Our first Nobel laureate, the late Prof. Wangari Maathai once said that we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. That shift in thinking needs to begin with those charged with the duty of making our laws, if we’re to protect our life-support system.
Over 3 million Kenyans faced starvation last year as a result of a prolonged drought which greatly messed up with normal food production in the country. The pinch was felt in the economy as government struggled to subsidize the cost of food prices.
Perhaps we need to take time and study why we’re never able to deal with cyclic events like drought more than 50years after independence. Thankfully the rains came early in the year but like the drought, the floods also caught us flat footed and at the same time exposed how poorly designed our roads are but I digress.
According to Action Against Hunger statistics, an estimated one in every four children in Kenya suffers from stunted growth from chronic under nutrition. Not to mention that a great part of this country is semi-Arid and Arid meaning if we continue with our illegal cutting down of trees, Kenya, in a few years will become a desert. This is not hyperbole.
Our forest cover is diminishing at an alarming rate and it’s sad to see the people tasked with protecting the environment are the ones destroying it. A task force commissioned by the Environment CS, Keriako Tobiko to look into the forest management and investigate the logging menace found that corruption encouraged by the Kenya Forest Services (KFS) staff was the main reason behind the depletion of the forest cover. Prior to this report the new Environment CS had fired at least 10 KFS staff in connection to the illegal cutting down of trees.
Unfortunately, some MPs were raising hell over Environment CS Tobiko’s decision to fire these staff at the KFS. The MPs in the Environment Committee were quick to blame the CS over intimidating and harassing the KFS staff only for them to change tune later demanding an overhaul of the entire board after it became clear they (KFS staff) were indeed corrupt. This does not reflect well on the legislators. They must be on the fore front on this war and by no means appear opportunistic only acting out of what looks like fear of public out-lash.
And as the MPs in the Environment committee give the CS that much needed support, we expect their counter-part in the National Administration and Security Committee get answers from the Ministry of Interior over the outright breaking of the law by the police who are supposed to nub the offenders.
Reports are rife in the local media of senior police officers misusing their public positions to order ferrying of charcoal and timber using police tracks that bypass the usual inspections. That officers who should nub the illegal goods are transporting the same are signs of a broken society and shows just how deep the rot goes. The timber/charcoal business is booming so much that nearly all police units are complicit; from traffic to anti-stock theft unit.
As the body that oversights Executive and helps in government accountability, Parliament must flex its muscles now and help bring to end the illegal cutting down of trees that’s making prolonged droughts a common occurrence and thereby creating other problems in the agricultural sector. It’s also Parliament that should reign in on contractors designing and building houses and structures that do not consider environmental concerns.
Meanwhile as citizens we must be mindful of our environment lest Mother Nature shows us the worst yet. We should perform citizen arrests where possible but avoid extreme measures like torching vehicles found transporting charcoal. Meanwhile, the Parliament as the custodian of the people’s interest should propose and enact a tree-planting day where all Kenyans are tasked to plant at least one tree per household. This could go a long way in helping restore the forest cover.