World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) 2016

Venue: Sidika Primary School, Migori County
Date: 17th June, 2016
Theme: Inclusive cooperation for achieving land degradation neutrality
Slogan: “Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People”
WDCD 2016 event advocates for the importance of inclusive cooperation to restore and rehabilitate degraded and contribute towards achieving the overall Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  In order to ‘leave no one behind’ as proclaimed in the new Sustainable Development Goals, achieving land degradation neutrality needs to be in the forefront to meet our requirements and develop sustainability.

Background information
The proposed venue for this year’s national (Kenya) commemoration of the World Day to Combat Desertification is Sidika Primary School grounds. The school is in Karundu Division of Nyatike Sub County of Migori County. The school also neighbours Sidika Secondary School. The area is semi-arid and has all the characteristics of an emerging desert, with prolonged dry spells and short erractic rains.

The proposed site has land measuring about 5 hectares within the school compound where the school management has planted some trees which are doing well. This is the area earmarked to plant some of the 2500 seedlings pledged by the Kenya Forest Service to be supplied free of charge. The Sidika community, groups and households neighbouring the proposed site shall host the event.
The preparation for WDCD commemoration, has involved two Steering Committees at the national level (4 meetings held by end of May) coordinated by the National Environment Management Authority an institution under the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities, and at the County level the Local Steering Committee under the County Government of Migori. The composition of these committees covers all relevant government and Civil Society organizations. The county committee will identify various activities to be undertaken during the commemoration.
The main activities will include tree planting, a procession, exhibitions, media talk shows and a visit to selected rehabilitated areas in the county near the venue. The climax will be the various messages by dignitaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary Prof. Judi Wakhungu of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities. Others will be the Director General of NEMA Prof Geoffrey Wahungu and the representatives of UNEP and UNDP. The sponsors and partners who have supported the effort are Safaricom (most successful mobile phone service Provider Company in Kenya, UNDP, KFS and NETFUND.

In Migori County, the total area under forest cover is about 695.5 ha out of which 43% is woodland while the rest is plantation located on various hills. 435.5 ha of the forest land are gazetted and 260 ha are non – gazetted forests. There are 19 identified forests in the county with 16% of the population involved in forestry activities.
The Kenya Forest Service is involved in a campaign to sensitize the community to plant more trees. In addition, the government initiated several projects such as the Kazi Kwa Vijana Programme and the World Bank funded Kenya Youth Empowerment Project which has been involved in extensive planting of trees across the constituencies. Major challenges faced in conservation of forests include charcoal burning and frequent outbreaks of wild forest fires. These forests are: Nyasoko, Sagegi, Magina, Giribe, Otacho, Nyamarere, Rabuor, Ranen, Kwa, Aroso, Ombo, Omange, Got Kogalo, Nyaitara, Gatambega, Tarakwiti, Nyandiri and Makangwa among others.
Several Hectares of forest cover are lost every year through illegal logging, encroachment, settlement, cultivation and development projects in forest reserves. In addition, unsuitable utilization of these resources, lack of capacity to value forest goods and services, forest fires, lack of harmonized guidelines on management of trans-boundary forest resources and lack of forest zoning.
The major forests such as Nyatike, Got-kachola are being deforested at an alarming rate due to charcoal production, logging, encroachment and settlements.
The main forest products include timber, wood fuel and charcoal. Some of the trees and shrubs have medicinal value and are used in the extraction of herbal medicine. Poles and posts are also increasing being produced for purposes of fencing and electricity transmission.

Those who engage in tree farming usually accrue incomes from sale of timber, poles, posts, fire wood and charcoal. The practice is still low but steadingly rising in consideration of the improving prices at the market place.

The county lies in the lowlands and depends mainly on rivers whose sources are in the highlands. However, there are numerous springs whose protection is necessary. The government and other development partners have been engaged in protection of the springs and wells in the county thereby improving access to safe drinking water to the public.
Conservation of these water catchments is vital for the county’s survival and prosperity. Conservation is being undertaken by government agencies such as the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS) among other stakeholders with increasing the tree covers at the water catchment areas being top priority.

Most agricultural and mining activities lead to soil erosion within the county but efforts are being made to sensitize farmers on good farming practices to curb environmental degradation. The low lying areas of Nyatike Sub County are mostly affected by erosion from storm water. The Department of Agriculture has spearheaded efforts to prevent soil erosion and rehabilitate degraded areas. The measures include; building of gabions, digging terraces in the farms, planting of grass. The proposed irrigation project in lower Kuja River will also assist the management of the storm water and mitigate against soil erosion.

