Kenya’s General Election 2017: Party Manifestos expose lack of commitment to Environmental Issues

Press release - August 7, 2017
Nairobi, 2 August 2017 - The recent presidential debates in Kenya suggest that the country is headed in the wrong direction on key environmental matters. Party manifestos generally have an environment pillar but lack the critical elements required to address key environmental issues that plague the country, Greenpeace Africa Executive Director Njeri Kabeberi has noted.

With less than a week to the General Election, Kenya relies on imported maize to feed its population. The country is projected to witness a drop to an eight-year low in maize production due to the recent drought and pests’ invasion in many parts of the country. Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Willy Bett recently made an announcement that at least 2.8 million bags of maize will be imported by 31 July with a target of five million bags by end of August.

“A country importing its staple food is disturbing. This is essentially a recipe for yet another round of expensive unga (maize meal) come next year, which puts the people of Kenya in a compromising position. Access to food is a basic human right and should be prioritised,” said Greenpeace Africa’s Executive director, Njeri Kabeberi.

More than 70% of farmers in Kenya are smallholder farmers producing a bulk of the food being consumed in the county. There is a real opportunity for changing Kenya’s current food crisis by adopting policies that are geared towards a better farming system by empowering small holder farmers. Experts agree that the best way to build resilience against erratic weather patterns is through sustainable agricultural practices compatible with ecological farming which is proven to be more resilient in times of erratic climatic conditions.

“The Kenyan government has acknowledged the contribution of climate change to the recurring food insecurity in the country but the country’s response to the climate impacts has been slow and inconsistent with existing policy. Kenya needs to follow through with its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) with action not just words” continued Kabeberi.

The controversial coal-fired power plant proposed for the seaside town of Lamu–a UNESCO World Heritage site further exposes a lack of will and leadership in dealing with environmental issues. The economic risks of building a new coal plant in 2017 when coal plants are being cancelled around the world are high and the, socio-environmental impacts of coal expansion will be devastating for the communities living around the area.

“There is no such thing as 'clean coal! - every shape and form of using coal is dirty and highly polluting. With an abundance of renewable energy resources, Kenya needs to focus on sustainable energy alternatives such as solar and wind energy and stay away from pollution and carbon intensive coal fired power stations” added Kabeberi.

The recent ban on plastic bags by the East Africa Legislative Assembly which Cabinet Secretary, Prof Judi Wakhungu has adequately articulated for Kenya is a beacon of hope in fostering an environmentally conscious society. Research conducted by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) in conjunction with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA), revealed that 100 million plastic bags are handed out annually in Kenya by supermarkets alone. These plastics take hundreds of years to degrade, they also find their way into rivers, lakes and oceans where they not only become a health hazard and public nuisance but also contribute in the destruction of marine life. Greenpeace Africa will work with National and County governments towards making the ban effective as this will indeed mitigate health and environmental effects resulting from the use of plastic bags.

“Greenpeace Africa calls on the future Kenyan governments at both National and County levels to ensure that the ban is implemented and followed through. There is a growing need to put in place policies that will enable the country to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal number 7 towards ensuring environmental sustainability. The newly elected government(s) need to rethink their priorities on farming systems, food security, energy sources, pollution, especially of the country’s rivers and lakes and take bold steps on environmental issues that are key to ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come” concluded Kabeberi.

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