“Kenya’s Mau Forest dilemma: Is it a common issue?”


I watched with a lot of curiosity the debate over Kenya’s Mau forest as it unveiled. Kenyan government has evicted more than 20,000 families from their settlement in Mau Forest. The motive sounds however reasonable: “The government says the destruction of the forest canopy has sparked an environmental disaster downstream, with millions of people suffering from water shortages”, reports BBC (16 November 2009).

The Mau forest is Kenya’s largest water catchments. It supplies water to Lake Victoria and the Nile. Unfortunately, the forest is no longer able to fully play its water reservoir role following deforestation activities. These activities are part of the livelihood of the populations settled in the forest: clearing of the forest for agriculture, fire wood, charcoal production, etc. The consequence of the deforestation is currently being felt downstream by the populations who live on the valleys. Kenya is therefore experiencing drought.

The Kenyan government has decided to evict over 20,000 families from the forest to preserve it from further destruction. But some observers think these populations have been used as scapegoats for a problem which goes beyond the national level: the global warming and the CO2 emission which is currently debated at Copenhagen.

However, there is a dilemma brought by the eviction of these farmers. According to a BBC report, “many had nowhere else to go and are now living in squalid and desperate conditions on the forest boundaries” (BBC, 16 November 2009). Having lost their farms, some are without food, weak and exposed to diseases.

My concern is whether these farmers should be considered as commoners who are therefore entitled to their way of life. I really believe that there was a better way for the Kenyan government to resolve this issue without creating human prejudice. Maybe it has just decided to sacrifice present life to preserve future one!




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One Response to ““Kenya’s Mau Forest dilemma: Is it a common issue?””

  1. rlinton Says:

    I think you’ve raised an interesting point here in terms of the overall course content. You have provided an example of commoners who were commoning in an unsustainable manner. It is perhaps evidence of the tragedy of the commons, and that we cannot assume that all environmental issues would be resolved of we ‘reverted to the commons’ as has been suggested elsewhere on this blog.

    I have to agree that the government has not resolved this issue of unsustainable practices in an ideal manner. However, it demonstrates the complexities of satisfying development across all areas of wellbeing. Sustaining the forest will ensure the wellbeing of many, but to acheive this, the wellbeing of 20,000 has been totally undermined. I don’t have an answer, only an eagerness to find a solution.

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