Remember back in the day when teachers and parents would describe animals to us when we were kids? Back then, there was a huge population of tuskers, especially in my home area. Tuskers was the term used to describe African elephants, those with tusks so long they touched the ground; and you would honestly believe they weighed a ton. The images of these elephants – and many other animals were everywhere – on clothes, paper bags, calendars, on souvenirs etc. they remain an irreplaceable symbol of Africa’s strength and natural diversity. But that image has been slowly fading away.
These magnificent tusks have been the unfortunate target for poachers worldwide leading to an increasing decrease in the number of elephants and rhinos who are hunted for their tusks.
That’s not all. Environmental degradation continues to haunt our economy; with only 8% of arable land and more than 75 percent of Kenya’s workforce and economy dependent on agriculture, environmental conservation remains an integral part of our country’s ecosystem.
In 2004, Wangari Maathai shook the world with her beliefs. Her beliefs that the environment should be protected. Her beliefs that had caused not just emotional but physical abuse on her. This strong woman, who was the first Kenyan woman to earn a Ph.D. in East Africa, made headlines again as the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in the seldom recognized field of environment. These efforts have continually been echoed by the WWF.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is a global conservation organization and one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations – supported by 5 million people and active in over 100 countries on 5 continents. Since the onset of its operations in Kenya in 1962 as an out posted office of WWF International, the Worldwide Fund for Nature Kenya has now transitioned into a national office after South Africa. For 50 years, the Wide World Fund for Nature (WWF) in Africa has worked to provide innovative solutions to conserve species and their habitats and maintain key ecological services; inspiring and mobilizing a wide range of stakeholders from community members, park rangers, to political leaders.
WWF is one of the biggest conservation organizations in the world. With a presence of offices in over 100 countries and more than 13,000 projects over their past 50 years of existence, some of the milestones that WWF Kenya have achieved are:
- They purchased private land in 1973 around Lake Nakuru National Park and donated it to the Kenyan Government. This brought the Lake Nakuru National Park to the current size of 188 square kilometers to ensure the conservation of flamingos.
- They have continually supported wildlife conservation by focusing on threatened species such as elephant, black rhino and marine turtles.
- WWF Kenya developed Kenya’s first water allocation plan for Lake Naivasha to ensure enough water remains in the lake after water has been extracted for industrial and domestic use.
- Down at the coast where 43 forests in Kilifi and Kwale are gazetted as monuments, WWF funded the National Museums of Kenya to set up the Coastal Forrest Conservation Unit in the 90s. In the 2000s, they also helped to restore the Kwale forest landscape as well as that of the Mau forest, whose importance in Kenya’s weather patterns cannot be over-emphasised.
- Development of Kenya’s first water allocation plan for Lake Naivasha to ensure enough water remains in the lake after water has been extracted for industrial and domestic use.
- Conduction of the first assessment of environmental flows in the Mara basin, to improve understanding of the hydrological regimes and the requirements of the Mara River.
These are just some of the conservation interventions that have been strategically undertaken by WWF Kenya to address the escalating menace that is environmental degradation in the country and now that they are fully registered as an NGO in the country, this means a significant benefit in the localization of operations and a more firm voice in matters concerning policy making and also when it comes to the punishment of those who do not abide by the rules and regulations set up to conserve the environment.
First lady Margaret Kenyatta who graced the launch in Nairobi congratulated the work done so far by WWF Kenya as a frontier in matters conservation. WWF has helped in the conservation and protection of threatened species, management of scarce water resources, conservation of disappearing forests, climate and energy work, management of marine resources, among others.
Under the Truly Global Initiative network initiative, WWF Kenya was selected as one of the six countries earmarked for acceleration to an NGO of the future. It is in this regard that WWF Kenya has progressing into full registration as a local NGO in Kenya registered under the NGO Act 2013.
The launch of the WWF office also preceded the launch of a five year strategic plan that will influence the environmental and sustainability interventions in Kenya. The road to securing the safety of the environment for future generations of our society has not been easy. With the increasing rate of development in the country, more trees are being cut down to make way for hubs in the cities, more waste is being disposed in the wrong areas and more and more industrialization continues to contribute to the general heating up of the atmosphere due to greenhouse gases. However there is hope.
There exists a number of great opportunities to leverage sound natural resource management for greater impact in Kenya which include a new constitutional order, rapidly evolving policy and institutional environments, active civil society and a devolved governance regime, among others – a mission that WWF Kenya endeavours to ensure.
Prof. Judi Wakhungu, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources said that the WWF is currently establishing a Sustainable Investments Hub to forge a closer relationship with financial institutions and investors to promote international best practice in financing development and implementation of relevant sector environmental and social safeguard standards. “This is timely noting that our country is currently implementing various large-scale developments, which should have an important environmental component. WWF’s contribution in the development of the Kenya Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan in addition to spatial planning across various counties in the country is much appreciated.”
Speaking at the launch, the First lady emphasized on the importance of the Strategic Framework plan that is to provide WWF-Kenya with an unparalleled catalyst for change in conservation that will build and protect the resources of this country. The plan will especially focus on the protection of natural resources which are depended on by the over 44 million population of the country in many ways.
Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans still heavily depend on nature to provide for their daily food, fuel and shelter; and the recent robust economic growth in the region & new consumption patterns of the emerging middle-class are rapidly changing the face of the country. Consumption patterns in the Kenya are growing at a rapid rate and our nature and natural resources are under greater pressure than ever before. Life-sustaining ecosystems are rapidly degrading, thus compromising our future food security, health and wellbeing of generations to come. All these situations are creating new challenges for conservation efforts.
Kenya’s rich natural assets are extremely vital for our citizens livelihoods and economic development and the setting up of the WWF Kenya office in the country is a dream come true for us all as it gives us a giant leap in conservation efforts. And for the first time in a very long time, the hope I had had for future generations to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Kenya’s resources is slowly being restored.