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‘Green’ growth needed to reach Kenya’s development goals – UN agency

‘Green’ growth needed to reach Kenya’s development goals – UN agency

Soil erosion near Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
An innovative United Nations atlas of Kenya using satellite images to pinpoint shrinking tea-growing areas, disappearing lakes, rising loss of tree cover and increased mosquito breeding grounds has highlighted the East African country’s need to invest in “green” development to escape from poverty.

The new 168-page publication, released today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), shows how environmental degradation is thwarting the Kenya’s current and future development opportunities.

Kenya’s “Vision 2030” is a national development blueprint that takes into account challenges it faces, including youth unemployment and rapid urbanization, and seeks to meet targets such as sustained economic growth in the next two decades.

“Kenya: Atlas of Our Changing Environment,” launched in Nairobi by the country’s Environment Minister John Michuki and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, is the first of its kind to document environmental changes in a single country through satellite images from the past 30 years.

“It highlights some success stories of environmental management around the country, but it also puts the spotlight on major environmental challenges including deforestation, soil erosion and coastal degradation,” the UNEP chief said.

He stressed that making the leap from poverty to prosperity will entail embarking on a green path to realize Kenya’s development potential.

The new atlas’ key findings include:

The amount of land available to each Kenyan has plummeted from 7.2 to only 1.7 hectares between 1960 and 2005 due to a surge in population, soaring from 8 million in 1960 to 38 million currently. The population is expected to continue growing, with land available per person forecasted to shrink to 0.3 hectares by 2050.

Only a 2 degrees Celsius climb in temperature would render large parts of Kenya unsuitable for tea growing, which accounts for more than one-fifth of the country’s total export earnings. Roughly 400,000 smallholder farmers grow 60 percent of Kenyan tea.

Lake Olbollosat, which has dried up and come back to life in the past, may disappear for good this time due to rapid population growth and the conversion of land cover within its catchment.