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KWS Researchers initiate climate change action plan

Date Published: 28 Aug, 2011
KWS Researchers initiate climate change action plan

KWS Deputy Director Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Dr. Samuel Kasiki (left), KWS training Institute Principal and Professor George Owiti listen to proceedings from from Mr. Victor Olindi,a climate change advisor, Ministry of state for development of Northern Kenya and other Arid lands during a climate change workshop at the Sportsman Arms Hotel, Nanyuki.The Workshop attracted scientists from Northern, Eastern and Mountain conservation regions in the country

Kenya Wildlife Service has initiated the process of combating climate change on wildlife management across the country.This was launched on August 11, 2011 by the KWS Deputy Director Biodiversity, Research and Monitoring Dr. Samuel Kasiki at the Sportsman Arms Hotel, Nanyuki. Scientists from Eastern, Mountain and Northern Conservation areas discussed various aspects of climate change.The two day workshop christened ‘Capacity Building Workshop on climate change and wildlife management in Kenya ‘was organized by KWS and funded by the German embassy. Dr. Kasiki mentioned that Kenya suffers from over exploitation of resources and the majority of the people in Kenya look at Climate change as only environmental while its impact has a wide perspective. “Climate change affects our economy, our security, our social livelihoods, we need to tackle it now because the longer we wait the harder it will be to solve.” He added that KWS has set the stage on understanding climate change and has facilitated workshops across the country so as to understand the effects and start creating suitable measures for adapting and mitigating to the current climatic changes. Climate change according to United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has long-since ceased to be a scientific curiosity, and is no longer just one of many environmental and regulatory concerns. Therefore KWS has taken the initiative to find strategic overviews of causes and potential impacts with examples from Kenya’s various conservation areas.

There are 8 major conservation areas in Kenya, aimed at protecting Kenya’s wildlife from any vagaries beyond her control for the present and future generations. These areas consist of various habitats that require the understanding of adaptation and coping mechanism to the people living around and more so the wildlife.This welcomes experts in these areas to draw ideas on how to find concepts of vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity on matters of the differing climatic conditions in the country.According to Prof. George E. Otiang’a-Owiti, the Principal KWS Training Institute Naivasha, managing adaptive management is paramount in decision making and simultaneously maximises one or more resource objectives and passively or actively, accrues information needed to improve future management in climate change. He also mentions that it is likely that a changing climate will exacerbate the current rate of habitat loss in Kenya.

He adds that, it is expected that climate change will also lead to changes in composition and structure of ecosystems loss, simplification and fragmentation of habitat, increased prevalence of weed and pest species degradation of water quality and alteration of hydrology. This in the long term will adverse effects and will require a flexible management approach that can be continually revised and adapted. Closely linking research and management it will be possible to anticipate and respond to the effects of climate change.

UNEP adds that potential for runaway greenhouse warming is real and has never been more present. The most dangerous climate changes may still be avoided if we transform our hydrocarbon based energy systems and if we initiate rational and adequately financed adaptation programmes to forestall disasters and migrations at unprecedented scales. The tools are available, but they must be applied immediately and aggressively.

A climate change specialist Mr. Stephen Mutua King’uyu notes that there is need to elaborate enabling policies and legal frameworks to address challenges imposed by climate change and enable communities to take advantage of opportunities that may arise. In the workshop, community representatives were keen to note that habitat loss affects them directly especially pastoral communities. Therefore as king’uyu mentions, policy frameworks that are underway in development by Kenya National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) hopefully will review existing umbrella and sectoral policies, legislation and strategies in Kenya, or elsewhere, highlighting strengths and weaknesses relative to the climate change context in Kenya and identify gaps.Communities in the arid areas of Northern Kenya were advised to introduce camels to replace livestock. This is because camels withstand drought situations than normal livestock and that was part of key measures in mitigation and adaptation as Victor A Orindi a Climate Change Advisor, Ministry of State for Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands advises. He adds that though some adaptation is occurring now, more extensive adaptation is required to reduce vulnerability and make use of climate information. Unmitigated climate change would exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems top adapt.

KWS researchers therefore have teamed up starting with teams from Eastern, Mountain and Northern conservation areas and come up with action plans in safeguarding the ecosystems. In line to the same the way forward for them is to come up with action research that can deepen understanding of vulnerable ecosystems that includes animals, people and institutions. There is also the need to manage climate risks which involves creating spaces to learn, communicate and share knowledge. This will create awareness to a cross cultural array of individuals so as to understand the impact of climate change in the country.

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