The forests in the county are a source of wood fuel mainly through harvesting of the dead wood. However, the use of wood fuel has to be sustainable. The cessation of massive tobacco growing has saved the trees that would otherwise have been used as fuel wood for curing. Firewood constitutes 79.7% of the households’ energy demand while charcoal accounts for 16,7%. Efforts to provide alternatives sources of energy like solar and LPG are slowly being adopted and promoted by the Department of Energy and the NGOs but the uptake is still slow.
The fertiliser trees growing in the county are mainly the nitrogen fixing trees such as sesbania, calliandra species, luecena species which are exotic trees and acacia species which are natural trees. Other agro forestry trees grown include: Dombeya goetinezii, Markhamia lutea, Grevillea robusta, and Cordial abyssinca among others.

Fruit trees are grown in the county though in small scale and specifically for domestic use. Some fruit trees also grow naturally in the forest reserves. The fruit trees grown are notably mango trees passion fruit.

Trees and forests play an important role in carbon sequestration and act as carbon sinks for soaking more carbon than they emit. In the reduction of the greenhouse gases emissions the County has initiated measures like adoption of greener technologies, tree planting and reforestation.

Environmental Degradation Causes
The major contributors of the environmental degradation in the county include overstocking, flooding, mining, deforestation, and high population density. The community majorly in Nyatike and Kuria East Sub-Counties keep large herds of cattle which have led to overgrazing hence causing soil erosion. The back flow of the Lake Victoria waters causes damages to crops, homesteads and livestock along the lakeshore. It also causes flooding of River Kuja along the lower regions of Nyatike leading to the formation of gulley’s and eventually soil erosion. Mining has also left large parcels of land derelict. Soil erosion takes place and heavily pollutes dams and rivers especially River Migori.
Water supply to major rivers in the county has declined significantly due to deforestation. This affects the agricultural sector directly and indirectly resulting into reduced crop productivity and subsequent food deficits in Migori County.
In the last decades, frequencies and severity of drought in the county has increased, as a result livestock industry has severely been affected especially in Nyatike areas thus leading to shortage of livestock products and loss of livelihood of pastoral communities.
Environmental degradation has resulted in severe climatic changes whose effects are currently being felt by the residents. These climatic changes effects include rain pattern changes, massive soil erosion, landslides and prolonged drought seasons. The above effects have resulted to reduced agricultural productivity which has in turn jeopardized the already vulnerable food security given that residents of the county are agriculture dependent.

Various government institutions including KFS, NEMA and KWS together with NGOs such as World Vision have embarked on mitigation measures to reverse the adverse climatic change effects. Adaptation strategies like afforestation and protection of catchment areas have been initiated. Proper land use practices including enforcements of the various Acts and Laws have been advocated and disseminated by agricultural and environmental practitioners in a bid to mitigate the climate change effects and prevent further environmental degradation.
Migori is endowed with mineral resources that are scattered within the county. There are Gold deposits in Masara, Macalder, Masaba, Kehancha, Kitere, Kamwango (Rongo) and Migori, Carlos mines in Kehancha and Prancis mines in the Kuria-Transmara border. Equally Copper, Azurite and Silver deposits are found in Macalder. The exploration of these minerals at commercial levels has not been determined although currently individual and cooperative prospecting is being done on artisanal scale.
The mining methods currently under use are both surface and underground. Surface mining involves both alluvial mining and mechanical mining such as open cast, while underground mining involves supported and unsupported mining methods. The challenges that arise from mining are; acid mine drainage (AMD), air and noise pollution, frequent collapse of mines, heavy metals pollution, mine caving and mercury pollution.
In addition to gold mining potential, the county has adequate deposits of good quality sand along Lake Victoria and major rivers like Migori, Kuja and Kuria. Hardcore stones which are crushed for ballast are also available in plenty in the upper regions of Nyatike. Ballast and sand are therefore comparatively cheap within the county and sufficient to meet the future requirements in the construction industry.
Migori County has abundant deposits of clay soils which have been proved to be suitable for brick making and pottery. They are plenty especially in parts of Uriri, Rongo and Kuria constituencies. Rock deposits from which hard core and stone can be extracted for construction industry are also available in upper regions of Nyatike and Uriri.
Tourism plays a major role as it brings revenue to the county government. It is imperative to promote sustainable tourism measures and practices within the county. Some of the tourists’ attraction sites within the Migori County include Thimlich Ohinga historical sites Migori main wildlife attractions are birds found in small forest patches, primates and in the lake shore environment.
Migori has potential tourist attraction sites, this include Gogo Fall, Traditional Caves, historical sites like Nyora caves, and sporting activities like fishing. The lake shores offer sandy beaches with potential for development of tourist sites.
Migori County acts as a transit point to tourist and traders moving into Tanzania. Most hotels in the county are geared towards accommodating transit guests and therefore lack amenities associated with tourism.

