Among the speakers during the kick-off, Joost Van Monfort from IUCN Netherlands pointed out the need to take issues related to ecosystems seriously. He noted that 40% of global economies depend on ecosystems and 1.3 billion rural populations also depend on ecosystems. He further added that according to IUCN reports 28,000 species are under the brink of extinction.
He further emphasized on the major drivers for ecosystems that need urgent intervention being, land use, climate change and growing competition for resources. These factors have contributed largely to the destruction of natural resources among communities. He noted challenges to be faced by the Ecosystem Alliance are, economic development, knowledge based policy implementation and working closely with community based organizations.
Oliver Nasirwa from the wetlands International, Kenya stated that Kenya is a dry country in general, with wetlands covering 2.5 % of its 587,900 km2 area. He emphasized on the need for wise water management systems which are very vital in managing wetlands in Kenya.”We have three major challenges ahead of us, degradation of ecosystems, water resources affected by commercial valuable exports that are taking place in Kenya, all these affect our ecosystems” he added. “The Tana Delta being the largest river in Kenya, impacts of climate change among the communities living and benefiting from it cannot be ignored”, he concluded.
Jaco Mebius, 1st Secretary, from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands started his speech by saying the Dutch Government has special interest in Kenya. Key areas that they are looking at are: water, food security and rule of law. He also mentioned gender and environment as a cross cutting theme among them. He called on more partners to engage in activities that will help the Tana Delta be maintained in a sustainable way.
Peter Odhengo from the Office of The Prime Minister, Kenya and Team leader of the Deltas Secretariat Team, pointed out how the government of Kenya is taking issues of environment seriously. He said the government has set up a water trust Fund which is to help people use water as a resource in a more sustainable way, one of them being the restoration of Naivasha through Imarisha Board, which has brought order in the use of water around Lake Naivasha. He added that the office of the Prime minister has also identified other Deltas that need intervention such as Yala, Nzioa, Malewa, and Nyando. Now on board is the Tana Delta which they are looking at and willing to work with other stakeholders to ensure communities living around it are empowered and their livelihoods improved.
The ecosystem alliance Kenya country program will closely work with local organizations; Kenya Wetlands forum, Environmental and Liaison Centre International, Nature Kenya and Wild Living Resources. These are the key organizations that will spearhead the implementation of the project in Kenya .With the rising population pressure on resources , these organizations are set to help people living around the Tana Delta Understand the importance of conserving the ecosystem and at the same time improve on their livelihood through sustainable activities.
Communities living around Tana Delta Kenya are expected to benefit from a project that will improve their livelihoods and help them participate responsibly in the management of the ecosystem. The Tana River being Kenya’s largest river with a catchment of 126, 000 km2 flowing over 1000 km from its headwaters on the slopes of Mt. Kenya and Abardare Ranges and discharges its silt – rich muddy waters into the Indian Ocean at Kipini on Ungwana (Formosa ) Bay. It’s located in Tana River and Lamu counties. It’s rich in biodiversity and a home to different species of wildlife.
The Ecosystem Alliance program in Kenya – empowering People and Nature in The Tana Delta, Kenya brings on board a partnership between Wetlands International, IUCN National committee Of the Netherlands (IUCN NL) and Both ENDS . With funding from the Dutch Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs MFS II program for the period 2011 -2015, aims at supporting local civil society Organizations and networks to create communities of influence and change towards sustainable use of resources in the Tana Delta. The key themes of the project are, Livelihoods and ecosystems, Greening the Economy and Ecosystems, people and climate change.
Similar programs through the alliance are being implemented in Africa where Kenya is one of the countries of target, Asia and South America. Sixteen countries will benefit from this mega project. The project is estimated to run at a cost of 40 billion dollars. These countries were picked because of having areas that are hotspots and are facing severe pressure on their ecosystems. The pressures are mainly brought about by increased population which is fighting for the same resources for survival without putting in consideration sustainability of the natural resources. Sadly the harmful effects of degradation of the ecosystem services are being felt by the poor. This trend has largely contributed to a huge economic gap between the poor and the rich in developing countries.
It is in this vein that the Ecosystem Alliance has been formed to help communities manage and use their live support systems, ecosystems in a sustainable way and help them adapt these ecosystems to changing climatic conditions.