Friday, December 01, 2006

Kenya Travel, Part IV


DAY 9 – Green Belt Movement (Tues)

Up early and out the door to meet up with a crew from the Yale Forestry program (one of the oldest and most prestigious environmental studies, moving towards sustainability post-graduate programs out there) to start a “Green Belt Safari.”





The Green Belt Movement was started by Wangari Mathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago for her work mobilizing Kenyan communities to plant trees. Jumping off that success, they now run “safaris” to check out some of the forests and the communities where they’ve been planting trees.


















We started off with a drive to see some plantations, as well as some natural forests – stopping twice to check in with government forestry officers to sign guest books (maybe they thought Bono might be with the tour??). After a long drive (and a stop to check out some tea plantations) we stopped and had a short walk down a steep muddy hill through the jungle to see a waterfall. It was a beautiful spot, but it was never fully clear why we were there. Apparently the water level has decreased dramatically over the years due to a combination of climate change and upstream agriculture. We never got a clear picture of they manage potential trade-offs between the increased need for agriculture and space for tree planting and biodiversity preservation, but at least they have had success bringing the importance of the latter into the public’s awareness.
















After the waterfall we drove to Lake Naivasha and had a nice buffet lunch at the Naivasha Country Club in a beautiful spot with water buck grazing on the expansive lawn between the club house and the Lake. After lunch we had a great talk from the Lake Naivasha Riparian Association – it was clear this guy knew the issues in and out and had given the talk as a powerpoint presentation plenty of times, and logically and clearly walked us through the main issues – which are many: a huge flower industry exporting cut flowers to Europe is draining the lake (in an arid area) on the one hand and polluting it on the other (fertilizer & pesticide run-off). The flower industry has attracted about 250,000 Kenyans looking for work (the industry employs about 30,000), which increases the impact (insufficient sewage & sanitation infrastructure). Our man was well versed in the issues, and the unfortunate barrier to the obvious double-solution – composting toilets supporting organic, sustainable horticultural practices (and producing biogas for cooking fuel at the same time) – was largely cultural (seems poo-issues are largely cross-cultural).


The situation is certainly tense though, as poaching is also a big issue around the lake, and an anti-poaching activist was recently killed under dubious circumstances. Of course the flower industry and poaching threaten not only the ecosystem (with its priceless, life-supporting services and intrinsic value) but also the tourism industry. It is a great safari spot as we saw just walking down to the dock (note the grass under it where there used to be water) where we saw dozens of bird species, water buck, and hippos in the distance.











By this point we were running late (aside from the fact that we’d been told 3 times we’d be back to Nairobi at 5, though the plan was apparently for 7 the whole time…?) and we headed out on the long, under-construction road (being built with financial support from the EU, so they can get their flowers faster) – after some more confusion, exacerbated by live wires down in Nairobi creating a traffic nightmare, we redirected, rearranged pick-up, and finally got home at 9:30pm… We had planned on hitting a COP side-event about “making the CDM work for Africa” but obviously missed it. All in all it was a good (not great) day – and given the organizational confusion throughout, and lack of information about what to expect and what we might need, we thought better of heading off for a two-night stay in a rural village under their arranging.

DAY 10Java House (Weds)

We were partook in an ex-pat Nairobi ritual of spending the better part of the day at the Java House, drinking coffee in exchange for wireless and caught up on a lot of work. We met an interesting Kenyan filmmaker who joined our table to spare her laptop from the afternoon rain, and who had been living around the corner from Michelle’s old place in LA. Small world.










The great Rift Valley... brought to you by Coca-cola!



DAY 11 – Conference of the Parties (COP)

We made our way into the UN and checked out the COP proceedings. It was the second to last day, and there wasn’t much action in the exhibition areas. Apparently delegates were busy getting their ‘last minute’ negotiations out of the way so they could get a jump on their safaris. The booths and materials were much the same as what we’ve seen at various carbon conferences, and there were plenty of familiar faces around.

All in all it reinforced that we didn’t miss much by not being involved for the whole two weeks, and from all reports it seems that the results of the conference were primarily agreements to really address the vital issues next year. This is not surprising given the nature of the challenge at hand, but of course not very encouraging given the acute need for meaningful action – primarily clarity & tighter caps post-2012. Still, it sounds like some important issues were at least given their due, particularly adaptation to climate change, and not marginalizing LDCs (least developed countries) from the carbon markets. Also, lots of talk on procedures for streamlining new entrants to Kyoto and the issue of caps (maybe voluntary) for non-Annex I countries (a key issue for the US stance on not ratifying).

It was cool to see the UN compound (ironically massive and built on a wetland, despite their promotion of ‘sustainable development’) and get a sense for the COP, though it was more or less anti-climatic.

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