NEMA participates in a successful UNCCD COP12, Ankara, Turkey

Decision makers from 195 member states (about 6000 delegates) attended and discussed solutions to issues related to Desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD). The Executive Secretary of the UNCCD Monique Barbut noting that Land rehabilitation is one of the pathways to sustainable development, by rehabilitating degraded land, many of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) would be more attainable. Land that is properly nurtured fosters food and water security and reverses negative climate change impacts such as forced migration, by cultivating opportunities for growth and ensuring stability. To invest in the land is to invest in sustainable livelihoods therefore the goal of COP12 is to provide practical steps to make the rehabilitation of degrading land areas a reality. The Parties were asked to identify ways to contribute to success of the 2015 Climate Change Conference in December in Paris.

NEMA was represented by Dr Kennedy Ondimu the Director Planning and Research Coordination and Mr Francis Inganga the Acting Deputy Director Environmental Rsearch who is also the National Science and Technology Correspondent. The head of the delegation was Mr Richard Mwendnandu of the Director of MEAs at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) as appointed by the Cabinet Secretary. The others from various MDAs and CSOs were as follows: Mutie Nzau, Humphrey Rutto, B. Manyonge, Silas Mulehi, Julius Mwangi, Dr Warugute, Andrew Machora, E. Osoro, Dan Marangu Kithinji, Gibson Kiragu, Frank Msafiri (CSO), George Orina, Dr Jane Wamuongo and Geoffrey Nyamasege. It was the biggest delegation ever participated in UNCCD COP from Kenya.
Mr Inganga, Dr Wamuongo and Julius Mwangi attended and participated in the Committee on Science and Technology (CST -12) meetings and many side events one of which Mr Inganga was a panelist. They also joined the others to participate in the Africa Group meetings almost on daily basis to contribute to the African region position on most of the issues to be negotiated. Mr Mwendandu, Dr Ondimu, Dr Warugute and Dan Kithinji among others participated in the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC-14). During the side event in which Mr Inganga was a panelist he presented a paper entitled: “Drought Risk Management Policies for Sustainable Development: The Kenyan situation” emphasizing the RISKS AND vulnerability of communities in the drylands. Dr Swasuri the Chair of the National Land Commission (NLC) also attended the COP. Three Members of Parliament led by the Deputy Speaker Laboso attended the Parliamentary sessions. Mr Kilonzo Kiema the Ambassador of Kenya to Turkey was also present and assisted the delegates greatly.
It was agreed that the Kenya delegation members should strive to attend all sessions, side events and most important the Contact Groups meetings and Round Table Meetings. Therefore it was agreed during the preparatory meetings that the delegation was hold meetings while in Ankara to strategize on full participation.
Kenya delegation carried the message that the successful twelfth session of the COP will depend on right strategies and tactics of the negotiators. Good teams need to be put in place for negotiations on identified issues of importance for the African (read Kenya) Group. Africa and world community should keep the momentum at the COP level and be open to new positive ideas and proposals for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted recently.
Finally, Kenya was guided in its position by the result of the Africa regional meeting held in Pretoria in preparation for the COP12. Noting that, the African Group, together with G77 and China, will continue to work towards strengthening the implementation of the Convention in close cooperation with other Parties as well as in partnership with NGOs and other components of the civil society.
UNCCD COP 12 opened on Monday the 12th 2015, in Ankara, Turkey. The high-level segment was took place on Tuesday, the 20th and Wednesday the 21st of October 2015. During the high level segment, the Ministers and other head of states held round-table discussions to identify possible solutions to water scarcity, land degradation and desertification while upholding efforts to mitigate the effects of drought and preventing further degradation. It was also noted that through policy implementation, achieving a land degradation neutral (LDN) world is within reach. The round tables had the themes: “the climate change”, “the relationship of the desertification with the water and drought’ and lastly “land degradation neutrality”.

