Man and Nature Need Not Tussle

Published on 14th April 2009

Man cannot do without nature, but nature can do without man, probably that’s why God the creator of both nature and man, created man last after creating nature.

The political controversy and fire surrounding the Mau forest is a big blow to conservation efforts in Kenya. One may ask …why are we loosing our Kenyan biodiversity at this alarming rate? There are many answers to this question, but all the answers will reflect on human activities.

A pathway in a forest  Photo:Courtesy
We need to start appreciating nature from the family level. I remember during a school visit to the national Museums of Kenya, I was immensely fascinated by the archeology section. Nature should be appreciated at all times and this will help people to appreciate it more. As Fleur Ngweno, a birder and a member of Nature Kenya puts it…Birding helps people to appreciate birds which are part of nature, and this will help them see the need for conservation.

Nature Kenya or the East Africa Natural History Society plays a great role in connecting nature with people through a unique approach of working with site support groups and identification of important Bird areas. The site support groups are involved in environmental friendly incoming generating activities like beekeeping, wool spinning and dairy farming.

As Nature Kenya celebrates a hundred years of existence, we can borrow a leaf from the site support groups, which conserve the environment at the same time practice income generating activities. Some of these site support groups are in Arabuko Sokoke forest, Kinangop grassland and Kereita forest among others.

Mr. Matiku, Nature Kenya’s CEO says that communities should be fully involved in conservation activities. Ignoring nature is done at our peril. We should not leave the burden to environmental scientists only. Very few people think of environment conservation. Lake Nakuru, a lake that has been famous for Flamingoes has joined the list of dying lakes in Kenya. Most of the wetlands that feed this lake have dried up. Sometimes birds are good indicators of looming danger in an ecosystem. Flamingoes have been migrating in large numbers from Lake Nakuru, a sign of danger.

We need a change in the way people view nature, and this has to start from the very basic level. For example if you find a snake in your house, you should not start saying it’s a bad omen. Maybe, you stay near a bush that is a good habitat for this snake, get to know if this type of snake is poisonous and appreciate it first.

Encouraging local tourism is another way that will allow people appreciate nature more hence the need to conserve it. Some communities that live near game reserves and parks have never had the opportunity to visit these places. In addition, people living near such places have always been viewed as a menace to wildlife. When a resource is held in higher esteem than the locals residing with it, conservation conflicts arise. When people don’t benefit from the resource that they neighbour, there is little incentive for conservation.

It is time that conservation efforts ceased to be lofty classroom ideals. The importance of conservation ought to be broken down in a language that local citizens can understand, showing practical benefits. The trickling of these benefits to the local citizens will be an incentive towards conservation. This was evident when Ugandans vehemently opposed President Museveni's bid to sell off Mabira Forest. Issues of resource ownership also need to be addressed. Together, we shall save our planet or together, we shall perish in it!

By Mary Mwendwa

TransWorld Radio

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