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1. Executive Summary

This report, USAID/Kenya Strategic Plan: Environmental Threats and Opportunities Assessment, provides an overview of key trends in Kenya’s environment and natural resources sector and highlights the primary threats and opportunities that exist today.  Related to this assessment, Annex 6 contains a review of environmental sustainability in the USAID/Kenya Strategic Plan (2000-2005), in particular its attention to tropical forests and biodiversity conservation.  

1.1. Institutional and Socioeconomic Framework

Kenya is experiencing difficult times, not only in maintaining a healthy environment on which to build its economy, but in other facets of life as well. The population, riddled with HIV/AIDS at increasing rates, is nevertheless still growing at an estimated 2.9 percent per year – far faster than food production or the economy is growing.   The under-five mortality rate for children – on the decline for half a century until recently – is steeply on the rise.  Average GDP growth, spurred along at 6.5 percent per year in the 1970s, dropped to 2.3 percent in 1997 and 1.8 percent in 1998.   Mismanagement of public goods is increasingly politicized and driven by self-interest; the economic analysis and accounting firm Deloitte and Touche (1999, p.3) noted that "those who have been managing the Kenyan economy owe Kenyans an explanation."  Development assistance has declined dramatically in the last decade; donor nations and institutions agree that poor governance and abuse of public property is eroding development achievements rapidly.  Poverty shackles at least 43 percent of the population, and agriculture and livestock still form the main source of livelihood of the Kenyan people.  Kenyans, who attach strong importance to land, have an average of less than 1/5 hectare per rural inhabitant for cultivation – an amount well below the average for the rest of the continent.

In this context exist the environmental problems described below.  These negative trends are enhanced through inadequate planning, lack of adoption of sustainable land uses, and ineffective governance.  There is a need for an improved set of policies supporting conservation and equitable natural resources management in Kenya as well as an attitudinal change in support of sustainable development.

1.2. Ecological Systems and Land Use Trends

Overview.  The most serious underlying threats to Kenya’s natural resources today are population pressures, inappropriate land tenure and land use policies, lack of awareness about the benefits of wildlife, and government and other decision-makers' inattention to these issues.  These issues drive additional causal factors of environmental degradation – particularly conversion of land to agricultural use – affecting every ecosystem and region of the country.  

Today, the most endangered ecosystems in Kenya are forests, terrestrial wildlife habitats, and freshwater and coastal wetlands.  Coral reefs will be increasingly threatened if uncontrolled development, existing pollution, and sedimentation from upstream agricultural areas are not slowed.  High potential agricultural areas risk losing productivity due to excessive subdivision and poor soil management.  Agricultural conversion and division of forests, wetlands, and marginal lands threaten some traditional livelihoods, such as pastoralism, and push people farther into habitats that are better suited for wild animal management.  These and other factors underlie steep declines in Kenya’s wild animal and livestock numbers, degraded water quality, deforestation, and other negative impacts on environmental health.

Terrestrial biodiversity and wildlife.  Within the wildlife sector, the situation is mixed. In most of the country’s arid and semi-arid lands – which represent an estimated 80 percent of Kenyan territory – wild animal and livestock numbers are declining due to rangeland degradation and fragmentation.  Migration corridors are being fenced and farmed in many districts.  Rapid growth of human populations in some key wildlife areas will have serious detrimental effects on wildlife;

Kara PagePage 310/23/2006

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