On the 12th, during the opening ceremony, Prof Veysel Eroglu, Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs, Turkey as the COP12 President took over after endorsement from Pohamba Shifeta, Minister of Environment and Tourism, Namibia, the President of the COP 11. In his speech Prof Veysel stressed that Climate Change, desertification and drought are among the foremost global challenges today directly affection over 1.5billion people. He challenged everybody to plant one tree seedlings towards addressing these problems.
Welcoming participants, UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut after leading the delegates in a minute of silence for the victims of terrorist bombing in Ankara on Saturday the 10th of October, she said that the convention is an “organization in motion” and noted the increased recognition of land issues at the global level, highlighting the inclusion of the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) target in the SDGs and acknowledgement of the role of land in climate change negotiations. She reiterated that achieving a LDNW is key to achieving progress on other issues, including the water-energy-food nexus and eradication of extreme poverty. She expressed hope for guidance to enhance the scientific base of the Convention, a target-setting approach, and monitoring action programmes at all levels.

After the round-table meetings, the General Assembly Ministerial Session agreed that the decisions of the COP will be presented to the Climate Change Summit that will be held in Paris in December 2015, by the Cop12 president.
Approximately 6,000 participants of the COP adopted 35 decisions following deliberations on agenda items related to desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD), including how to pursue the target to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN) and how to align the UNCCD’s goals and parties’ action programmes with the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Parties also considered messages for the Paris Climate Change Conference, which will take place from 30th November to11th December 2015.

It is worth pointing out that all the 35 decisions of the COP12 will have far reaching ramification on affairs of this country in terms of addressing issues of the SDG number 15 and especially the target 15.3. The country needs to move with speed to implement the recently developed National Action Programme (NAP) 2015-2025 for the next 15 years by involving everybody at national and county levels.

 It is crucial that Kenya links UNCCD activities with climate change and biological diversity activities in Kenya (a forum be established where the three UN conventions matters can be transacted in an integrated manner) for the domestication of the same
 Equally for synergetic approach to the three Rio Conventions (UNFCCC, UNCCD and UNCBD) especially as it touches on implementation and reporting, NEMA and the government should support the participation of all the desk officers in all the COPs of the three conventions for them to understand their interrelationships.
 Kenya to adopt all the 35 decisions arrived at during the COP12 and its related subsidiary bodies
 After alignment of the NAP to The Strategy, Kenya shall have to set aside funds for reviewing the same in the next few years to align it to the SDGs especially the SDG 15 with its target 15.3
 The Government of Kenya to support implementation of the NAP through allocation of funds to the relevant sectors including involvement of CSOs
 The Government of Kenya to support documentation of Best/ good Practices in various parts of the country with a view of reporting on the same to the UNCCD through the PRAIS system next reporting cycle next year 2016
 Enhance information sharing between sectors in the area of DLDD and SLM
 Lobby the government to allocate resources towards meeting the newly adopted SDGs especially the one on LDN (SDG number15 with the target 15.3)

UNCCD COP12 in Ankara Turkey

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) l hosted its Twelfth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP12) in Ankara, Turkey, from 12 October to 23 October 2015. The conference took place at the Congresium Ankara-ATO International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Decision-makers from 195 member states attended COP12 to discuss solutions to issues related to desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD).

The COP’s two subsidiary bodies, the Committee on Science and Technology (CST) and the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC), also convened in Ankara during COP12. The CST represents the scientific platform for collaborations with the UNCCD, and l met for its 12th session. The CRIC is responsible for reviewing implementation efforts for the convention. It will convene for its 14th session.

COP delegates hope to strengthen and expand stakeholder engagement and encourage more involvement of the parliamentarians, civil society organizations and the private sector in identifying and developing solutions to land degradation. Through collaboration and policy implementation, achieving a land degradation neutral (LDN) world is within reach. The UNCCD also hopes to garner support for the Global Land Outlook, an in-progress publication to serve as a reference document for businesses looking to support sustainable initiatives
A lot more was planned around the COP. Ahead of United Nations General Assembly, the Economics of Land Degradation initiative issued a report on the findings of the studies undertaken so far. Social media campaigns to mobilize public awareness and support for the COP outcomes took place. A media training conducted for journalists, including non-sponsored journalists