 years old, successes like Nyong’o’s show young people that they can, in fact, make it in the entertainment sector, which can then boost the economy.

The government hopes to do this through establishing a film school and promoting the entertainment industry as a legitimate avenue for job creation. Kenya looks to Nigeria for inspiration. Nigeria’s film industry, referred to as “Nollywood,” produces about 50 films per week–many more than Hollywood and second only to India’s Bollywood.

Attracting New Businesses

Food processing giant Del Monte set up a Kenyan branch called Cirio Del Monte Kenya to take advantage of the region’s high-yielding pineapple production. In the technology sector, Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung announced plans for a new assembly plant in Nairobi, positioning the city as the East African center of operation.

With businesses like Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and IBM opening regional hubs in Nairobi comes the opportunity for more employment for the country’s youth. Foreign businesses that are setting up their African headquarters in centrally located Nairobi also benefit local businesses, like Kenya Airways.

– Haley Sklut 

Sources: BBC, How We Made It In Africa, All Africa, US Embassy, Career Nation
Photo: Sida