“Man is a complex being: he makes deserts bloom – and lakes die.” ― Gil Scott-Heron
Due to increasing human population, wasteful consumption and production patterns, nature is slowly succumbing to the unsustainable pressure causing environmental degradation. If we do not work together, communities and institutions alike, we will soon rather than later feel the sting that comes with neglect to the environment.
It is no secret that production and manufacturing emissions play a big role in environmental degradation. As environmental conservation awareness continues to spread, more and more companies are taking responsibility for their effect on the environment and taking measures to curb them. Safaricom Foundation is going green and I am not talking about its logo. Earlier this year, in a bid, to reduce the effect of production activities on the environment, Safaricom signed an MOU with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to promote low carbon emission in the country. The agreement will focus on rapid transformation to renewable energy in Kenya, reduce pollution, promote electric mobility and green finance in the country.
Our connection to nature is intrinsically woven into the fabric of our existence. We must therefore protect and keep it intact- Safaricom Foundation
Since its inception, The Safaricom Foundation has been keen to promote and work towards environmental conservation which is in line with their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG15). The foundation has undertaken various projects to promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustain forests to combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
The Safaricom Foundation has for the last 13 years worked with Ngare Ndare Forest Trust in supporting afforestation and reforestation in a bid to restore forest cover. Ngare Ndara forest is an indigenous forest located in Northern Kenya at the foothills of Mt. Kenya. Its glistening pools, waterfalls, and trees that form a wide canopy support a large variety of animals and birds. The forest is the primary water source for the River Ewaso Nyiro that serves a lot of the neighbouring communities. However, the forest had been depleted by the ‘shamba’ system and overgrazing which increased the risk of human-wildlife conflict.
The idea behind the partnership with Ngare Ndare Forest Trust steamed from their project which involves protection and restoration of 22 endangered water towers in the country. Their partnership with Ngare Ndare Forest Trust has seen them work with the nearby community members to continuously plant trees to increase forest cover. Every year, they plant approximately 9,000-11,000 trees. The Foundation funded the development of 15 large tree nurseries with a total of 1 million seedlings planted around the farmlands of the forest. It is important to involve the community in this process so they too understand the importance and need of conserving their forest cover. Many of us are oblivious to the damage we have caused to our environment and this is a great way to open people’s eyes.
As a result of the continuous tending of the 15 funded nurseries, their output has grown. The community nurseries have also grown from 11 to 13 and the seedling numbers have gone up to 90,000. At the beginning, 16,400 indigenous tree seedlings were planted in the forest along with 34,000 which were planted in the farmlands. The survival rate for this young trees is between 85-90% thus most of them grow to maturity which is a plus for the forest cover. The Foundation also assisted in clearing the vegetation cover that was obstructing the roads which could potentially be harmful.
The South West Mau Forest is one of the main Kenyan water towers. Covering about 40,000 hectares of land, about 10 million people depend on its rivers. Sadly even with such a high dependency, almost 25% of the forest cover has either been cut down or degraded. This is due to encroachment, livestock grazing, and poaching. In partnership with IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative and other organizations, the Safaricom foundation merged resources to protect this massive water catchment area. As a result, the drive to rehabilitate the forest has led to increased income for the households, alternate sources of fuel and provision of economic empowerment for the households. This shows the direct link between environmental conservation and increased quality of life.
One of the issues that most people living in close proximity with forest face is human-animal conflict. For years the residents of the area neighbouring the Aberdare National Park have suffered from the crop destruction caused by elephants. These continuous attacks have damaged their farms threatening their livelihood. In partnership with the Rhino Ark Charitable Fund, The Kenya Wildlife Service, and Kenya Forest Service, the Safaricom Foundation erected elephant grids which deter the elephants from roaming around the resident’s farms and terrorizing them. Residents can now live without fear and reclaim the farmland damaged by their fellow mammals.
The foundation also partnered with The M-PESA Foundation and The Kenyan Defense Forces to rehabilitate the damaged Mau Eburu Eco-system which is an 87 sq. km prime indigenous forest which supports a wide ecosystem. Over the years, the forest had undergone severe degradation to exploitation due to illegal lodging. This threatened its existence as a water catchment area. The funds were directed to erecting an electric fence to protect the forest so they could begin their work on restoration. The 500 participants planted over 5000 trees in a bid to restore the damaged forest cover.
There is still so much to be done in a bid to reclaim our forests and attain environmental sustainability. The Foundation remains firm in its goal to conserve the environment for the society and the generations to come. As individuals, we should also ensure that we do our part in environmental conservation. It may seem like a song sang once too many times but it is a fact. We may not be able to undo the damage already done over the years, but we can try and conserve what is left. Destruction of the environment is simply the destruction of human life.